Shift Happens

Buffy NaylorChange is a year-round constant. But this is the time of year when we look back at past events and look ahead trying to predict what’s coming. And as hard as we focus on the good changes we want to see, we all know that there will undoubtedly be some we’re not going to like too much, and that includes in the workplace. Here are six points for handling it.

Resistance is futile. Whether you thrive on it or hide from it, change is going to come, from contracts being canceled to co-workers leaving to an entire corporate reorganization. Progress on both a personal and professional level require change on your part. You may not always like the change, but if you accept it as an inevitable element of life, it will be easier to deal with.

Name your fears so they don’t own you. Changes at work can be unsettling, and the bigger the change, the more fears you may have about it. Instead of allowing a cloud of dread and uncertainty to consume you, clearly identify what it is that you’re afraid of – Looking stupid? Not liking your new boss? Losing your job? – and write it down. Then formulate a plan for dealing with each of your fears. Knowing you have some control over your situation can keep a great deal of anxiety at bay.  

Worry, be happy. It’s absolutely normal to be worried about changes at first. This response, in fact, can be very helpful, putting you at an elevated state of alertness for what’s coming next. But it’s important to pair that worry with an open mind and – as much as possible – a positive outlook. Even if you’re not happy right now, try to be optimistic. Realize that you can’t help but worry, but you can keep that worry from taking over. After all, you didn’t get this far in your career without having successfully navigated change in the past.

Talk it out. Talking to colleagues or friends about what’s going on helps keep you from feeling that you’re alone in your situation. And they may be able to provide you with fresh viewpoints or new ideas that you can use.  

The opposite of information is speculation. Communication up and down the management ladder is always important in the workplace, but during periods of change it becomes essential. Employees must feel that can they can contact management with concerns and questions. And those in leadership positions during change must take pains to be clear and honest. Rumors flourish in an environment of uncertainty. Even if the news is bad, employees want the truth, not platitudes.

Don’t just adapt, excel. When change comes your way, see it as an opportunity to move yourself forward. Instead of simply getting used to the change, use it. Are there any new challenges you can take on? Has the change revealed areas in which you need to improve your skills or start accumulating more experience? Or, perhaps, has the change revealed that it’s time for you to move on?

Change is a constant. Learn to handle it, to use it to your advantage, and you could find yourself constantly moving forward.

Follow managing editor Buffy Naylor on Twitter.

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