Coping with Change Through Training

Posted on February 18, 2013 by


Research has explored the role o training in modifying behaviors or individual response to adverse situations, such as change.  Strategies with a foundation in social cognitive theory such as self-regulation, self-reinforcement and thought self-leadership (TSL) have been explored as a means o improving individual perceptions regarding their ability to manage their emotional responses and cope with change. Role theory has been used to explore the underlying perceptions of one’s role within the context of change. Both the interdependent and independent relationships within the organization were explored to identify sources for negative emotional response to change as well as strategies to improve response to change.

Training programs that support the usage of cognitive process and self-talk have been found to be successful in supporting the ability to cope with and/or manage the process of change (Klunk, 1997; Neck & Manz, 1996).  Neck (1996) studied the use of a training based intervention as a means of helping employees cope with organizational change resulting from bankruptcy.  One group received training while the control group received delayed training, with pre and post measures collected to determine the impact of the training program.  It was found that those who participated in the training prior to the downsizing, which was the result of the bankruptcy, had more positive perceptions of the bankruptcy than those that received the training later. The results support the assertion that training represents a tool that can be used to support employees in coping with change.

Similarly, it was found that employees were better prepared to handle the stress of organizational change and conflict when provided with tools through training and communication to support personal accountability (Klunk, 1997).  By providing tools that reinforce an internal locus of control related to responding to change the individual is able to better manage the process rather than feeling managed, overwhelmed or sensing a loss of control.  The literature suggest that the use of training that focuses on communication of information, transfer of skills , and effective management of thoughts through self-leadership and self-motivation are important ways that leaders of change can support the individuals affected.

Leaders can employee training strategies that help employees recognize their emotional responses to change.  By helping employees recognize their emotions and triggers for the emotional response, they can engage in specific strategies such as self talk to reduce or mitigate the anxiety experienced when going through organizational change.  As leaders, it is important to recognize that humans are creatures of habit and once that habit has been disrupted, there are varying degrees of emotions that may be experienced that will negatively impact their perceptions of organizational change and impede the effectiveness of the change effort.

Klunk, S.W. (1997). Conflict and the dynamic organization.  Hospital Material Management Quarterly, 19(2), 37-44.

Neck, C.P. (1996) Thought self-leadership: A self-regulatory approach towards overcoming resistance to organizational change. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 4(2), 202-216.

Neck, C.P. and Manz, C.C. (1996). Thought self-leadership: The impact of mental strategies training on employee cognition, behavior and affect. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 17(5), 445-467.