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You may have noticed during the past few weeks that the back to school sales have begun.

To some, the return of the school year marks the end of long summer nights, sandy beaches and impromptu family outings.

In business, back-to-school has significance as well. Namely, employees returning from vacation, projects picking up speed, and the renewal of key initiatives that may have been placed on hold.

What’s important to realize, as a leader, is that with the return of everyone to the office — in essence, there is a new norm established amidst teams. You may recall studies of individual and organizational change that suggest people transition through four different phases when faced with any change, specifically:

Denial: The change will never happen, so there’s no sense in preparing.

 Resistance: The change has happened; I’m not comfortable with it.

 Exploration: Some interesting new opportunities have been identified as a result of the change.

 Acceptance: The change is my new norm.

My point?

Well, with the return of everyone to the office and invigoration of new and existing projects, it’s important to recognize that everyone – that is every single employee – will be moving through these four phases, because although they may have been used to this environment back in April or May, September brings with it a change to the slower pace that they may have become accustomed too.

So what can you do?

First off, relax. Recognize that any stress, attitudes or personality differences is par for the course as a result of what I described above. Spend additional time with both individuals and teams helping them to move past resistance (most often recognized as individual conflict or concerns that are voiced). Help them explore new ways to work together and find new ways to collaborate. Invest time in having some small team building exercises (I prefer those that allow for collaboration around resolving a longstanding issue).

The underlying message is to expect that there will be conflict, voiced concerns, and stressed employees this time of year. It’s to be expected.

But understanding that these are simply signals of change that your employees and teams are adapting to should give you reassurance… they are on the path to success as a team once again.

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