“We’ve always had things this way, and sometimes change is NOT good!”
As those words rang through the sanctuary on that called business meeting following the Sunday service, you would have thought we were getting ready to tear down the steeple at the church. Instead, we were discussing changing the hymnals since most of them had no covers and they were falling apart.
Unfortunately, the music director had shown the new hymnals which were white instead of red. That was the level of change being discussed, and the congregation was losing their minds over it.
My father, the minister, stood and faced the congregation with a glassy-eyed stare. While many thought he was really upset about what was happening in his church, I realized that he was wondering what the score of the Redskin’s game was that he was having to miss for this meeting.
Another woman stood, holding a tissue. “Those red hymnals were here when my grandparents were married here, and I don’t know why we have to change them.”
Looking back, I realize that her words gave the real reason for the emotional battle. It was not really about the color of the hymnals, it was about the memories associated with them.
When you are leading change, remember that except for the 5% of employees that are truly lazy, the other 95% might have heart-related issues associated with change. Working at a mid-sized bank named Crestar, I remember when we merged with SunTrust and they replaced all of our Pepsi machines with Coke machines. You would have thought we were gunning down grandparents. People were emotionally charged over that change.
Were they really that upset over the new Coke products? No. But the loss of those Pepsi machines began the slow disappearance of a company that many had joined as college graduates and grown up being a part of. In those machines, they saw laughter, and learning, and friendship in years past. They saw a loss of power. Their thoughts were not heard. They had no choice to make.
So the next time people are yelling over something you find inconsequential, think about the emotional ghosts standing behind the object. There are memories hovering behind that red hymnal and that Pepsi machine, waving goodbye to the individual. That’s why they hold a tissue and shed a tear.