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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Minimize the "Reorg" Trauma

We all have been through a shuffling of titles. Some of us more times than others. As the organization “restructures,” either in response to strategy or merger, the people affected are oftentimes ill-prepared and left feeling lost.

Many times, the act of restructuring is a culture killer and morale tanker.

I see many people struggle to “survive” the reorg. They aren’t worried about their job, per se, but they are utterly confused, often asking, “What’s next?” and “Where should I focus my efforts?”

After several rounds of restructuring, people begin to give up. Their allegiance and trust, in both work and relationships, halts and complacency ensues. So, how do you stay engaged when every 6-12 months your leader moves on, taking with them your support and institutional knowledge?

Leaders are so often forward-focused (with good intentions) and easily miss the ripple effects before them, allowing for damage to their own innovation. Outside Angle has written a great summary piece that highlights missteps and guides you toward success.

I remember becoming numb to “new job announcements” and no longer viewing leadership as a structure of support, but rather as a ladder to be climbed. 

Titles were simply temporary rungs to bear weight for the next step.

A great reorganization, if done well, should invigorate the organization, bringing excitement and energy to EVERYONE involved. Reorganization should create clarity, like that last piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly into place.

Fatal flaws: Making assumptions and the pace of change.

Making assumptions: With these two elements playing such a major role, it’s the shifting of titles and the underlying vision that so often remains clear to leadership, yet leaves the team in the dark. When people are unaware of the larger strategic goals, or skill gaps, any re-shifting feels unfounded and creates fear.

UC Berkeley's HR department has a great article that outlines ideas to consider to prevent resistance. Not surprisingly, communication is the key.

Communication that happens before, during, and after any reorg is absolutely critical. By over-communicating the “why” and socializing the future, you are reassuring your team that any impending changes will be in place to support everyone’s growth, thereby creating opportunities for future success.

The pace of Change: Move fast enough to show confidence and clarity but slow enough to allow for the transfer of trust and knowledge. Allow time for projects to be thoughtfully handed over, and resist the urge to put things “on hold” while the details are figured out.

Similar to merging into traffic, put on your indicator, watch for potential danger, adjust your cadence, and then merge into the flow. But be careful, so as not to create a traffic jam or, God forbid, an accident!  

Artful reorganization is a dance, a methodical move with purpose, pace, communication, and trust.

Create a timeline. Long, drawn-out change is very difficult to navigate. Uncertainty is a culture killer and an anxiety producer. Clarity as to what people can expect, when they can expect it, and how it will affect them is what ultimately silences the stories and creates positivity and focus.

Multiple shifts in jobs and titles can send the wrong message. Adjusting roles and responsibilities is strategic, and is often done in response to a desire to create a future vision for success, right?  Make sure that’s the experience received.

Continual shifting can send a problematic message that there is no clear direction, that decisions are being made on a whim, and that you don’t have a clear foundational plan for success. That’s when trust can be lost quickly and loyalty can wane.

My Challenge to You:

  • Reorganize with intention and clarity. Don’t rush the process and keep communication at the forefront.

  • Strategic moves call for transparency and a need to be rooted in what your vision of success will look like.  Map out the communication pathway and timeline.

  • Stress the “why” to ALL employees. The impact of your decisions is far-reaching.

  • Each decision is being watched and evaluated from a place of scarcity. Employees are always wondering, “Is my job in jeopardy?” “Is the future of this company secure?” “What is going on that I don’t know?” It is these questions that will quickly erode the culture and positivity.  Anticipate these questions and proactively address them honestly.

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