Change is inevitable. Whether you’re leading it, supporting it, or it feels like it’s being forced upon you, uncertainty can make change a painful process. A new reporting structure, the arrival or departure of an employee, or a company acquisition can make you feel like your world is turned upside down ― but only if you let it. The challenge lies in being able to more easily (and gracefully) consider, accept and adapt with the changes that occur. A part of you must become immune to the fear that stems from the unknown or unfamiliar. Ultimately, you have to learn to take an active role in the parts you can influence or control. When this happens, you might even become an advocate.
As seen in the reality show competition Survivor®, where the rules (i.e., Outwit, Outplay, Outlast) are straight forward, there are countless opportunities to be blind-sided by change. In Survivor, the most successful participants are not only more in sync with their surroundings, they also possess the ability to think on their feet and lead. When opportunities arise winners quickly adapt to them, even when the change is put in motion by others. There’s a constant give and take that transpires ― lead, then follow, lead, then follow. Mutual respect is key. While some people can more easily navigate different levels of authority and structure, others kick and scream through it. On Survivor, they’re typically the ones voted out first.
So, when confronted with change and uncertainty in the workplace, how do you more effectively adapt, survive, or even thrive? Beyond reading Dr. Spencer Johnson’s classic Who Moved My Cheese?, consider a few of these ideas to make the transition easier.
Lack of communication can have negative impacts, while effective communications usually aid the change process. Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen― if possible, talk to the person presenting the change. Not only will you get some of your questions answered, you may be providing that individual with insight about what kinds of additional information the organization views as lacking. However, beware of “updates” that come through informal channels like the break room and shop talk chatter, as news that travels that way is often distorted.
2. Be Flexible
Change requires flexibility. The better you are at adapting to change, the greater your chances are of being successful. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the gritty details, without ever thinking much about why the change is happening in the first place. Take a good look at the new situation and instead of focusing only on what will be different, look ahead and consider the destination that you can be part of.
3. Do a Self-Assessment
In planning for the future, organizations often conduct an analysis for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). That type of SWOT analysis can be just as helpful to you individually. What skills and strengths do you have? Where do you need to improve? By understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and educating yourself on the new situation, you can proactively look for opportunities to take on new responsibilities and challenges.
4. Choose Your Thoughts and Attitudes Carefully
Negative thoughts block your creativity and problem-solving abilities. Positive thoughts build bridges to the new reality. Look at change as an opportunity and strive to find the benefit within it. As you do this, an attitude of anticipation will grow as you evaluate the potential of what could be.
5. Apply Wisdom from Past Experiences
As you journey through life and experience new situations, you’re bound to make mistakes — that’s human! The important thing is to take a lesson from each of those situations and apply the learning. Not only does this better prepare you for future periods of uncertainty, you can impart that knowledge to others and help them manage experiences that are new to them.
In the end, change can be disruptive. But, with the right attitude and actions, you can become a change advocate finding creative ways to participate and affect a more positive outcome. After all, you’re a survivor right?