Why (culture) change is so hard and what to do about it

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Why (culture) change is so hard and what to do about it

The team huddled around the nursing station talking in panicked whispers after the management meeting ended.

“How do they expect us to do that?” a young nurse wondered.

“Yeah,” an aide replied, “we’re stretched thin enough already!”

A more experienced worker piped up. “Don’t worry,” he said bluntly. “I’ve seen these ideas come and go. It’ll never happen.”

There was a collective sigh of relief and everybody went back to business as usual.

The scenario above illustrates some of the many ways organizations are resistant to change.

In this situation, the new procedure is viewed as a temporary fad not worth investing time and energy. The workers haven’t been consulted for their input prior to implementation, they fear that they won’t be able to handle the work and the benefits of doing so aren’t clear. In addition, the employees don’t trust their management to guide them through the process of change.

Think of how hard it is to adjust our own routines and then multiply that by, say, every employee, resident and family member. Then cube that number.

Speaking of adjusting personal routines, a few months ago I wrote that I was going to try to meditate daily this year. I haven’t.

Consider trying to make changes in the context of family life, such as going for a walk after dinner (a good idea that never happened) or eating healthy food (I do, she does, he doesn’t). Pushback and inertia can make it difficult for even the most well-intentioned modifications to take hold.

This is why it’s necessary to have a guide along the way for changes to take hold, whether it’s a friend to meet you at the gym or the Pioneer Network to help your organization navigate through the culture change process.

Full disclosure: While I don’t get paid to say this, as a psychologist I find that culture change principles are better for the mental health of the residents, staff and families. As a change agent, I know how important it is to enlist an agent of change.

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Why (culture) change is so hard and what to do about it

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