by Deanna Parkton
When things change at work, it is normal to have strong feelings about it. Changes such as a new manager, new leaders in administration, or a new process or policy can leave us feeling off kilter. Change in the workplace can bring about all sorts of feelings, it can feel scary and unsettling. What we once trusted as the norm is thrown off and it can leave us (and our job) feeling threatened.
Responses to change might include a ”fight or flight” feeling or a feeling of avoidance. With “fight”, one might want to reject the change and be a loud critic. Feelings of “flight” might have you wanting to leave your job in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable. An avoidant response to change could be wanting to lay low to avoid too much attention.
While these responses are normal responses to change, they can be detrimental in the long run. By being a loud critic (even with good intentions), you may be seen as a “naysayer” or someone who is inflexible and not able to adapt. Of course, there may be times where speaking up and fighting the good fight is truly the right thing to do; if something is taking place that has moral or ethical implications, being a strong voice is necessary.
Leaving your job without seeing how things play out could be a regret later on, especially if your next job is not necessarily the right fit for your career growth, but rather an escape plan. If you avoid the problem or change, you might miss an opportunity to step up to the plate and take initiative.
What to do then?
First, take the wait and see approach to get a clear read on the situation. It is normal to feel a sense of urgency or a worry that things are going to change drastically and quickly. This is not always the case. Depending on the scope of the new initiative, it can take time for the change to be implemented. This will give you time to see how things flesh out. It can take time for a new manager to figure out their role and how they work with their team, or it can take time for a new policy to get worked out so that the proper system is in place.
Next, reflect on whether the change is scary, or just feels scary. To do this, assess the scope and impact of the change.
- Does this change have a direct impact on you and your role on a regular basis?
- If not, what is the scope of the impact on your role?
- In what ways might this change impact you?
- How can you be prepared to manage the change?
- What control / action / support might you have related to this change?
If you have clear and obvious concerns, assess your ability or willingness to work with the change. This might include taking action and speaking up about issues or concerns you have observed in effort to improve things for everyone; or it might be implementing your own individual or team changes to improve the process.
Of course, your mental health and work happiness is important, so if you assess that the work environment is not the right place for you anymore, take action and find your next opportunity. While the unknown can be scary, you are meant to continue to grow and develop as a professional and sometimes that means leaving a position for something better.
Another possibility to change is that things might actually work out for the better! A new manager who has a different communication style could ring alarm bells at first, but you might just find that you develop a valuable and strong relationship after some time. Of course this can be difficult to know at the onset, so this requires a careful eye on the situation, with some trust and faith in the process.
An Opportunity to Shine
We would be remiss not to mention that change also brings an opportunity to shine. In situations when it is appropriate, consider stepping up as an advocate. By being an enthusiastic supporter (or even working as part of an implementation team), you can be a part of a positive change. This also allows for your individual involvement to ensure that the change is implemented in a way that serves the greater good. By acting as a change leader, people across your team and organization will see you as a flexible, adaptable professional with a can-do attitude. That’s certainly a change we can get behind!
For more ideas on navigating change at work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.comand she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.