In today’s world, change is everywhere. Organizations in all sectors are undergoing significant transformations and disruptions. Government agencies and private sector businesses are re-organizing, shifting priorities, and changing processes and policies. Many of our clients are altering how they allocate telework privileges, looking to reduce their physical footprint, changing how they manage and compensate employees, and much more. New policies, new leaders, and new organizational philosophies may mean your office culture is changing, for better or worse. Whether it’s a change in technology, leadership, policies, or company culture, one thing is certain: you must learn to accept change, or you will be left behind.
To be better prepared for changes coming your way, it helps to have some basic knowledge of change management, and be able to recognize the common transitional reactions associated with it.
First, recognize that change is a difficult process for most people. According to the Executive Conference Board, 80% of organizations report a significant collapse in morale during substantive change. Humans have a natural need for certainty; when one feels out of control and destabilized, our initial reactions often surface as denial, anger and resistance. These are normal phases in what change-management professionals call the Transition Curve. These reactions are exasperated when employees are not involved in the decision-making or planning process of organizational change. Front line employees may feel caught off guard or even betrayed by their leadership. Organizational changes can also create apprehension and stress when there are sudden changes in a daily routine, or it is unclear what is expected of you in your role. It’s important to understand that these are all normalinitial reactions to change – key words being ‘initial reactions’.
In order to adapt to change, we must get past our initial reactions. We have to start looking forward and not backward. We must equip ourselves with the skills necessary to transition successfully.
Read our top 5 tips to not only survive, but thrive during times of organizational change:
- Accept that change is tough and will NOT happen overnight. Once changes are implemented, it will take time to adjust. You will make mistakes, and you may be less productive than normal. According to The McKinsey Quarterly, during times of major transition, an individual’s productivity level can drop by 3.6 hours a day. Be prepared for these losses and implement steps to move forward. Ask yourself what you need from your boss, your colleagues, or the organization to propel you forward and manage the change taking place.
- Find out why. If you are unsure what changes are taking place, why, or when they are being implemented, seek out accurate information. Reach out to HR or your supervisor for a transparent explanation, research online, and demonstrate a genuine interest in learning about the changes taking place. Simply accepting gossip from peers may leave you uninformed and fearful of upcoming changes.
- Don’t be a change victim! Make a deliberate effort to embrace change, rather than becoming a change victim. Studies show only 16% of an organization sees change as an opportunity; the other 84% see change as risk. Go against the grain and look for positive opportunities that might result from the imposed change. This will set you apart from many of your peers and allow others (and your boss) to notice your adaptability and ability to succeed in difficult circumstances.
- Focus on what you can control and embrace change as a new beginning. While you cannot control your boss’ or organization’s decision to implement a new change, you cancontrol on your reaction. Take charge of your thoughts and actions. For example, if your organization makes the decision to cut back on teleworking privileges, chances are employee morale will drop and many will feel distrusted or betrayed by management. It’s normal to be shocked at first; the important thing is you learn to adapt and embrace this change eventually. Maybe this means viewing the change as an opportunity for you and your team to brainstorm and collaborate face-to-face, to get to know others in the office better, or simply an opportunity to learn from supervisors and ask more questions. Reframe the change in a positive light.
- If you are a leader implementing change, clearly communicate to your team not only the reason for the change occurring (What problem is it addressing? Why wasn’t the old process adequate?) but also their specific roles and responsibilities. Learn how to avoid the top mistakes leaders make in change management here.
Learn these techniques for thriving during times of change. Many different skills are required for managing change, but one thing is for sure: the only thing constant in the 21st century is change!