Managing Change



Change is a multi-stage process not an event


SKILLBUILDER 3: Modeling Culture in Times of Change: What Would You Do?

How you respond to information and needs during times of change is critical.  Let respect, communication, and honesty, the mainstays of our culture, be your guide.  Below are scenarios of things that happen when organizations go through change.  Choose the best response.  Answers at the bottom.


  1. Student Affairs is undergoing a change.  It’s not clear yet who will be impacted by the change.  But rumors are flying.  As the manager, you should:

    1. Call a meeting as soon as possible, dispel the rumors, and tell you staff exactly what you know at this point.

    2. Send out a memo to all staff telling them what you know.

    3. Walk around, talk to your staff about the change—what you know and what you don’t know.

    4. Don’t do anything until you have more information.


  1. One of your employees comes into your office in tears.  She has heard there are going to be staff cuts in your unit.  Because she was hired recently, she is sure she will be the first to go.  You know a change is coming, but haven’t heard about potential lay offs.  You should:

    1. Tell her not to worry.  Honestly answer any questions she may have.

    2. Tell her you don’t know about any lay offs.

    3. Empathize.  Tell her you know this is a hard time for everyone, but you haven’t heard of specific lay offs.  Tell her that if there are lay offs, they won’t necessarily be based on seniority. Affirm that you will call a staff meeting when you have more information.  

    4. Tell her worrying is a waste of time and energy. There isn’t any information about potential lay offs at this point.


  1. You know that staff cuts in Student Affairs are a real possibility.  But you don’t know if or how your unit will be impacted. Your staff is anxious about potential threats to their jobs.  You should:

    1. Not do anything until you have more information.

    2. Call a meeting.  Tell your staff that budget cuts will likely impact staffing, but you don’t know how at this point.  Assure them that you will pass information along to them as soon as it becomes available to you.

    3. Meet with staff one-on-one to discuss their performance and developmental goals.

    4. Meet with your senior staff/managers to talk about how potential staff cuts will impact productivity and morale.


  1. You heard from a colleague that significant changes are about to happen. You have known about this for some time, but you don’t have any specific information.  You should:

    1. Not do anything until you have more information.

    2. Ask other managers and senior leaders for more information.

    3. Meet with staff and tell them that Student Affairs will be undergoing a change.  At this point you don’t have information about the scope of the change.  You will let them know as soon as you have more information.

    4. Ask other colleagues if they have heard about significant changes in Student Affairs.


  1. You know there will be changes in Student Affairs that will impact some of the programs in your unit. That’s all you know at this point. You should:

    1. Call a staff meeting.  Tell your staff changes are coming, but you don’t know anything more than that.

    2. Set up a meeting.  Tell your staff you know this is a difficult time—a time when we need to pull together and support one another.  Tell the ‘our unit will likely be impacted, but you don’t know how at this point.’  Talk about how everyone is feeling.  

    3. Send out a memo telling staff changes are coming, that’s all you know.

    4. In a staff meeting, ask employees what they have heard about potential changes to the unit.  Dispel any rumors.


Best Responses

  1. Best response: a.  In times of change, it’s best to meet with all staff to tell them what you know (and don’t know).  Honesty and integrity are essential.  So is frequent, transparent communication.
  2. Best response: c.  Respect and validate her feelings.  These are tough times for everyone.  Assure her you will be honest and transparent in communicating all of the information you can as soon as it becomes available to you.
  3. Best response: b.  Again, to emphasize transparency and inclusion, it’s best to talk to your entire staff about change rather than one-on-one or through a memo.  In fact, it’s good idea to schedule regular get-togethers to talk about change, quell rumors, and pass along any new information
  4. Best response: c.  If a colleague tells you something about a change, it’s likely that others are talking about it too.  Though you don’t have the particulars, it’s best to talk to your whole staff together, tell them what you know (and don’t know), and assure them you will pass information along to them as soon as it is available.  This would also be a good time to talk to them about what they have heard and how they are feeling.  Let them know you understand this is a difficult time, that you sincerely care, and are available if they need to talk.
  5. Best response: b.  Again, a meeting is the best way to discuss change, validate feelings, and dispel rumors.  Be authentic and transparent.