It doesn’t matter if you are implementing a new customer service system, new processes or starting a new job. Change always makes us a little apprehensive. There are some people, however, who resist change to the point where it is unhealthy – for them, for the organisation and for us as instigators. But it’s not their fault. Their brain makes them do it.
The part of our brain that detects change, errors and anomalies is a hero and a villain. When something is ‘different’ it gets us interested. We pay attention to it and most likely remember it for future reference. This is novelty.
However, when there is too much novelty or error or difference, the activity in this brain region gets out of control causing fear and anxiety. Because of the resources that these emotions use in their heightened activity, the part of the brain that actually stops these from interfering (the ‘braking’ mechanism in our brain) cannot function because it is starved of fuel. As a result, these people cannot stop the fear.
The only difference between the people who cope well and those who cope poorly is their baseline for change. This is why people who have been in the organisation a long time, doing the same things, usually resist change the most.
What helps them reduce the activity in this brain region and allows them to re-frame the change? There are a number of things, but the feeling of choice and control seems to be the main driver. These help quiet the area of the brain that detects strong emotion and activates the braking mechanism at the same time.
The more control and choice that you can give people, the better they will adjust. And, personally, the more control and choice you feel you have over change, the easier it is to cope.
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