Understanding Change Management: A Guide for Managers

New managers face many challenges, and one of the most nuanced is navigating the intricate realm of change management. The change isn’t merely about shifting operations, methodologies, or strategies—it’s fundamentally about people. Let’s delve into the human side of change management, understand the typical psychological reactions of employees, and explore actionable tactics you can adopt.

What are the stages of change management?

Managers must be aware of the stages of change management to effectively gauge how individuals or teams process and adapt to new initiatives or shifts in strategy. Let’s delve into each stage:


This is the initial stage of change management, where employees or teams become aware that a change is on the horizon or is necessary. The specifics might be unclear, but there’s a general sense that the status quo might not continue indefinitely.


How to support employees: Communication is key. Managers should introduce the need for change, its drivers (e.g., market shifts, technological advances), and the potential implications. Encourage open dialogue and ensure that resources are available for initial questions or concerns.


Once employees know the change, they must understand what it means. This stage of change management involves grasping the specifics of the change, the rationale behind it, and the potential impacts (both positive and negative).

How to support employees: Managers should provide detailed information, training sessions, or workshops to help individuals grasp the nuances of the change. Create platforms for knowledge sharing and facilitate discussions to clear up misconceptions.



At this stage of change management, understanding transitions into acceptance. Here, employees may not necessarily be thrilled about the change, but they acknowledge its inevitability and may even start seeing some associated benefits or opportunities.

How to support employees: Address lingering concerns by showcasing early wins or positive outcomes from the change. Engage in two-way dialogues to understand residual hesitations and work on strategies to address them. Foster a positive environment and recognize those actively engaging with the new changes.


This stage of change management is where employees accept the change and are ready to support, advocate, and commit to its successful implementation. They actively participate and might even become champions of the change, influencing others around them.


How to support employees: Empower and equip committed employees with the tools, resources, and authority to drive the change. Recognize and reward their efforts and provide them with platforms to share their experiences and motivate others.

Understanding these stages of change management is crucial for managers. As employees or teams progress through each stage, their needs differ. Tailoring support strategies for each phase ensures that the transition is smooth and that the change is sustainable and embedded in the organization’s culture.

Why is it Important to Manage Emotions During Change Management?

When we speak of change management, it’s not just about the nuts and bolts of a new system or procedure. It’s about managing human reactions and emotions. Understand this: any change disrupts the status quo, whether beneficial or small. And humans, by nature, are wired to prefer predictability.


Consider a company that introduced a new software system to make processes more efficient. While the system indeed offered numerous advantages, many employees felt overwhelmed. They were used to the old system, knew every quirk and feature, and felt competent using it. Now, they felt like beginners all over again.

Why Do Some Employees Resist Change?

Resistance is often the initial reaction to change management. Employees might wonder, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” Resistance is born from uncertainty. Resistance is a natural response if the reasons for change aren’t communicated.

Actionable Change Management Tip: Managers must openly discuss the reasons for the change. Host a Q&A session to allow employees to voice concerns. Their feedback might even offer insights into aspects you hadn’t considered.


How Does Fear Manifest During Change Management?

Fear typically stems from perceived threats—fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of additional workload. For example, employees feared potential layoffs when a company decided to merge with another.

Actionable Change Management Tip: Managers should address fears directly. If there are potential layoffs, be honest. If there aren’t, reassure your team. It’s essential to be transparent, even if the news isn’t always positive.

When Does Acceptance Occur?

Acceptance emerges when employees see the potential benefits of change or understand that resisting won’t benefit them. For instance, a company that moved to remote work during the pandemic found that many employees initially resisted. However, over time, many began to appreciate the flexibility.


Actionable Change Management Tip: Managers should showcase the benefits of the change. Maybe it’s increased efficiency, a new skill they’ll acquire, or a more flexible work environment. Highlighting the positives can expedite the journey to acceptance.

How Can Managers Foster Commitment During Change?

Commitment is the final and most crucial stage. It’s when employees accept, actively support, and advocate for the change. Consider a sales team that initially resisted a new CRM system but became its biggest proponent after seeing its advantages.

Actionable Change Management Tip: Managers should celebrate small wins with the employees. If part of your team starts using a new system effectively, recognize them. This encourages others to get on board.


How Can Managers Use Empathy and Trust in Change Management?

Change is emotional. As managers, your communication skills are pivotal in change management. When you show empathy, you acknowledge and validate your team’s feelings.

Real-World Example: A manager at a publishing house, facing a major digital transformation, set aside time every week to chat with each team member about the changes and their feelings regarding them. This built a sense of trust and unity, making the transition smoother.

Actionable Tip: Schedule regular check-ins. Ask open-ended questions. Let them know you’re available and willing to listen. Trust is built step by step, conversation by conversation.


Change management is more than a task for managers—it’s a leadership skill. As you sharpen your skills for managers, remember to prioritize the human element, fostering a culture of trust and open communication.

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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