Working through Change
If you work within an organisation, you are subject to change. Of course, this is true just by being alive but the workplace is where change most often feels like something that is beyond our control. Whether it is the computer system, the entire staffing structure or even just the location of the water-cooler, the old cliché that change is constant has never felt more true.
So is it really beyond our control? Well, yes and no. We sometimes may not be involved in the strategic decisions that affect our working lives but we can choose our reaction to them. Do we complain? Stick our heads in the sand? Pretend it is not happening? Or do we engage? Ask questions? Get involved? Maintaining a positive attitude to workplace changes can be difficult but it is guaranteed to give you more job satisfaction than the alternative.
One thing is true: all change involves loss. Even if what we are losing is an out-of-date, inefficient, and ‘less fun’ way of working, it is still a loss. Even if we are glad to lose it, it is still a loss. So, what happens to us when we are faced with loss? A common model used for workplace change is an adaptation of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s theory about loss and grieving, which states that we go through a number of distinct stages, such as:
- Denial – “I don’t believe it.”; “It will never happen here.”
- Resistance – “I won’t do it – you can’t make me.”; “The old way was better.”
- Exploration – “How will it work with X?”; “What if we tried Y?”
- Integration – “This is how we do things now.”
It may be that you don’t experience all the stages equally or even in this order – people differ – but it’s probably fair to say that this will seem familiar to you.
So, a few tips for when you are faced with workplace change:
Overcome your nostalgia: we see the past through rose-tinted spectacles; the ‘good old days’ were not necessarily better and whether you like it or not, the future is here to stay, until it changes again.
Engage with the change: the above model says that it is natural to want to ignore change. That is true, but think positive and keep yourself in the loop. Otherwise, you be left out as your more forward-thinking colleagues go on to build their reputations and careers, influence the changes as they happen and even enjoy themselves in the process.
Accept that mistakes happen: poor communication, missed opportunities, failure to consult – no project (or project manager) is perfect and oversights will occur. If you can be constructive about these problems, this is your chance to…
Get involved: ask questions, make suggestions, look for a role that you can fill. Help make the change a success and you can look back on the process with pride rather than resentment.
Change has always been with us in the corporate environment; the difference is that the pace of change has increased and will probably continue to do so. Remember: think positive! Change is not your punishment; it is your opportunity.