Helping people to thrive in our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) working world requires innovative leadership and support.

This need is highlighted during organisational change, particularly when the changes are rapid, ongoing or substantial. For many businesses, all three may be present, and therefore we need people to be highly resilient, and to demonstrate emotional and mental agility to adjust well to the changes.

To foster this resilience and agility, leaders have the critical role of creating an environment in which people are supported to “pick and choose” the coping strategies most beneficial for them, to remain as resilient as possible in the face of workplace challenges. Being as transparent as possible about challenges and situations beyond employees’ control is an important component of this role. Sometimes well-meaning leaders can feel a pull to give people a false sense of their ability to influence an outcome, therefore contributing to less effective coping.

For example, if a team is facing a change process and team members are given a false sense of hope that their submissions or input will be used to influence the change process – when in fact this is not the case – they will likely expend energy on problem-solving oriented coping. This misplaced energy may exhaust some of their resilience and “coping capital”, making them less resilient as the change occurs. When these employees ultimately find out that they were never going to be able to affect the outcome, they may well also experience more difficult emotions of frustration or resentment at being misinformed, no matter how well-meaning the leader’s intent was. These difficult emotions result in a greater need for coping at a time when coping resources are already drained.

Instead, if a change outcome is already decided, recognising employees’ frustration or apprehension, and helping them to identify how they fit in the new structure (or what their options are if they do not have a place in it), will be far more effective in helping the people concerned to accept the changing circumstances and cope accordingly. This logic applies not just to organisations in change, but to everyday stresses and challenges of VUCA working. Open conversations with people about workplace change – including what can and cannot be controlled – will help all involved to direct their energy where it will be most effective in maintaining resilience, and performing at their best.

How can Umbrella support your organisation during transition and change?

Umbrella provides best-practice, tailored resilience training to help all employees strengthen their personal resilience and agility to cope and perform well during uncertain times.

Umbrella also supports leaders to develop employees’ innovative flair and build environments where people can thrive, through our Leading Resilience and Managing Mental Health programmes.

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