3 psychological considerations for your next organisational change

Whether it’s to re-brand, focus on new ways of working or shape a culture shift, there are lots of reasons companies go through organisational change and it’s one of the most common reasons our clients come to us.

Organisational change isn’t as easy as only designing and fitting a brand new environment though. Yes, that helps – hugely, but it goes far deeper than that and requires regular and thought-out cultural upgrades too.

To get under the skin of what’s causing companies to slip from a psychological standpoint we spoke to Sophie Foster, a business psychologist and one of our Workplace Consultants.

1. Impact bias

People tend to overestimate the length and intensity of future feeling states. They think things will impact them more in the long-term than the short but studies in fact show the opposite.

Highs and lows neutralise over time

In a study by Northwestern University, people who’d won the lottery were put under the spotlight and their immediate satisfaction levels soared through the roof, one year on though and they’d gone back to normal. 

On the other end of the spectrum, paraplegics were analysed and their satisfaction levels were rock bottom right after but fast-forward 12 months’ and they’d rose back to their typical state.

The exact same principle applies to your office. People might be euphoric in the days or weeks after the big reveal, but a one-off re-design of your office won’t fix all your problems because those initial reactions will eventually die down.

So, what can you do about it?

Think of your business’ physical space as a workplace in beta.

  • Don’t invest in your office once a decade and expect your people to be happy, and
  • Do constantly listen to what people are saying and feeling in the here and now and make ongoing adaptations based on their responses.

2. Hyperbolic discounting

This relates to peoples’ urge to settle for immediate pay-offs over later, larger rewards.

For example, a study into food choices by David Laibson showed 74% of shoppers who were picking up items for the next week chose fruit, whereas 70% of those who were shopping for the same day opted for chocolate. 

Why? Because we crave immediate gratification; even if the short-term fix is something our future self might not approve of.

People aren’t always patient

Most employees are all about the here and now. They might know an office transformation’s around the corner but if something’s irking them today, for some, the bigger picture isn’t enough to appease them.

So, to stop this from stunting your organisation’s plans for change make sure you’re continually addressing current problems. That doesn’t mean it’s a case of your employees saying “jump” and you asking “how high?”, it’s as simple as:

  1. Actively listening to concerns
  2. Deciding what’s reasonable and feasible to act on
  3. Coming to a solution that works for them and you
  4. If you can’t act, explaining why.

The fourth point is perhaps the most important of them all because it shows you’re not just disregarding someone’s input and your rationale might help them see reason. 

3. IKEA effect

Labour leads to love. The IKEA effect’s constructed by the precept that if you actually build something you’re more likely to like it than if it came premade – and yes, you guessed it, the same applies to your workplace.

Let’s take a look at the science

A man called Michael l. Norton created and named this idea and ran three experiments to back-up his beliefs. We’ll not go into all three, but here’s how the first unfolded:

  1. Participants assembled IKEA furniture
  2. Researchers priced the items participants had put together and pre-assembled furniture.
  3. Those involved were willing to pay 63% more for the hand-made items.
Taking it back to the workplace

People don’t like feeling left out or sheltered from discussions and decisions that impact them, and if they are, they’re more likely to be adverse to the reveal and pick holes in it for the sake of it; which won’t do your change any favours.

This one’s really easy to overcome, just make a point of actively involving your teams in the process by:

  • Asking what’s important to them;
  • Understanding what they need to get the best out of them;
  • Giving them a say when it’s choice-time; and
  • Keeping people up-to-date with events that affect them.

If you need help implementing organisational change that delivers short- and long-term success then we’ve got the expertise, experience and proven approach to drive the results you need. 

To see how we can work with your on your next project check out what we do or get in touch with the team on 0161 872 0298 or enquiries@tskgroup.co.uk.

  • Sophie Foster

    Sophie Foster

    Associate Workplace Consultant

  • 10 minutes

    04 September 2019

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