13 Tips For Navigating Change In The Workplace

Angela Kambouris

Change in the workplace can create ripple effects throughout an organization. If you accept that leaders make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization, humans are imperfect, and outcomes can be challenging to foresee. Every human is vulnerable to what Daniel Goleman calls the “amygdala hijack.” When your fear takes over, it can affect your ability to make sound decisions. Sometimes your choices are not the best ones, and at times you don’t understand the impact until hindsight kicks in, and by then it’s often too late to turn back.

You may not be able to control external events; however, you do have the responsibility of leading you and making choices to promote positive change that aligns with organizational values.

Change is here to stay. Understanding the importance of resourceful thinking will allow you to be at the forefront of leading change. At times, change can be disruptive and overwhelming, and with the right attitude, a focus on business readiness, leaders can capitalize on change by learning to embrace change for what it is – possibility.

Leaders must consider the underlying intentions of the proposed change and keep in mind that sometimes uncomfortable change can bring desirable outcomes. For the future leader, change is the vital ingredient that must be welcomed and nurtured.

Here are 13 practical tips that office managers can implement to bypass the ego and graciously navigate change in the workplace:

1. Manage Your State

To lead in this competitive world, one must accept change is inevitable. When you take responsibility for your state, despite your challenges, you show up to face the situation with a smile, and you leverage your strengths to enjoy the new experience. One way may be to embrace the opportunity by writing down responses to critical questions:

  • What if you do not embrace the change, what opportunities may lose in your career?
  • How will the workplace change affect you?
  • What will it cost you to miss the opportunity?

By asking these questions, you identify the importance and build the confidence to accept it.

2. Success Leaves Clues

When dealing with change, often it’s the unknown that is scary. One way to break through the resistance is to imagine all the different possible outcomes and identify the best- and worst-case scenario. Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen? Another strategy may be to connect with the last time you experienced a significant change and how you achieved the results you wanted. Identify the strategies you adopted and replicate.

3. Focus On What Can You Control

It is essential to identify how much control over the situation you have. By putting things into perspective, you can identify the small things you can do to make the process easier.

If the change is beyond your control, adopt a reflective approach. Accept that there are things beyond your control and choosing to be uncomfortable will bring greater peace than waging a no-win war. Change is an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a setback.

Focus on what will produce results for you. Ask questions such as:

  • Is there a new skill you require to fulfill your role and responsibilities?
  • Do you need to re-train?
  • Is there a different role that may be more suited to your knowledge, skills, and experience?

Focus on what you can influence to take the right action.  

4. Stay Grounded in Reality

Change is about being flexible. When the opposite occurs, you diminish your chances of being able to survive the transition. Your default thinking patterns will be out of alignment with the new environment, potentially leaving you behind. When you shift your thinking to a growth mindset, you identify that you may need to learn new skills, integrate new processes, or redirect resources. It is an opportunity for the business to become more efficient, effective, and productive. Identify a plan to respond to the change for you and by engaging the team, build a team plan in alignment with organizational change.

5. Opt-out Of the Perpetual Negativity to Lead The Change

Sometimes talking a lot about your fears, anger, and frustration can be the worst advice. Harvard Business Review research highlighted that consistently espousing negative emotions hinders your natural adaptation process. That’s not to say ignore your feelings or bury them so they can pop up when you least expect it. Instead acknowledge your sense of anxiety, frustration, or anger and identify how it is influencing your thinking and disrupting your relationships. Look for the facts as everything else around the situation is a story you have created. Edit your story, look for practical steps that you can implement, and by doing so, you shift your focus from being problem-saturated to solution and future-focused.

6. Remember What Victor Frankl Taught Us

Victor Frankl’s famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding meaning in the experience which gave him the will to rise above it. He had returned home from years in Nazi death camps to discover his loved ones had all passed. Despite the tragic events, he recognized that he could not go back to the life he once had. He was free to find new ways to live, new opportunities to grow and build new relationships to share. Frankl’s story is an extreme example but a great reminder that even though you are never free from change, you do have the freedom to decide how you respond and what to do next.

7. Lighten the Mood

Finding humor in situations can be a positive way to create light-heartedness to a problem. Rod A. Martin, a humor researcher, discovered that witty banter could lighten the mood and improve social interactions if the conversations are inclusive and respectful. Sometimes, sharing your struggles can be gold and reminding people that you are human.

8. Look for The Silver Lining

Workplace change is a platform for a fresh start. Rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day things, invest time into the future you want to create within the workplace. Work out what you want to achieve, identify steps that will take you closer to your vision, break tasks down into smaller chunks, and identify timelines. Make sure to celebrate milestones as momentum generates motivation. When you look for the silver lining, you can use it to reinvent your professional persona and add new skills to your repertoire.

9. Prioritize Data Over Complaints

Presenting an alternative idea if something isn’t working is the best way to lead the current course of things in a new and better direction. Another option may be to illustrate what works and what doesn’t by benchmarking. For instance, if a new program is introduced that you believe less effective than a previous one, compare results, prepare data, and plan a conversation. Data is a great way to shift an outcome in a different direction potentially.

10. The Workplace Change Curve

Learning more about how workplace change works, organizations often refer to The Change Curve as a trusted and reliable tool. This model explains the transition process and emotions associated with change. It has been used to help people understand their emotional reactions to significant change. It provides a visual to predict how anyone in the process of workplace change is affected. The curve offers insight into how you know where you are on the curve and why and how other people experience similar emotions during transition.

11. Water Cooler Conversations

If you want to stain the fabric of an organization, invest your energy into gossiping, whining, and closed-door conversations. When people don’t express their concerns in a resourceful manner, the impact creates ripples within the organization. Instead, leaders must lead by example, encourage teams to share concerns directly with them, and inspire colleagues to involve everyone in a decision that will impact everyone.

12. Don't Let Communication Be An Afterthought

Communication must be a core component of the steps moving towards future actions. By creating an environment where all levels are on the same page, allows any communication gap to be identified and provides a space to mitigate rumors and speculation. Emotional drama permeates, and the fabric of the organization is stained. When leaders create spaces for employees to communicate their fears effectively, their concerns can be better addressed and alleviated. Empathy is the most excellent communication tool for leaders.

13. Trust Your Instincts

Trusting yourself is vital once you have eliminated bias. If a decision is made within the organization that you feel is not in alignment with your values, then you must decide whether you want to continue being part of the organization in the future. Staying and hating is not an option. The more important question is, “what is your plan to buy-in to the change?” With the right attitude and actions, you will always find opportunities in the workplace change.

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