Addressing Change-o-Phobia: Leading Change Up and Down the Org Chart

Reducing Change Apprehension • Leading Change Effectively • Navigating Organizations

Davida Charney, PhD & Marcia Silverberg, MSW
May 21, 2019

You’re in a meeting deciding on the next step to take toward launching a new initiative. One rather bossy person has been dominating the discussion pushing for the fastest possible launch date. Others in the room look uncomfortable but no one is saying anything. The meeting ends and everyone leaves feeling confused about whether the two-week deadline has been set or not. When you get back to your desk, a colleague who was at the meeting and who didn’t feel comfortable speaking up, brings you information that makes it impossible to finish your part in less than a month.

Sound familiar?

One of the biggest challenges for successful change efforts is fostering full and open discussion of important decisions. People stay silent for many reasons. It is up to leaders to create an environment in which candid conversations can take place. But it is also helpful to know some ways to communicate concerns.

Depending on your role in the meeting you might have intervened productively by using one of the following phrases:

  1. “So are we agreed that we’re going to give it two weeks?”
  2. “Who still has some concerns about saying two weeks?”
  3. “So do most people think two weeks is realistic?”
  4. “So is two weeks a problem for anyone?”
  5. “Am I the only one who thinks two weeks isn’t enough time?”
  6. “What if two weeks isn’t enough?”
  7. “Two weeks is completely impossible”

In our workshop we provide many kinds of “Useful Phraseology” and explore factors that make some of them more useful than others. The factors include: your position, the behavior of the meeting chair, the phase of the long-term change that is underway. For example, if the domineering person happens to be the CEO, then saying “7” may take a lot of nerve, while question forms (“1,” “3,” “5,” and “6”) seem more appropriate. If you are actually running the meeting, then “1,” “2,” or “3” would encourage productive discussion.

Davida and Marcia’s seminar, Addressing Change-o-Phobia: Leading Change Up and Down the Org Chart, will be running this fall on October 23, 2019 and November 6, 2019. See what past participants have to say below!


Awesome program. I wrote 11 pages of notes and I don’t feel like I came close to capturing everything. Thank you for a great program.

– David Byrd, PhD, Associate Dean of Nursing, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio


Being able to apply skills to my own scenario means that I actually felt like I was getting something done, rather than just digesting content. I really appreciate the frameworks and checklists I can use to move change forward and make it successful.

– Adrienne Arroyo, Science Secondary Specialist, Austin ISD


The course was great. Deconstructing the human processes and reactions to change was very helpful, as was examining vocabulary and phraseology for moving change forward.

– Richard Bralow, Legal Counsel, TransCanada