Navigating the Stress of Organizational Change

by Mike Freel, PhD on Apr 25, 2019

Stressed Out Healthcare LeaderI've worked with a lot of organizations over the years and one thing is consistent no matter the industry or size of company: fear of change. Not many places really excel at promoting change within an organization, whether it's technological, cultural or even clinical changes.

Change is tough because so many people are resistant to it. But in healthcare, we need to embrace it. You have to identify how change is going to improve outcomes. Without change, if you’re just doing things the same old way you’ve always done them, how can you possibly expect to get better? How can you expect patients to get better?

Many of us don’t like change. We dig our feet in and we resist any initiative that might require us to do something different or change how we are used to doing things. Don’t move my cheese! In other words, I am going to push back on change initiatives because I’m comfortable without them. I like the way I do things and I don’t want to do anything different.

This isn’t going to get us anywhere. Somehow, someway, we need to overcome the resistance to change. Not only do we need to get the right people on the bus, but we need to get the right people in the right seat and we need to know the driver will take us where we need to go.


Change brings plenty of other issues with regard to leadership. Leading change is one of the most difficult things leaders do within their organizations. Primarily, change is related to employee performance, but it also has a lot to do with how we engage our employees and even how employees interact amongst each other. Let’s just say it: Change can cause conflict!

I don’t know anyone who really likes to deal with conflict, but it’s everywhere. According to the research, depending on what you read, as much as 60 to 70% of our time is spent dealing with conflict. That may seem like a lot, but it’s probably accurate if you look at conflict from a different perspective. Most of the time, we think of conflict as being bad and inhibiting employee performance. It gets in the way. It causes rifts and affects how we work with others and how we do our jobs. However, you can also look at conflict as being a driver of change. That might sound counterintuitive, but not all conflict is bad.

We need conflict to promote change. We need something or someone to shake us up. If we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, we’re never going to get any better. We need a healthy dose of positive conflict to drive change in our organizations.

Healthcare Admin NegotiationConflict lets us look at problems from different viewpoints. If we all just get along and try not to rock the boat, then group-think takes over. We become a flock of birds flying in formation. But if we can use conflict to look at different issues and challenges from many different perspectives, then we’ve got something to work with. Our outcomes might take longer and we may even have some heated discussions, but the end product will be better than if we all just went along to get along.

We need conflict. We need leaders who know how to deal with conflict. But who’s an expert in conflict? I certainly don’t know anyone. You can find lots of books about conflict and change, but they generally take a lofty approach to working with conflict.

We need to establish a basic understanding and general approach to how we, ourselves, like to deal with conflict. If not, how can we ever expect to address conflict with other people? How can we take what we know about conflict and turn it into positive outcomes for ourselves and the organization?

In this month’s Cassling Leadership Institute webinar, that’s what we’re going to talk about. Self-awareness specific to conflict helps establish a basic understanding of how we can turn our own preferences for dealing with conflict into positive outcomes. We’ll talk about how change drives conflict and how both are necessary to help us develop as leaders and grow our organizations.

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Meet the Author

Mike Freel, Ph.D., has served as a seminar speaker for Cassling’s Investing in You educational program. Mike Freel, Ph.D., is currently an Associate Professor and Program Director for Bellevue University's Master of Health Administration. Dr. Freel has a professional background in healthcare, as well as experience in corporate organization and employee development. He has served in several healthcare roles in the clinical and academic fields. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves on the Education Advisory Board for the Nebraska Hospital Association. He earned his Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where he researched emotional intelligence in clinical nurses. He has authored several publications on EI and leadership and presented on various healthcare and leadership topics for local and national conferences.

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