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  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

HOW TO: Beat bullying during restructures

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

A restructure can be an emotional rollercoaster for your staff, and bullying can rear its ugly head. There's many reasons why bullying occurs during organisational change - regardless of the cause, as a business leader you want to make sure you're doing everything you can nip it in the bud. Find out 3 simple things you can do to really combat bullying and give your people the best restructure possible.

So I don't know why it is. But during restructures, bullying seems to rear its ugly head. Now, the problem is that you are often trying to support your people and build a future vision, a future strategy. You're trying to set up your team and your company in the best way possible for the future. And unfortunately all this bullying, gossip, rumours... can really undermine staff morale and people's desire to want to stay in the company, and also their support of the change and their overall performance. 

I'm Lata Hamilton, Change Leadership and Confidence expert. And this is the first article in my 15-part Reimagine Restructures Blog Series.

Prefer to watch the 5 minute video? Jump over to my Youtube Channel.

Why does bullying occur during restructures?

You might have managers that just aren't coping, maybe because they have tasks and responsibilities as part of the restructure. They might be the ones forming the new team structure or having the difficult conversations. And they might not feel like they're equipped or comfortable to perform these tasks and responsibilities. And for a lot of managers - they might be scared of their own role. They might actually be fearful of their own place and then this impacts the whole team. 

The will to survive

Restructures trigger a “survival instinct” or “survival anxiety”. This creates a competitiveness, and staff (managers AND team members) start to think of the change as a zero-sum game. This fear is a belief they are not going to have a job at the end of the day and they start to see their colleagues as competitors: "If you get that job, then I don't get it. I go bankrupt, I go hungry." So this survival instinct is raw and real, and it can rear its ugly head during restructures and lead to bullying. 

The few bad apples

Another reason bullying seems to come up during restructures is that, unfortunately, most companies do have one or two staff who are just not very nice! These rare people opportunistically use the period around a restructure, when emotions and fear are already high, to play that nasty behaviour out. 

So what on earth do we do about it?

Given that restructures are so important for your company's future success, performance, and growth, how then can we nip bullying in the bud? I'm going to share with you today three different ideas to keep your restructure on track. 

IDEA #1: Armour up

The first idea that I have for you is to ARMOUR your managers. Now I want you to note here, that I didn't say "ARM". I'm not saying "arm your managers." Don't give them tools that they can use against themselves and against others. That's not the right way to go about this. But instead armour them - strengthen them, grow them, help manage them through the ambiguity, manage their expectations, and give them different collaborative and constructive tools create plans for the future, support their team through this, and support themselves through this. How? Take them through training and development, of course! Teach them how! And not just once or twice, but if you've got managers who have been there for a long time - every time there's a restructure, give them that training and development. 

IDEA #2: Communication is key

The second idea that I have for you is to make sure that through your restructure there's clear communication. You know, this comes up lot. Make sure that the process is really clear, have really clear timelines as to when things are going to happen and when people are going to get information, and then stick to those timelines. And really it's around making sure that everybody's clear, and everybody feels like they are informed and that they are knowledgeable about what's going on to nip gossip in the bud. Because if you make sure there's a consistent message going out to everybody at the same time and that everybody knows when they'll get the next message, you don't leave that opportunity of ambiguous space for gossip to start to breed. 

IDEA #3: Power up

And then the third idea that I have for you is to empower your staff. Empower your people. Don't let them have this survival mindset. Instead give them the tools, the techniques, the training, and the development to have them think about this restructure in a really different way. If you've supported your managers - that's one thing. But also support your PEOPLE. Give them a different experience for once through this restructure and support them in a new way that’s truly useful. Make sure that there's mechanisms for them to be able to provide feedback, get clarification on things that they're not sure about, or concerns that they have. Have a really clear open process, but also give them the confidence to be part of that process, and the confidence to actually be honest and truthful. Shifting the way that your staff experience the restructure will shift your entire restructure. 

So remember: armour your managers, have a clear communication plan and actually stick to it, and empower your staff. Bullying won’t have time or space to breed and breathe, and your restructure will stay on track to success.

I'm Lata Hamilton - the Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, a Change Management consultancy specialising in digital transformation, operating model changes, and new ways of working and leadership.

Grab my free Creative Launch Ideas Guide with 53 ways to bring your next Change and Transformation to life - download it here.

And if you'd like my help with your next change or building leadership capability for your team, get in touch with me here.


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