5 Ways To Handle Change In The Workplace
Last week a reader asked, “What is change? Is it really good or bad? Or is it just a perception?”
By way of background, this person just got restructured into a new sales position with a new boss. How we feel about the change can be a source of personal anxiety and stress:
- What does this mean for me?
- I can’t handle anymore
- Should I quit?
Let’s face it: change is hard. Sometimes we want it, sometimes we don’t. A bold few in an organization may seize control to make or manage change, but the rest of us are left holding the consequences.
In my experience, the challenge with change is not the “what”, it is the “how”. Because change is inevitable. In this case, the restructuring was handed down as a matter-of-fact change in control. You used to report to her, now you report to him.
This is all too common in Corporate America. Senior executives make decisions or are given targets that can have dire consequences for their teams. I’ve also observed that they often pride themselves on making these so-called tough calls, my guess 90% of which is to make a number (e.g., savings target, revenue goal, or trigger a bonus).
The process can make anybody feel cheap.
My two cents, change is not good or bad…it is good and bad. Good change can often backfire. And bad change can shape you into something you never thought you could be. You may not feel it every day, but it is happening every day.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
-Norman Vincent Peale
Change is also a perception like changing your mind, but more often there are actual implications. A change in boss has consequences. Just look at our change in Presidents. The change is real.
And while you alone cannot change the change (unless I suppose you quit), here are some ways you can steel yourself to handle it better.
Hold Onto Boundaries
Ever notice how when bad stuff happens at work, bad stuff happens at home too? This is a natural projection. When we feel out of control, we unconsciously lash out for some sense of control of other things. The key here is to be aware of this tendency and find healthier outlets: yoga, running, or mixed martial arts…
[Read more: Four Steps To Better Professional Boundaries]
Reframe The Situation
Organizational change serves a purpose. Now that purpose may not be altruistic or even good (although it may be sold that way). Being aware of that, it can be therapeutic to acknowledge it for what it is in your own words. If you’re feeling brave, bounce it off your boss for confirmation. The bottom line is understanding this purpose helps you accept the change for what it is and potentially see a glimmer of opportunity for you.
For example, I encouraged this reader to describe the change in as much detail as possible. What are the ripple effects? What were things like before? What have you always wanted to do that you couldn’t do before?
Celebrate Small Wins
In startupland, many entrepreneurs are forced to pitch billion dollars ideas to get funded – in fact, these are the only ideas that get funded despite a 75% failure rate. But the truth is, a billion dollar company is made the same way: one day at a time. And same goes for dealing with change.
We’ve established that change is real. Now it’s about accepting it by living through it one day at a time. With a little bit of sugar. Invite new co-workers out to coffee, research new training opportunities, plan a happy hour, or simply clean your desk.
There is a popular office quip: better done than right. And while there is some truth in this wisdom, a time of change calls for a change in time. Rushing change or trying to impress new clients will only add more stress to an already stressful time.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
When taking on new projects, estimate the time you need…then double it. Give yourself a buffer. My friend who tried this found that 9 times out of 10 nobody challenged her and she got the time to do things right and then some. There’s only upside in asking.
Change is never perfect. Change is a process.
Talk to somebody who’s been there: get mentored here.