People are tired. The economic downturn, inflation, remnants from the pandemic, talent shortages, and the escalating pace of digital transformation all contribute to the change fatigue employees are experiencing. To help address this, managers rely on HR and talent leaders to guide efforts to help employees cope with continuous change and identify realistic support options for proactively maintaining their overall health and engagement.
According to Capterra’s 2022 Change Fatigue Survey, change fatigue is rampant. The survey found 78 percent of employees said they have experienced more change at their job during the pandemic than at any other point in their careers. Further, approximately 71 percent of respondents expressed that they are overwhelmed by the change that has occurred in their jobs throughout the pandemic. Change fatigue has become so prevalent that 2020 was coined the International Year of Fatigue by Harvard Business Review. Since then, employees—especially those who work remotely—have been inundated with compounding changes that impact how they work and live. So it’s safe to say that even change itself has changed.
Seven Employee Behaviors That Signal Change FatigueCaperra’s survey also showed that 83 percent of employees who admitted they are suffering from change fatigue also stated that their employer failed to provide adequate tools or resources to help them acclimate. This is important to consider because as more employees become change-resistant, they begin to exhibit the following negative behaviors, according to HRM America. These behaviors include:
- Growing indifferent or resistant to change
- Increasing disengagement
- Reduced productivity
- Visible signs of burnout
- Outward signs of anxiety
- Increasing pushback
- Increasing displays of cynicism
Recognizing and Addressing Employee FatigueThe consequences of change fatigue have become so glaring to most talent leaders that organizational design and change management are the top two issues they plan to tackle in 2023, according to Gartner’s HR Top Priorities 2023 report. This will be critical to help employees process change and improve their well-being. It will also organically impact their performance and ability to learn and act on new information in a positive way.
To be clear, everyone is responsible for recognizing and addressing employee fatigue. However, HR leaders are best positioned and qualified to support talent leaders in addressing its consequences.
How to Alleviate Change FatigueAddressing change fatigue can be daunting. Functional or people leaders may need HR leaders help to navigate this widespread societal challenge. For instance, HR leaders can help managers develop a leadership style and model behaviors that convey empathy and confidence. Accomplish this by creating leadership development programs that incorporate coaching with a human-centered approach and align with the culture you’re trying to create.
The resulting human-centered leadership will help ensure that leaders are:
- Empathetic and tuned in to their employees
- Self-aware and engaged in self-reflective practices
- Focused on looking beyond words and behaviors
- Actively seeking to understand how others think, perceive, behave, and feel
Human-centered coaching expedites recognition of change fatigue, then helps leaders rapidly develop strategies to improve employee well-being. HR leaders can also help other leaders take responsibility for their impact on organizational culture. As organizations strive to see the people behind the positions, it will be easier for leaders to have courageous conversations and more effectively alleviate employee fatigue. This work will build trust, empower employees, and demonstrate that their well-being is at the forefront of decisions.
Being a human-centered leader isn’t just about increasing awareness, however. It’s about recognizing that each person is on a unique journey as they experience change, and they may need support while navigating that journey. Leaders can guide their employees to ensure they learn from ups and downs, which will help them succeed at work and feel more valued.
Change can be tough, especially when it’s constant. Leadership coaching gives leaders a window into what impacts their employees, especially when their performance has waned. It equips leaders with the capabilities they need to discern how and why their employees are displaying signs of change fatigue, and then find suitable, sustainable solutions to reduce its impact. In the process, coaching strengthens leaders and teams by extending learning from leaders to their employees, and reducing talent and leadership gaps. Leaders who learn how to improve their capabilities, capacity, and soft skills in context-rich environments are better prepared to teach others where and how to do the same.