3 Ways to Anchor Your Employees in Times of Change

By Lynette Reed,
business.com writer
Sep 27, 2017
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

As a leader, you can ease the transition by grounding and directing your team's focus.

Anchors provide a lifeline to keep boats from drifting out to sea. Leaders act as anchors for employees to keep them from drifting away from the company goals and expectations, especially during times of transition.

Here are three ways to anchor the individuals in your organization.

1. Set the tone.

When you set the tone, you anchor behavior. Behavior establishes the tone for the corporate culture and employee engagement. A consistent and well-defined set of behaviors exemplifies for your employees the response that individuals receive when they work or do business with your organization.

To set the tone, select words that define how people within the organization need to respond to situations within the workplace. Words such as "helpful," "efficient," "friendly" or even "direct" help to set the tone for how you do business. When people begin to drift from the select behaviors, you can use this anchor to remind them to stay focused on behaviors that support the work of the organization.

A set tone offers employees a behavioral plan for maintaining the corporate culture, engagement and even time management of the organization. Less time and energy is spent on dealing with fracturing behaviors such as gossiping and complaining. Managing behaviors leaves room for more time to focus on goals and work. When behaviors are managed, people do not spend as much time talking about how somebody behaved. Instead, they concentrate on maintaining their behavior in a way that supports culture and engagement.

This anchor is particularly useful during periods of transition, when people are feeling fearful or trying to regain some control. Focusing on these defined behaviors offers employees a reference point when they're defaulting into passive-aggressive or defiant behaviors in their attempt to gain control or feel safe. You can integrate these behaviors into the annual review as a measure of an employee's contribution to the culture and engagement of the organization.

2. Set the goal.

When you set goals, you anchor the workload. Offering an intentional and defined workload helps employees to maintain focus on the work.

A study by William Ibbs and Justin Reginato indicated that companies with mature project management practices have improved project performance (on time and budget versus 40 percent overtime and 20 percent over cost targets). Project management maturity within an organization also strongly correlates with the more predictable project schedule and cost performance (08 Schedule Performance Index variation versus 16), with lower direct costs for effective project management than poor project management companies (6 to 7 percent versus 11 to 20 percent).

Since many people are visual learners, software tools such as Microsoft Project, Smartsheet and Workzone offer visual assistance to employees to give everyone an integrated flow of work. Individuals may find comfort in the stability these programs offer. You can also maintain continuity of workload goals by developing a set process to define who is responsible for each activity on the plan, what tasks to complete and a deadline for each event.

3. Set the value.

When you establish the value for your employees, you anchor human capital. Human value can be exemplified using the $20 bill. Whether it is a brand-new bill or a bit more tattered, the value of $20 remains the same. A crumpled $20 bill does not change in value. When employees understand that their value does not change, they are better able to focus on work.

You maintain this anchor by not making judgments of good or bad or wrong or right. There is a subtle difference between telling someone they are wrong and saying the work needs revision. With the first, people become focused on personal value. The second method focuses them on the work. When you anchor your employees with value, then you do not waste valuable time talking about the past, like what went wrong or what is bad. Instead, you keep them focused on the future.

These three anchors keep employees from drifting away from the goals of your organization during times of changes. When a change occurs, individuals often experience a fight-or-flight mentality, since they may feel threatened or unsafe within the change. Fight-or-flight manifests in the workplace in the form of employees choosing to leave the company, or exhibiting behaviors such as passive-aggressive activities, defiance, or even subversive actions to regain safety and control.

An employee may try to have a new hire fired by complaining about their behavior. You may see individuals refuse to work with a new boss or withhold information from a new co-worker to bring the organization back in line with an environment that was comfortable in the past. Employees who embrace change rarely exhibit fight-or-flight responses, since they are comfortable with the change. These anchors can help all employees feel grounded during the transition.

Understanding the fight-or-flight response offers you a tool for measuring which employees are struggling with the change and helps you better understand how to manage the change. You can provide employees who exhibit fight-or-flight responses these anchors to use as alternative habits to feel safety and control. When you anchor all of your employees with an intentional process within the workplace, you offer them stability and focus so that they can effectively concentrate on the daily activities of your business.


Writer, researcher, and facilitator with an emphasis on human potential for personal and organizational development. Dr. Reed has mentored people from a variety of organizations to include businesses, not for profit organizations, schools, allied health agencies, Chambers of Commerce, governmental entities, and churches. She has taught courses on world religion and world cultures and also continuing education courses approved by the American Planning Association for ethics, HRCI, and team building/leadership training sessions approved by the Texas Education Agency for continuing education of teachers, superintendents, and school board members. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem, Making changes in how you deal with challenges, as well as some book contributions, articles, and guest radio appearances, and a series of children's books with Abingdon Press. She is also a founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Her academic background includes a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
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