Mourning in the office

screenshot-2016-09-29-09-49-33I’m a freelance communication consultant, working for a variety of different companies and organisations. So while I can get close to my clients I’m not on the invite list for the Christmas party or in the office to welcome new employees or wish good luck to those heading off to pastures new.

I do though connect with my clients.  I almost always feel emotionally involved.

One of my clients is being bought.  They have been part of a multi-stranded global business with an unequivocal focus on efficacy.  From the day the sale completes they will be part of a business entirely dedicated to their market sector.  For customers it’s incredibly good news and for employees it opens up great new opportunities. Whichever way you look at it it’s a win-win.

I’ve been working with this business for at least 10 years and seen team members come and go.  This week I changed the search terms with the media monitoring agency and suddenly I felt the ‘pain’ of the termination of my relationship with the parent company.

And if that’s how I feel, a freelancer at arm’s length from the business, imagine how the employees feel.  Imagine how their customers, suppliers and partners feel.  Whether they feel frustrated by the constraints of the parent company, loved all it has to offer or something in the middle, the likelihood is they feel some degree of loss.

The theoretical base for all this is ‘object relations’.  The object is the ‘person’ we need, in this case the employer who pays us.  We’ll do what we can to remain in a relationship with that person, wherever they are on the spectrum from loving to hurtful.  Losing contact with the object is painful, we go into mourning.  And mourning involves different stages including denial, anger and depression before acceptance.

Take a moment and think about the impact of those emotions in your business. They can be devastating; and a business that ignores this emotional rollercoaster does so at its peril.

So what are you, a business manager, supposed to do if your team is experiencing any of the unsettling emotions associated change?

From the internal communications perspective, start by acknowledging the equivalent of the elephant in the room.  Once you’ve recognised it and acknowledged the ‘pain’ people might be feeling then you can move onto the agenda you want, getting people motivated and excited about the opportunities ahead.

Give me a call if your business is going through a period of change and you want a new perspective on how to take your team with you.

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By Cathy Connan

I'm an integrative psychotherapist. I help people invest in their wellbeing and live the life they want.