Organizations rarely make policy changes with the intention of creating chaos in the workplace, but often, even when policy changes improve operations or create a safer or better environment for employees, employees' initial reaction is often resistance. Until employees are convinced of the need for policy and practice change, organizational performance may be adversely affected.
Why Policy Changes Impact Organizations
Even when change is positive, it requires modifying entrenched behaviors and ideas. When changes happen in the workplace, these modifications affect a number of people, all of whom may react differently. Until new policies or practices become established, organizational performance may be affected, often negatively, as employees become accustomed to new ways of performing job tasks or different expectations for personal behavior.
Operational Policy Changes
When operational policy changes are made, it's not a stretch to expect organizational performance to be impacted until employees become familiar with new practices. Implementing new procedures, instituting different operational systems, transitioning to new equipment or software as directed by policy -- any change that affects how employees perform daily tasks can be expected to impact organizational performance. Performance may lag while employees are trained in new practices or equipment/software, and may further be affected while employees become familiar with the new procedures or systems.
Employee Policy Changes
Changes to employee policies, such as attendance, leave or education or training, often affect organizational performance even when the link between job tasks and the policies affected is not linear. When the change to employee policies is viewed as disciplinary or reactionary, the result is often disgruntled employees who are resistant to change, even if these changes will ostensibly create a better working environment. Employee dissatisfaction and low morale are well-recognized as detrimental to an organization's performance, and policy changes -- especially unpopular changes -- can be expected to affect both morale and satisfaction.
Lessening the Impact of Change
Policy and practice changes in the workplace are inevitable, but decreased performance as a result does not have to be. Including employees in the process of planning new policies and practices can help foster the buy-in that's essential to employee acceptance of change.
"Executives need to involve employees in establishing new operating procedures," writes Mitchell Lee Marks for the "Wall Street Journal." Soliciting employee input when making policy and procedure changes not only opens executives up to perspectives from those actually implementing these policies and procedures, but also improves morale and job satisfaction, both of which can improve performance.
A writer and information professional, J.E. Cornett has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lincoln Memorial University and a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Kentucky. A former newspaper reporter with two Kentucky Press Association awards to her credit, she has over 10 years experience writing professionally.