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Having an eye, ear and heart for intense feelings with Change …

You are not 'empty-handed'!

Drastic organisational changes often evoke intense feelings: anger, distrust, frustration, powerlessness, fear, uncertainty, confusion, stress, tension, panic, shame, surprise…

We have these feelings for a reason. Connecting Communication (M. Rosenberg, considers feelings as a ‘signal’. Negative feelings indicate that a need - something important to us – is not fulfilled. We are angry (feeling) because we do not feel heard (need not met). We feel relaxed or calm (feeling) because we get clear information about the new structure of the organisation (need met).

Everything we do is, often without realising it, focused on fulfilling our needs, on realising what is so important to us. Humans have six universal needs:

  • physical well-being (sleep, food, shelter, etc.);

  • being significant (to matter, be able to contribute, add value);

  • autonomy/freedom/authenticity (being able to spontaneously be yourself, make your choices);

  • peace/harmony (also order, structure);

  • connection with others/safety (belonging somewhere, feeling safe and accepted);

  • fun (being able to enjoy life).

Depending on the moment, a particular need (it could be more than one at a time) will be front and centre and demand your attention.

Reorganisations and other radical organisational changes evoke intense feelings for a reason: important human needs are at stake.

In particular, the need for safety is compromised. People feel frustrated, powerless, worried, insecure, angry because they no longer experience a safe foundation, have no security or footing. Because they no longer know where they stand, no longer know how to proceed.

Managers often do not provide the right support.

When managers hear the anger, frustration, powerlessness, sadness of their people, they want to play a meaningful role in this (need). But they often feel powerless because they feel they are 'empty-handed': when someone loses their job, they cannot simply 'magically create' a new one. Or immediately create a new project or role for someone when the direction of the entire organisation is being thoroughly reassessed. So what should they do?

Actually for managers, the situation is very unsafe as well: they want to mean something, but often don't know how, they lack guidance. They often feel empty-handed. Therefore, they shy away from contact, even though that is precisely the time when their people crave a listening ear. Or they only talk about targets and projects (safe topics), leaving people feeling that there is no space or time to talk about their feelings and personal experiences as well.

I often see managers get into heated arguments when trying to convince their people of the benefits of the new, future situation. However, many employees are very angry, worried and frustrated about what is happening right now. And if they do not feel heard by their manager, these feelings of anger and frustration only increase. This is precisely when distrust grows, and loyalty to the organisation decreases. Talents start to look around at the competition, gossiping inside teams increases, cynicism grows and many people experience less satisfaction from their hard work.

To change is to lose…

Those intense emotions, which are also very variable, are there for a reason. With change, including organisational change, we suffer loss: we have to say goodbye to what is familiar, important and dear to us: an exciting job, interesting projects, nice colleagues, career prospects, being someone in society, etc. We can no longer do what is so important (need) to us.

If you lose your position or job, you can no longer contribute to the organisation. You lose your role of significance in a particular project or theme in the organisation, or your role in general. You lose your autonomy: you might feel like a pawn, because you can no longer decide for yourself what your (professional) life looks like. You will also lose the opportunity to develop your potential, to grow further within the organisation…

People often feel like 'victims' of a reorganisation: something is being done to them and management is the 'culprit'. Managers sometimes try to 'save' their people from this, out of guilt. Everyone is in the drama triangle: survival mechanisms that ultimately make everyone worse off. I also give a Learning Journey on “From dramas to win-win”. If you want to stop saving your team and help them move away from their survival behaviour, this might be just the thing for you. Read more via this link:

Management during transition: What CAN you do as a manager?

Paying attention to emotions during Change leads to an open mind and proactive attitude towards a new future. By having an eye, ear and heart for your people, you can help them move forward, but how do you go about it?

Being caring, showing empathy, helps people better understand their feelings and needs and take responsibility for what they need themselves. Managers play a key role here: they can create a climate where people can and are allowed to be themselves, where they feel welcome, accepted and appreciated, even if they have 'difficult feelings'.

Just being Caring, by the way, turns out not to be enough; people also need you to be Daring. But always from a Caring climate (Care to Dare, the practice of Secure Base leadership, G. Kohlrieser).

Being Daring, in addition to paying attention and caring for your people, means continuing to challenge them. Making them responsible for exciting projects. And also giving them critical, constructive feedback on the results of their work.

By being Daring, you show as a manager that you have confidence in your people's abilities, the challenging projects give people grip, distraction, something meaningful to contribute and self-confidence. For many people going through drastic Change, the latter comes under pressure. It is precisely by continuing to challenge them that you give them that much-needed opportunity to boost their self-confidence.

Are you curious to know how you can be Caring and Daring towards your people during radical change? Then take a look at my other Masterclass “Transition Management”: a proven successful 2-day incl. personal coaching on how you, as a manager, can fully contribute to responsible change. Click here:

Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss reorganisation and change!


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