How do I – manage negativity to change?


Managing change is no mean feat. By nature, human beings do not like change. This is mainly because change can bring ambiguity, need for effort, disruption and confusion.

Here Gwenllian Williams shares her views with us.

Businesses which are constantly changing often report ‘Change Fatigue’ in which people become demotivated, tired and negative towards management.

Rosabeth Moss-Kantor, one of the gurus of change management and restructuring states:

“If mismanaged, restructuring can all too easily make people helpless, anxious, startled, embarrassed, dumb, overworked, cynical, hostile, or hurt.”

Unfortunately, change is rarely managed well, so no wonder people get negative. So what can team leaders and call centre managers do to ensure that they are not caught in this trap?

There are key steps to driving change and minimising negativity. Each one is as important as the next.

Step one: Create urgency

If people do not see the point of changing, it is very unlikely that they will. You will face negative resistance. Leaders need to sell change as an imperative. This does not mean scaring staff with threats of redundancy or dire consequences.

Generally selling benefits is more powerful. However, if there is a real threat, then this should be made very clear. While creating urgency, leaders really have to live the reason. Selling change by the ‘Management says we have to so I suppose we better do it’ approach will be a fast track to inertia. There are many ways to create urgency such as management data, market data and customer surveys. However, there is only one way to communicate urgency and this is through a collective realisation.

  • Bring your team together.
  • Explain the situation.
  • Explain the required change.
  • Explain what you are expecting of them.

Avoid one to one meetings as this leaves you open to Chinese whispers and lack of team feeling. It is essential that the team get a message that ‘we are in this together’.

Step two: Engage the team

People dislike being out of control and imposed change feels like lack of control. The usual response is resistance. However, change which is driven by the team will be owned by the team and is more likely to be followed through. Leaders need to engage their team in generating ideas for improvement.

There are many approaches to team engagement such as brainstorming meetings and change away-days. Whichever you choose, ensure that, as the leader, you reiterate the need for change and your expectations of the team. Create urgency again. Then facilitate lively discussions.

To ensure ongoing engagement, team members should be given responsibility for change projects or actions and made to feel accountable. Very important at this point is to ensure that any team stooges (those who always complain about management and cast a dark shadow over all ideas) are put in a position of responsibility. They will not want to fail and so are more likely to assist. 

Step three: Create quick wins

If you have engaged your team through meetings and focus groups, it is likely that you have a raft of ideas. Beware the long list of good intentions. They are likely to stay as intentions as long lists are daunting. A better approach is to categorise your list using the following criteria:

Nature of the idea Priority
Nice to have but will not move us towards the goal Bin these ideas. They will only cause frustration.
Quick and easy to do and moves us towards our goal Choose the best and do these immediately. Introduce the rest as you go along the change path
Will need a plan and to be done in stages Choose one or two key projects and create a project team. Put others in order of importance.

Having prioritised, create a change plan. Using your priority list ensure that you place some quick wins at the front end and then set down subsequent projects. The change plan should identify project owners, timelines and dependencies between projects.

A useful technique at this stage is to create a visual project plan which can be kept in view and easily referred to. Project plans which go into great detail stored in a written document are easily put in a dark drawer and forgotten. Having set the plan, communicate with your team again.

By starting your team off on quick wins you will start the momentum and create a positive response very early on. Achievements need to be recognised by leaders through praise and positive feedback. By choosing one or two longer-term projects you will ensure that the team is not swamped and progress is easy to drive and monitor.

Step four: Keep up the momentum

Change requires effort and this can be tiring, especially when people have to manage change while doing the day job. Leaders need to keep the spotlight on change through constant communication, update meetings, focus groups, one-to-ones and project meetings.

Leaders need to ensure that the change project is never off the agenda or it will simply fall to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. In this stage expect negativity to set in. It is inevitable, but your response as leader is critical in ensuring that things do not slow down.

Leader reaction to negativity needs to include re-communication of ‘why?’, firm addressing of sabotage and plenty of positive feedback to efforts made. This is not easy. As a leader you will feel tired too. The trick is never to show it.

Step five: Celebrate success

‘Praise for progress made’ should be your motto during change. People who feel appreciated will always do more and try harder.

As a leader your key job is to ensure that effort is met with respect and recognition. This does not mean that you have to break open the champagne at every point, more often a simple ‘thank you’ is far more powerful. However, significant progress should be publicly recognised.

One thing leaders need to remember is that organisational recognition is often only given to leaders. Good leaders will ensure that they stand behind their teams and put them in the limelight rather than take the glory for themselves.


Gwenllian Williams is a director of deWinton-Williams Business Consulting. Gwenllian Williams

deWinton-Williams helps businesses achieve potential through people and consults on the full range of HR solutions including strategic competency frameworks, selection, development and change.

You can contact deWinton-Williams on 0207 372 4997 or contact Gwenllian through the website

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 9th Apr 2008 - Last modified: 22nd Nov 2017
Read more about - Call Centre Management, , ,

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  • I tended to find that it was one or two individuals in the team who were the most disruptive (the “team stooges” as you refer to them).

    I tended to spend more time with these team members to get them on side, but it was only when I was able to restructure the teams that I had best impact.
    A slow down in the economy makes it much easier to make troublesome team members redundant and improve overall team performance. It worked quite well for me following the last slowdown in 2001.

