According to Heraclitus, the only constant in life is change. That couldn’t be truer than in today’s work environment. When a change is first proposed, most people immediately want to know three things:
- What does this change mean to me
- Why is it happening
- What will it look like when the change has been made?
As people begin to ask these questions, their initial mindset is usually that the change will be difficult, costly, and weird. People only begin to be open to accepting, embracing, and making this change when their mindset starts to shift to “this change could be easy, rewarding, and normal.” The author offers four straightforward approaches for leaders to support their people through this necessary mindset shift, resulting in a critical mass of people who will understand, accept, and adopt the change reasonably quickly.
While coping with change in the workplace can be challenging, there are ways to make it easier. Here are five tips for dealing with change in a way that will benefit you and your career:
- Help others. The process of helping others will help you to deal with the stress and adapt more quickly to change.
- Embrace new opportunities. Change often translates to possibility for those who are willing to embrace it.
- Maintain relationships. Make an effort to stay connected to previous co-workers and continue to expand your network.
- Accept rather than resist. The most important thing to do to cope with change in the workplace is to acknowledge it. Recognizing and accepting change is one of the first steps toward managing it
- Overcommunicate. If you can effectively communicate your concerns to co-workers and managers within the organization, your anxiety can be better addressed and alleviated.
Additionally, the lack of managerial support and buy-in are a consequence of people staying in the “difficult, costly, and weird” mindset about a change, and not being helped to see the change in a more neutral or even positive way. So, how can leaders better support their people to make the mindset shift that will allow them to embrace change?
- Increase understanding. The first thing people want is foundational information about the change. It’s important that this summary be realistic — that it acknowledge the time and effort the change will require — and that it lets people know how you’ll support them (with information, training, etc.) to make the change.
- Clarify and reinforce priorities. Letting people know what isn’t changing as well as what is changing can be very reassuring. Quite often, even a major change won’t have much impact on people’s key priorities.
- Give control. By giving your people as many choices as possible during the change, you can reduce their fear and discomfort and increase the chances of engagement and buy-in.
- Give support. Give them a little time to be worried, to hesitate, to ask questions, to want to know the impact on them, even to be sad or anxious. Listen. Summarize their concerns and ask what you can do to address them. Rather than labeling it “resistance,” recognize they’re going through the same arc you went through: they need to understand and process the proposed change and then move through their mindset shift about the change.
As a leader, if you can understand that initial fear and hesitation around change are normal — rather than assuming it means that people are “change-resistant” or “negative” — and support your people through the necessary mindset shift, you’ll be much better able to build a critical mass of people who will understand, accept, and adopt the change reasonably quickly. More important, you’ll be helping your people to become more change-capable overall: to create skills and habits of mind to approach change in a more neutral, open way, and therefore to be better able to navigate all the changes that will arise in this new era.
Harvard Business Review (2022, April 7) Erika Andersen: Change is Hard. Here’s How to Make it Less Painful.
Forbes (2020, February 26) Caroline Castrillon: How to Cope with Change in the Workplace