Embracing (and Surviving) Change at Work

Article By Dee DeWitt

Most of us can remember many situations when we experienced change while on the job.  Whether it’s moving from one software system to another, relocating to a new office, or adjusting to a new boss, change is inevitable.


During the current economic turbulence, many of us find that the changes we encounter on the job are suddenly much more frequent and substantial than usual … unexpected layoffs, severe budget cuts, job responsibilities that are expanded overnight (many times to cover laid off workers) are now all too prevalent as we struggle to dig out of today’s recession.


For employees left in the wake of such changes, it can be difficult to set aside frustrations and anxiety to adjust to challenging new situations … when your company enacts change that represents some sort of threat or loss, the reflexive reaction for most people is denial.  You might tell yourself that it will never happen to me, however being resistant to change doesn’t stop it from happening and may even jeopardize your job security.


Sandra Naiman, author of the recently released book “The High Achiever’s Secret Codebook,” acknowledges that adapting quickly to significant change is easier said than done.

“We often resist change because we are afraid that a critical [personal] need will go unmet,” she says.   

In her book, Naiman reveals the unwritten rules for being successful at work … with the foundation being that embracing and implementing change are keys to being a valuable and valued employee.  


To respond positively to change, despite being fearful of it or resistant to it, Naiman suggests the following strategies:


1. Identify what is and is not changing.  Honor those feelings of loss.  Face them and do not deny any emotions that might surface.  At the same time, identify what is not changing.


2. Look for the elephant. There is a joke about the quintessential optimist who jumps into a pile of manure, certain that there must be a elephant in there somewhere.  “No matter how tumultuous the change, there are opportunities available if people are open to looking for them,” she says.  “Identify the positives for yourself and the company, and then set your focus on them.”


3. Support change early.  Once change is inevitable, people can choose to accept it or actively resist. Whatever you choose, the change will take place.  Those who engage sooner, rather than later, will be noticed and remembered positively … and so will those who go kicking and screaming.


4. Learn new skills and knowledge that change demands.  Be clear about what you need to learn in order to implement the change and take the initiative to do so.  Read, take classes and seek opportunities to learn on the job.


5. Discuss why the change presents opportunities.  Support peers by exploring with them ways that they can benefit from the change and help them take advantage of potential opportunities.  They will appreciate your efforts, as will management.


Being an advocate of specific change should not be confused with wholesale support for every possible change in the offing.  Yet, if a change is inevitable, you can get behind it, do the best you can to make it work, and encourage others to do the same. 


“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
-Maya Angelou


“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”
-Stephen Covey


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Posted on 30 July, 2009 in Career, Motivation
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