Change can be hard on people for many different reasons. To mention only a few: many people dislike the uncertainty that comes with change, they do not wish to let go off what they had and know, and they fear loss of status and competency. When preparing for and implementing change, leaders should be prepared for negativity from employees. Here are some tips to reframe, discuss, and redirect negativity in a constructive manner:

  1. Make sure to provide sufficient, timely, repeated, and clear information to decrease the chance of unnecessary uncertainty and confusion.
  2. Take time to address negativity one-on-one and face-to-face rather than sending an email. It’s the interaction during which you gain the best insight into what is bothering this particular person and therefore:
  3. Don’t assume you know the reason for the negativity. Refrain from premature conclusions and quick judgments. Ask questions to dive deeper into the thoughts and fears of the person.
  4.  Avoid the trap of taking negativity personal. It’s simply tempting for employees to direct their fears and negativity towards a person, which can be their own manager or top management. This may show itself as casting blame and finger pointing but remember, the negativity is almost always a rejection of the process and an expression of fear and loss of control.
  5. Ask the person: What is it that you fear and what is it that you need?
  6. Inquire what the person expects and needs from you specifically.
  7. Agree on clear actions, timelines and a mutual understanding of how you will know whether the needs of the person are being met.
  8. Be candid and clear about needs that can’t be met or you believe to be unrealistic.
  9. If there are barriers to direct and honest communication, address them and take measures to prevent them in the future.
  10. 10.Make sure to appreciate the candor, vulnerability, and transparency during the conversation.

Yes, all of this requires your time, energy, and focus, which I know are in short supply. Yes it takes patience and perseverance to tackle negativity. But remember, you don’t want to take short-cuts to alleviate tensions superficially or temporarily. Whatever you don’t tackle now and with care will haunt you later, multiplied by built up emotions and by interpretations that have gone wild.

Lets close this post with 20th century science philosopher Karl Popper:

“All life is problem solving”