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April Fools’ Day: Are You Fooling Me? Another Change?

Since two years ago, everyday feels like an extended April Fools’ Day—with constant change and surprises. Here are five tips for keeping your team and business focused and productive during ongoing change.

Today is April Fool’s Day, and in the past, it has been a time to play harmless practical jokes on your colleagues at work. Many years ago, when I was much younger, I covered a co-worker’s desk with pictures of “Picolas Cage”. I thought this was quite hilarious, and so did my colleague!

 

The meaning behind April Fools’ Day

While the origin of April Fools’ Day is not exactly known and there is not much literature that can pinpoint why this day was celebrated, the theme of this celebration is the same around the world: the day of the year when we can prank others with harmless jokes. I think of this as a break between your “normal” days—a fun disruption that reminds you not to take things so seriously sometimes, a reminder to have fun once in a while. On the other side of the coin, disruption is still a disruption, so you do not want to have this every day, hence it is celebrated only once a year.

In the past few years, we have seen many changes and surprises. Starting from the pandemic, it feels like we have been living in a giant joke bubble and we are just eagerly waiting for it to burst so we can resume our “normal” days. That got me thinking…

 

Have we been experiencing April Fools’ Day the past few years…?

These days, with hybrid working becoming the norm, there are fewer chances to play these kinds of jokes in the office space. However, with the rapid pace of change brought on by digitalization along with the revolving door of talent due to the Great Resignation—many workers struggle to adapt, and the constant state of change can feel crazy-making. Admittedly, this is way less fun than a ton of pictures of Picolas Cage.

Constant change is inevitable right now. This is not anyone’s fault, but it is simply the way of the world at the moment. But it is a major culture killer and is one of the contributing reasons why restless staff members are leaving their jobs for greener pastures. Fortunately, like most issues, there are ways we can curb the impact and, in some cases, create deeper connections at work.

Constant change is inevitable right now. This is not anyone’s fault, but it is simply the way of the world at the moment.

So, on this April Fool’s Day, I am giving you a gift rather than a prank:

Five tips to keep your team and business productive during an era of constant change:

1. Please remember that we are all human
If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know this is a “tip” I regularly give! But repetition is essential for learning, and this is a lesson we all could use a refresher on. PLEASE remember that we are all human! We all have successes, mediocrity, mistakes, and lessons learned. You will help and fail others, and they will help and fail you. What we can do for each other is give space and grace to our humanity. We can grow our skills of forgiveness and patience through empathy and compassion.

If we can remember this simple yet difficult concept, then there is more capacity for us to handle change overall. One of the most challenging parts of change is how we humans all handle it. From the leadership team that fails to communicate the right details at the right time and in the right way, to the team members whose negative attitudes about the change sour an entire team meeting or an event that was intended to soften the edges of the change.

Remember, in both cases and all the other attitudes in between, they are normal human responses. None of us are perfect and thank goodness… because that would be boring!

2. Notice how they respond—notice how you respond
Building from the last point, it is not enough to just have grace and compassion for our humanity. In fact, you can learn a lot about where the culture of your team is from how they deal with the stress of change. Did they roll their eyes, let out a big sigh, or go off-camera? This may show you, better than any culture survey, that your team may be burnt out or not ready for the change that is coming. This is an opportunity to make a deeper connection with each person. Set aside time in your 1:1s to ask more about the response they had. If there is trust, patience, and compassion, this conversation can build a deeper bond. You may get the opportunity to learn more about that team member, and it can help inform how to help them navigate future changes.

And how did you respond? Did you become defensive or sharp in response to how some of your team reacted? Did you put up a wall or say something you regretted… maybe you are also a little burnt out from the change. This is another huge opportunity to build trust. An apology and a commitment to change your approach with your team’s help could go a long way toward building deeper trust. The key here is to follow up with action to your words—showing your team that you mean what you say.

Set aside time in your 1:1s to ask more about the response they had. If there is trust, patience, and compassion, this conversation can build a deeper bond.

3. Everyone reacts to change differently
Some people love change while others deeply fear it… some love and fear it! Change can be simultaneously exciting and anxiety-inducing. It is important to learn how your staff reacts to change, so you can personalize your approach to how you communicate the change to them. This leads me to my next point…

4. Communicate early and often
Giving people a long notice that change is coming, what to expect from the change, and why it is happening will allow them to acclimate to the change before it even happens. But you cannot only communicate once and only over email! This is a mistake I see all the time. Your teams are inundated with email messages—some important and some not. It is very likely they could miss your announcement or even not have the time to properly think about it.

The rule of thumb is to communicate the same information in three different ways and at least three different times. For example: send an email on Monday, have a team meeting about the change the next week, and then discuss it in 1:1s the week after that.

5. Turn your culture into a flexible environment
This brings me to my last tip. You do not have to wait until all the details are perfectly aligned to communicate that change is coming. If you start practicing the first four tips regularly, then you will build a connected and trusting team. They know you are not perfect, but they also know you are someone who follows through and even if the change is hard, there is open communication and an environment of grace and compassion for everyone to learn.

We all know that change often changes even when it is in the middle of its own change. How meta is that?! Your team is filled with adults who can be trusted to handle this reality if trust, accountability, and patience are present.

It is worth taking the time to build deeper and stronger relationships with your teams using the first four tips in this blog. That foundation will grow a strong and supportive work culture that is ready to take on any change that comes its way. You may even find yourself more engaged, and maybe someday we will spend April Fool’s Day playing cute and harmless office pranks on each other again.

Check out our leadership resources for more tips on how to build, nurture, and manage your team amid constant change!

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Author

Kristina Iniguez

Kristina Iniguez is the Head of Brand, PR, and External Communication at SHL. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and ten years of experience leading and developing teams across public, private, and non-profit organizations. She is a creative visionary and strategist who utilizes careful listening and open collaboration to engage audiences in mission-centric organizations. She utilizes relationship-based techniques, like human-centered design, to build communication platforms that reach, educate, and engage key stakeholders. She is passionate about talent development because she believes that people are any organization's greatest asset. The more an organization holistically invests in its employees—the more they will succeed!

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