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Successful change in organizations doesn’t just happen. Here is strategy #10

In my continuing video series on leading successful change in organizations (which started back in June), here is strategy #10.  Today’s tip is: Let people vent.

Let people vent

You may recall that back in Strategy #2, I outlined how it is completely normal for employees, when faced with change that is perceived as negative, to go through stages of denial and anger BEFORE they can get to acceptance of the change itself.  Venting is a key component of both denial and anger.  It is an opportunity for the person to let off steam, to get their frustrations out and off their chest, by saying everything that’s on their mind.

And by the way, when you let someone vent, it does not mean that your role is now to jump in and give advice, nor does it mean that you should sit there silently.  Neither of these two options are likely to get your employee past denial and anger.  Instead, you should listen actively, showing your employee that you hear and understand, and you’ll be much more successful in getting your employee past denial and anger and closer towards acceptance of the change.

Show them that you’re actively listening

To show that you’re actively listening when someone is venting, ask questions like:

  • What are you most frustrated about?
  • What are you most angry about?
  • What are you really worried about?

When an employee is upset, it matters less what you tell them than what you enable them to tell you.  After they get their feelings off their chest, that’s when they can then have a constructive conversation with you.  And not before.

Part of leading successful change is to not only recognize that people need to vent, but to also actively listen so that you can take them from denial and anger to the point where they begin to accept and embrace the change.

Clients tell me that listening to people vent (without jumping in to offer advice) can be difficult.  So what do you do to ensure that you are actively listening?  Please share your strategies so we can all learn from one another.  Please add your comment below.

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