During the past year and a half, many things have changed in our global economy. These changes have dramatically effected workforces around the world. Think of how your job is different now than it was just months ago. The changes can be as small as taking on additional tasks, or they can be as dramatic as making a total career change. No matter what changes take place, you will always be expected to perform in the workplace. If you are a manager, you will be expected to take change in stride and to communicate that attitude to your employees. If you are an employee, you will be expected to accept the change and maintain productivity. This issue of the Engaging Ideas newsletter deals specifically with the topic of change in the workplace.
Adjusting to Accommodate Change
Throughout our career, our roles and responsibilities are changing. Leading teams, leading meetings, and communicating our vision and mission are all challenges we confront as our careers progress. In this constantly changing career landscape, the ability to be truly adaptable may be more important than any other skill in determining our consistent long-term success.
Adjust expectations. Maybe that promotion is not going to happen this year after all. Maybe you are not going to be reporting to the same person, or managing exactly the same responsibilities. Adjust your expectations without lowering them, if possible. Focus on goals that are within your control.
Build relationships and networks. This is a fascinating and rewarding strategy for adapting to change. Assume that change is just around the corner. Who would you want to know or get to know better, if that change were to occur? Start to develop those relationships now and build a larger network of support and encouragement.
Practice patience. When it comes to change, many times we want to get it over with and move on as quickly as possible. The cycle of change in the workplace often takes longer than we expect. The change has to be communicated and integrated, and there needs to be time for adjustment of all adjacent organizational functions. Individuals, too, need time to adjust to changing work environments.
Be adventurous. Take on the change as a challenge. Throw yourself into planning and preparation, engage others in the process, and chart out new career horizons that may appear as a result of the change. Tap into your courageous side.
Practice constructive discontent. Instead of clinging to the status quo, ask yourself, "How could I change for the better? How could the organization change for the better?" Instead of expressing discontent destructively by undermining change efforts, look for ways that the integration and process of change could work even better.
Try something new each day. Once we get thrown out of our comfort zone, we have a tendency to try to build a new one as quickly as we can. What is the sense of tearing down old walls to just build new ones? Challenge yourself to try at least one new way of adjusting to change every day. Make it a positive and productive effort.
Ask for input. Others in your organization may have insight into the ways that you can better adjust to change. Ask for ideas, suggestions, and feedback on how well you are adjusting to change. Periods of change are times to build bridges, not walls. They are times to be open to input, not defensive.
Challenges of Change Engagement
Every time something significant changes in an organization, challenges result. Some of the challenges are personal, some evolve within work teams, and some challenges emerge across the organization. To successfully engage organizational change, we need to be aware of the challenges and be prepared to deal with them professionally and confidently.
Change typically generates at least some resistance. Individuals often feel that they are losing power, autonomy, or resources due to a changing work environment. As a result, they cling to the status quo. As team members in change engagement, our role is to challenge ourselves and persuade others to lower their resistance and focus on positive outcomes.
One of the biggest challenges of change engagement is simply getting people to take change seriously. During periods of change, individuals often take a "wait and see" attitude, neither embracing nor resisting the change. Our challenge is to inspire ourselves and others to embrace change, support it, and even become champions for it.
Change often generates anxiety. Individuals are more likely to embrace change, and teams function more successfully when anxiety is at a minimum. Our challenge in minimizing anxiety is to understand the plan for change, to express our level of commitment to the plan, and to recognize that the plan and our role in it will evolve during the change.
Organizational change may create breakdowns in organizational cooperation. During change, organizations often observe the "silo effect" between departments, functions, and work teams. This is when groups begin to function independently of departments or teams whose responsibilities overlap with theirs. Cooperation and communication are at a minimum. As participants in organizational change, we are challenged to break down those walls and build bridges of cooperation between organizational functions.
When the work environment is changing, there is typically confusion over priorities. If we are getting a new manager, for instance, what will he or she think is the most important priority? If we are to come out of the change successfully, what should we focus on first? This challenge is met through careful and thorough planning.
Leading Change Without Authority
During periods of change, we sometimes think too far ahead. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in "what if" thoughts, we lose track of today. Take on the changes one day at a time, and the process seems less overwhelming.
Create a worst-case scenario. We haven't truly faced head-on until we have faced the worst-case scenario. Always ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen for me as a result of this change? Consider how the change might push you beyond your capabilities, might create negative consequences with managers and team members, and how it might drain your energy and productiveness.
Prepare to accept it. This isn't a matter of saying to ourselves that if it happens, it happens. It means thorough planning for the worst-case scenario. It's the same sort of planning that emergency responders conduct. Maybe there won't be a disaster that requires that level of preparation, but if it happens, they are ready.
Plan to improve on a situation to avoid a worst-case scenario; we must be willing to throw our energy and resources into the effort. Consider all the possible ways that the worst outcome can be avoided. In the planning process, consider communication, marshalling team effort, and intervening preemptively.
Keep busy. Sometimes change has the effect of slowing us down, leaving us disorganized and unmotivated. It is during these periods in our careers that we need to summon the most energy possible and keep busy. Not only will this keep us from dwelling on our concerns, but it will also enhance our image in the organization at a critical time.
Cooperate with the inevitable. We can't avoid or deflect change. It's a part of everything we do in our careers. When we remind ourselves of this, we don't waste time and attitude fighting inevitable change.
Do the very best you can. The most fundamental rule of business professionalism is to do the very best we can at all times. This motivates us internally, driving our efforts through whatever changes we are facing. Whatever way the change ends up impacting our careers, we want to be able to say to others and to ourselves that we did our very best.
Put enthusiasm into your work. What are the ways that we can boost our enthusiasm about our work? How do you get motivated? What can you do to make sure that you are giving the most energy to your work that you can? During periods of change we need as much enthusiasm as we can muster. When we are enthusiastic, we get more done better, faster, and with less. We experience more enjoyment and feel a sense of accomplishment from our work.