Doug McKinley
Doug McKinley

Healthcare organizations are experiencing change at a rapid pace as technological innovations and alternative payment models greatly impact operations—and people. As a leader, you can expect these changes to create workplace conflict. But you also should be assured that you can manage this conflict, and make it a productive rather than disruptive force, by using the following approaches.

Put Change in the Proper Context

As author Britt Andreatta, PhD, explains in her book “Wired to Resist,” our brains are biologically wired to resist change. When organizational change happens, people personalize it and make it about themselves. They start to believe the change is happening to them, for them, or against them.

As a leader, you should explain to staff that the change may feel personal because it affects how employees do their daily work, but that is not the main reason the organization is initiating change. Rather, the change is for the benefit of the organization.

Lucy Zielinski
Lucy Zielinski

You also should use empathy to understand how employees and teams are feeling, and acknowledge that change can be frustrating. Making employees feel that they are being seen and heard can de-escalate conflict that arises from change. This approach can help employees be more receptive to specific messaging and the overall change process.

Leaders should create a solid communication plan and, more importantly, execute it effectively. Delivering the right message—in the right medium, at the right time, by the right people—is critical. This messaging may look different from one organization to the next, so aligning it with your culture and your employees’ needs is key. Ask employees for suggestions.

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Doug McKinley, PsyD, is owner of DLMPathways and is an author, coach, and facilitator based in Chicago. Lucy Zielinski is a managing partner for Lumina Health Partners in Chicago. This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of HFMA’s Leadership e-newsletter, as well as the July 2019 issue of HFM magazine.