Organizational Change Manager’s Anxiety with Production Improvement—Part 1*

We know that employees become anxious under the threat of a change. Did you know that managers may also be anxious when introducing a change? This anxiety can lead to actions that actually block the change.

Let’s look at a company having production quality problems. Yields are low and customers have been complaining or returning products. The production manager (PM) is concerned that the company might fail if production is not improved significantly…and soon. What can he do?

He knows production and believes that certain changes in the production processes can correct the problem. But he also knows that the needed changes are likely to make his employees uncomfortable.

He has read much about introducing change and how to help employees deal with change; do it right and they help make it a success. The books recommend showing the employees that they are valued: get their help, get their ideas, and give them some control over what happens to them. That is, give them some power over their fate.

The PM must give some of his power to his employees!

But remember that the PM has a lot at stake here. What if he can’t make the change work? What if the change he introduces does not provide the needed improvements? The company is already hurting; if the changes do not correct the problem, his own job may be on the line.

He thinks “I better keep tight control over everything.” The last thing an anxious manager will do is give up any of his power! And yet, that is exactly what must be done.

To deal with this, the PM simply must “bite the bullet.” Use the employees’ knowledge and skills, get their ideas to find the best way to improve production, and get their help to make it happen. And accept that he will be uncomfortable.

It’s the best chance he has to make the changes succeed.

Still, the PM must still do something reduce his anxiety. This fear is actually likely to increase as he follows the steps above! For all of this to work, the PM will need to find ways to trust his employees. He must also trust that he is capable of picking up the pieces when things don’t go as expected. One way to do this is to hold regular meetings to review the status while not “holding the reins” too tightly and micromanaging the group. Here, again, the PM can work with the employees to help decide together how to best keep him informed so that he is able to see that things are moving well…while staying sane.

More on that coming soon.

Don’t want to wait? Then go to and check the tab “Successful Real Change.”

* Adapted from Lead Change without Fear by Paul Schnitzler