Re: Change Fatigue

Bob Green (
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 20:58:37 +1000


Regarding your comments,
> One of my graduate students (not a psychologist but a Management
>type) is interested in a work-group which has for some years been
>undergoing experimental and more or less chaotic changes in all directions
>at once.
> She has an idea which seems intuitively (and experientially)
>reasonable that people who keep having demands made on them to see things
>differently to how they saw them yesterday, again and again, in no single
>direction but of unrelated kinds, even if the changes are none of them in
>themselves too enormous, will eventually find it too much for them; she
>makes an analogy with metal fatigue - such as caused those Comet airliners
>to go pop in my youth.
> It struck me that this was just the sort of thing pcp people might
>well know all about. Any references please?

As someone who has seen successive governments, directors and all manner of
people come and go in the last few years I can undertsand the concept of
change fatigue or is it jargon overload. In many ways the burden seems
higher for supervisors, the 'middle managers'. For some people, things like
institutional reform are an attack on their core identity, while for others
change is welcomed.

There was a rather touching show on television recently about a small town.
The major employer was a local plant which had been in operation for years.
This plant may be shut down. Besides the loss of a job, the certainty many
of these people had was shattered, e.g parents who expected their children
to go to the school they went to and enjoy the town they grew up in. The
late 1990's and change management/economic rationalism seemed like an atomic
bomb for this community.

Anyway, in terms of people seeing things differently it is necessary to
consider what things they are seeing differently or more specifically
understanding how they have changed. A couple of suggestions. One approach
would be to consider elements such as self now, self 5 years ago (or at the
stage of various changes), self in the future, self as seen by others, ideal
self, various work related figures now and in the past and examine
construing of these figures. This might provide an indication as to whether
there has been change in terms of how a person sees him/herself and how
others are construed.

Alternatively, various key work roles could be considered. How are they
construed now compared to 5 years ago. Are there new roles, are roles
previously enjoyed now detested etc.

Having said this, if someone has significantly changed these might be very
emotional topics which could distressing for participants, so sensitivity
and a supportive approach would be essential.