    I must admit that I had never through of putting them in positions of responsibility on the change programme as this appears to be counter-intuitive.

    Would this really work?

    jamesportcullis 10 Apr at 08:43
  • James’ comment above represents a management approach which is all too common.

    Why wait to make them redundant? Why not use performance management processes to help them correct their behaviour?

    Performance management is tough, but it’s an essential part of management, surely?

    And if the stooges continue to be disruptive and not part of the team, it’s the job of management to help them make a decision to go and work elsewhere.

    or have I missed something?

    and as for giving the stooges responsibility – that could work, provided they have very clear objectives, are managed well and are made fully accountable for their allotted tasks.

    There are risks attached of course – there may be impressionable people in the team who are not currently disruptive – but when they see that by being so, you are ‘recognised’ and given more responsibility….. they might learn that disruptive is ‘good’.

    enough from me.

    Mike 10 Apr at 15:11
  • Change is a fantastic thing if introduced correctly.
    At all stages a forum of team members (not team leaders all the time ) should be consulted and given the opportunity to voice their valuable input before any decisions are made. All members of the teams should be given the chance to attend these meetings on a rotational basis( No favourites all the time ) and have the opportunity to refer to their team members. Avoiding the opinionated is a massive mistake to avoid confrontation. This way the workforce have the ownership in agreeing with management on the best way forward and everyone has had input. “A Successful All Round Solution”

    Sherie Beazley 20 May at 18:07
  • Thanks for all you do in helping me fulfill my dreams.,

    Roz 27 Nov at 11:57
  • this website is full of knowledge regarding how to react to change but it involves team or it is for leadership but what about personel motivation or react to personal maters change

    asim jan 13 Jan at 02:17
  • One thing’s for sure, and that’s that everyone responds differently to change. Therefore the same change management rules cannot apply to every situation.

    This is a great article and a hot topic. You’d think that the masses would embrace change, stop being scared of it and understand the necessity for it. Sadly it’s not the case and managers continue in their quest to pacify the habitual moaners.

    I’ve had both good and bad change management experiences.
    I just want to mention my most recent change management experience because it was like hell on earth.

    I started working for a well established company to set up a call centre to complement its existing operations. I adopted an existing customer satisfaction team who immediately resented my arrival due to me being an ‘outsider’ (and they made no bones about this fact). The company was already undergoing many changes due to the arrival of a new MD who was rapidly dragging the business into the 21st Century with quick and decisive decisions that left some redundant and others monitored & accountable for the first time in their career.

    I tried all the usual methods associated with introducing new processes such as: total openness, transparency, and daily verbal communications explaining where we’re at and what the next steps would be right down to me getting stuck into answering the phone, making the calls, selling additional products and leading from the front. In addition to that, I introduced a bonus scheme that enabled earnings to rocket. It wasn’t working, there was still a huge amount of resistance but I carried on.

    Next step was to performance manage. One person walked and the next person dug their heels in further still, making my work life very tough as this person had a small group of friends around the rest of the business to share her annoyance with.

    I looked everywhere for advice and help but this situation appeared unique so I had to continue persevering with the approach I’d chosen.

    The next milestone was to recruit additional suitable people for the role, show them the ropes and the new systems and hope that those remaining followed suit. Six months on, it worked. It was a mentally straining six months to introduce a lot of new systems; but systems that will ensure this business thrives long into the future, irrespective of the economic downturn.

    Change is good but it does have to be handled appropriately; change must never be underestimated and change should always be handled with care.

    Darren Degiorgio 27 Mar at 17:05
  • Thanks Darren, your article has helped me. I am working for an organization where the management informs only its favorites about updates & changes. We come to know only when a big bomshell hits us. We do become sad but we don’t react. To retain our jobs we obey blindly. However, now I have realised that management also has problems in handling us. So, now i will not be sad if i am not informed & suddenly told to take different type of calls or suddenly realize that new policies have come up. Again thanks Darren for changing my outlook.

    Tina 3 Sep at 17:11
  • Dear :
    Am working in an inbound call center of a multinational company telecommunication , since 2009 mid the new CEO due to resection did some cost cutting & therefore the call center started doing up-selling , the pressure became too much on the agent,s & they have started getting Ill & disturbed in there home lives too & in the consequences fake selling started & this started damaging the customer , I as an average Agent & being in the list of top sellers kept on informing the management that there are many things going wrong specially in selling but they ignored me & the pressure kept on increasing & to a point that it became now an revenue based call center .
    I had to take a step & went directly to the manager & told him that fake up-selling had being going on in the call center & that would damage the image of the company as well as all the customers will port of of our network too to the other networks & they wont have faith on OUR Company ,
    they putted some do,s & Don,ts but the pressure for the selling is still there & they need the sales for the target they have already given to the CEO .
    what should i do plz guide me some one with a good plan of marketing in which we can generate revenue as well as the Agents gets relax too .
    Would be desperately waiting for the reply .

    ali 17 May at 20:46
  • Change is especially difficult to deal with inside an organization. It leads to certain complications and confusion for employees. To facilitate this step, we called Manager Max. After completing a change audit, they turned in into a humorous show to address the issues. This revives your team with motivation!

    Gavin 10 May at 14:45