How do we implement change when our employees are shocked and exhausted?

“How can you ask us to deal with this right now?!”

I’ve heard variations on this many times lately. People are tired and distracted by the endless duration of social adaptations driven by COVID-19.

Can you begin or continue major organizational changes when so much is in turmoil?


In fact, this may be the best time.

It’s easier to move people when they are ‘unlocked,’ forced into changing in order to stay safe. While at DEFCON 1, our heads are up, alert, ready to respond to any threat. In terms of change, people are unfrozen and this is the perfect time to introduce change.

So why do people react negatively to more change?

Change requires focus, attention, and energy. Our energy tanks come in different sizes according to our resilience. When we rest and recharge, the tank is replenished. When we face challenges (accident on the way to work, threat of layoffs, sick child, stock market drop), responding depletes our energy leaving little to deal with additional choices that come our way.

For the shopaholics out there, have you ever ‘just not felt like it’? It happens when your energy is running low. You just don’t have enough in the tank, even to make a purchase decision.

To keep driving change, leaders find ways to replenish the energy tank:

  • Break the goal down into smaller milestones that are more easily accomplished (reduce emotional expenditure on fear and frustration)
  • Focus on the positive outcomes of change – for employees, customers, communities, and causes (help, heart, hope) (watch the video)
  • Ensure staff take time off during evenings and weekends
  • Inject fun and laughter into the day
  • Demonstrate personal care and empathy for your employees
  • Build connections between employees – positive personal relationships are energizing
  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate success, even the smallest ones along the way

There are many ways to refill the energy tank. When it comes to change, consider that our requests and requirements are a minus on reserves, that there is a limit to how much people can give, but we are also able to put in as much as we take out.

Thoughtfully yours,