Like much of the south and Midwest parts of the country, Michigan is being slammed by excessive heat. Temperatures have reached 96 degrees in the Detroit area and 95 in Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula and Monroe in the state’s southeast corner. By Thursday of this week it’s predicted the temperature will climb to 98.
This is prompting some Michigan businesses and facilities to serve as cooling centers for the general public. For example, the mid-Michigan communities of Lakeview and Stanton on Monday opened air-conditioned community and council rooms to the public. Detroit recreation spokeswoman, Jennifer Roberts, says two recreation centers have averaged about 20 people per day for cooling purposes. Detroit also has designated library branches as cooling centers.
While this is a noble and needed public service being provided, a change in operations does come with some challenges to the entities involved. Some of the challenges are personal, some evolve within work teams, and some challenges emerge across the organization. And it makes it that much harder when the challenges come unforeseen, such as in a situation like this. But just like engaging traditional change in the workplace, we need to be aware of the challenges and be prepared to deal with them professionally and confidently.
Change typically generates at least some resistance. Individuals often feel that they are losing power, autonomy, or resources due to a changing work environment. In the case of repurposing facilities into cooling centers, it’s likely that some personnel feel as though their daily routine is being infringed upon, or they’re being taken out of their comfort zone. As a result, they cling to the status quo.
As team members in change engagement, it is management’s role to challenge themselves and persuade others to lower their resistance and focus on positive outcomes.
One of the biggest challenges of change engagement is simply getting people to take change seriously, even if it is born of something temporary in nature such as the heat wave. However, change of any type often generates anxiety and it would behoove management to reduce any type of anxiety as much as possible. Individuals are more likely to embrace change and teams function more successfully when anxiety is at a minimum. The challenge, then, is to minimize anxiety, understand the plan for change, express the level of commitment to the plan, and recognize how the plan and management’s role will evolve during the change.
During these trying times, it’s perhaps most important that personnel understand that the changes in operation—like those due to the heat wave—are temporary in nature, and that a return to normalcy will follow once the crisis is over.
Photo credit: federico stevanin