Change happens whether we like it or not. In the workplace, technological developments alone can keep you on your toes. Throw in mergers, acquisitions, expansions, management changes and an evolving global economy -- and what you get is a recipe for workplace soup. Employees at all levels need to find ways to cope with change; it’s not something that just the front-line worker bees and the middle manager face. You’ll weather the changes better if you remain open-minded and flexible.
On a psychological level, most people are resistant to change -- whether you're the CEO or the cleaning lady. The idea of change is frightening because you don't know what it means, or what "business as usual" will look like afterwards. However, resisting change can put a serious damper of your career plans. Every change couples uncertainty with opportunity, so it's important to do whatever you can to embrace the changes heartily as they occur. Acceptance is often the silver bullet that allows you to reach your potential, while resistance will likely inhibit your ability to advance. Resistance is futile and may even render you irrelevant.
Sure, it probably seems easier to just keep doing what you’ve always done, especially if it was profitable for your company. After all, if it works, leave it the heck alone. It’s a fact however, that even the largest and most powerful businesses must adapt to the times or risk becoming obsolete. Communications companies had to acknowledge the cell phone, while automobile companies had to start adapting to fuel efficiency demands. It’s easier for companies to change when they acknowledge their dependence on an evolving global market, just as it’s easier for employees to change when they understand the context.
Communication and understanding are crucial to minimize the pain and inconvenience brought on by change. Get real and admit that what really concerns you is how changes will affect your job and goals. What you can do personally is focus on what’s expected of you and understand what you'll need to do going forward. Listen when management assures you and your fellow employees that change is a good thing -- and will eventually benefit everyone down the road. Once you have a clear grasp of the motives behind, and nature of, the changes, the process isn't so scary.
Whether you are the one orchestrating the changes, or were just informed of them through a last minute email, it’s natural to feel stress and anxiety, as this is a common reaction to the unknown. Your mind may create all kinds of horrible scenarios while your body is busy producing stress chemicals that may affect your mood, appetite, sleep, and energy level. These effects are normal -- and will level off as you adapt. In the meantime, it’s important to pay attention to your body and your mind. Eat right, exercise and get some fresh air, sleep enough, and practice relaxation techniques that calm both your mind and your adrenal glands.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."