Change fatigue is a myth !

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Great discussion this week with some talented change managers about whether “change fatigue” is real? This was part of a debate on the need for our stakeholders to adopt high volumes of change, and effectively how much change they could cope with (how many balls they could juggle) all at the same time.

The argument put forward is that there is no such thing as change fatigue, because we are never fatigued if we are truly motivated. Change fatigue is just the label we put on to describe a type of resistance which is characterised by disengagement. It is recognising that this fatigue is actually disengagement that is the secret to understanding it. If our stakeholders are disengaged then we have failed to engage them. So change fatigue is simple a failure to engage, inspire and motivate those that need to work differently to do so.

This led to the conclusion that to create the engagement we need as change professionals, we must create the energy for change, and this comes from two elements:

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the inner drive that we have for getting something done. It comprises three factors that taken together increase our energy and commitment to a task:

  • Meaningfulness – belief in the importance of what we are doing, based on our interpretation of its purpose, its value, and its benefits.
  • Autonomy is the power we have to make our own decisions and control what we do.
  • Talents is our desire to build our talents and skills and do things that we like doing and that we have an ability to do.

The more motivated we are to want the change, the more engaged we are and the more energy we have for the work. This means we can cope with lots of change simultaneously if all of these changes contribute to something we believe is meaningful.

I think this interpretation helps me as a change professional realise that when my stakeholders are experiencing lots of change, I need to link them together. I need to demonstrate how each of the changes contribute to the meaningful goal that my stakeholder believes in and is motivated by.

Emotional resilience

Emotional resilience is the persistence in pursuing a course of action despite obstacles and setbacks. It is our determination to see something through to its conclusion, despite the pressure we feel to quit. I went to a lecture by Professor Daniel Goleman (granddaddy of Emotional Intelligence) where he discussed resilience as the “bounce-back rate” i.e. the speed at which you can recover from a setback.

From these definitions I think it is easy to understand why the group I was working with thought emotional resilience was so important to overcoming fatigue/disengagement. I wrote recently about an electric car metaphor to describe emotional resilience.

“If I think of my life as driving an electric car, resilience is the amount of battery power that I have available to me. The more my battery is charged, the further I can drive and the more places I can visit. I choose how frequently to re-charge my car and I choose how long I leave it on charge for. If I don’t increase the charge, I will eventually come to a halt. “

As change professionals we might need to take a greater lead in helping people to power up their resilience, by providing easy access to coping mechanisms and psychological safety during their change journey.


Once again, working with a group of passionate, committed change practitioners has helped me develop my own understanding of this ever-developing profession and definitely increases my own intrinsic motivation.

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