Iesha Small

speaker, writer, communications professional

Helping working class and introverted professionals thrive.

Management of Change

Why are people so scared of change? How can we experience and implement it in a more positive way? (464 words)

There is a lot of change happening in schools right now. New curricula, new external and internal assessment, reduced budgets leading to redundancies and other large changes. Today, 31st May, is the last official day when most teaching staff can hand in their notice ready to start a job at a new school ready for the next academic year. I’ll be starting a couple of new roles myself so it got me thinking.

Why do most of us fear change so much?

In recent times the phrase ‘Management of Change’ has become a euphemism for redundancies. I strongly dislike that. For me, it plays into the idea held by many that change is always bad.

For me, and what I’ve observed of other people, worry about change is about two main things

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear regarding lack of autonomy and being unable to control the eventual outcome

In my professional life I’m generally fine with change. In fact, compared to others, I appear to welcome it. In my career so far, I’ve tended to have a new role every two to three years but that’s change that I’ve welcomed and initiated myself so I have had a degree of control. In my personal life, I prefer things much more stable, perhaps the reliability and stability away from work gives me the confidence to try new things professionally, who knows?

One thing that managers sometimes forget is that we tend to know what change is coming and be kept in the loop for some time. It’s not generally a surprise for us in the way that it is for our our teams.

How can those of us managing change make it more bearable?

Give those experiencing the change as much information and control as is possible (without compromising key things). The outcome may not be their ideal but some control over the process and clear communication definitely does help.

How can those of us experiencing change become less worried about it?

Ask yourself… what opportunities does this change/experience make possible?

A colleague of mine who recently stepped down and went part time told me how much more it has made him enjoy his teaching and his joy at being able to get out more on the golf course. I’m relishing the more flexible working that one of my new roles will give me which will mean that I can build in time to drop my son off at school once a week or build in a regular hike which isn’t possible with my current schedule.

Change doesn’t have to be bad. Change is just different and the difference is all mostly down to perception.



  • Penny

    31st May 2016 at 9:50 am → Reply

    Hmmm…the trouble is that sometimes change is bad, especially if it’s foisted on you and that you lose your income because of it. Most ‘change’ in education at the moment is down to budget cuts which we know will make things worse for our students, so it’s a tricky line between looking for the opportunities change might ‘offer’ and appearing to acquiesce in damaging structural change which can only make things worse for many of the young people we work with. I guess it’s the difference between the personal and the political?

    • ieshasmall

      31st May 2016 at 11:15 am → Reply

      Absolutely. Some change is on the surface extremely negative. Around 5 years ago I had massive change ‘imposed on me’ via a serious breakdown and didn’t think I’d be able to go back to work as a teacher or leader again. It wasn’t something I would have chosen. Looking back now it was a turning point in my life and I’d not be the person I am now professionally or privately if it hadn’t happened. Good luck with whatever you are facing.

  • Leah K Stewart

    31st May 2016 at 10:38 am → Reply

    I’m really enjoying your posts Iesha! It wasn’t until by some ‘I’m-mentally-exhausted-things-have-to-change-now’ circumstance at age 23 that got me working home-office on a flexi-time schedule when I began to realise that, through my whole ‘working life’ including my time as a student, I’d been (outwardly successfully) functioning at 10-40%. It makes me wonder at this world where it can be seen as such a damming failure to need to break from the normal and consistent working schedule when, for people like me, we need real control over our own time to do our best work.

    There was one moment as a student, when I was in year 10 and had asked to take a nap in the sick room over lunch because of exhaustion (now I realise it was burn out) and, after that nap which they kindly allowed me to have, I nearly asked if we could discuss me attending only the lessons I want to, on the promise that I’d still get my predicted A/A*s for GCSE. I didn’t dare ask.

    This seemed like too much of a crazy conversation when really, it would only have been me showing awareness enough of myself to ask for what I needed to be mentally healthy. I hope these kinds of conversations can happen more as we move forwards, for students and teachers.

    • ieshasmall

      31st May 2016 at 11:19 am → Reply

      I hear you, Leah.

      I had a similar thing in 6th form and university. I didn’t really ask though, I just stopped going and attended what I could manage. Communicating my distress may have been better upon reflection but it takes a while to learn that about yourself. The grades were fine eventually which is prob why people didn’t notice or take it as seriously as they might have done. In schools I’ve worked in reduced timetables do happen for kids who need it but it has to be flagged up and some students (or staff for that matter) are very good at masking things.

      • Leah K Stewart

        3rd June 2016 at 1:08 pm → Reply

        “it takes a while to learn that about yourself” oh yes, especially (I’d add) when being honest to others about what we need to work well isn’t something I saw modelled growing up. That’s maybe why (to join this with the comment above) those of us who figure this out now come from a state of meltdown. I’m happy to hear your school has reduced timetables – do students like me (straight-A, academic prize winners) take them too? Or is it seen as something for those who are struggling with grades? Curious.

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Management of Change