Workplace Change — Survive It And Thrive

changes signChange can be something we crave or something we dread but even when we crave it, there is the fear of the unknown lurking in the background. People are creatures of habit and as such we inherently distrust changes. At the same time, however, we know that change is often for the best, pick up the courage and do it. But what about work? Employees are not usually the ones initiating change but they are the ones most impacted by it. In fact, according to psychologists, change at the workplace is one of the greatest stressors one could experience. The reason change at work is such as stressful event, be it a promotion or raise, cost cuts or changes in the job description, which are among the most feared, is that it breaks the pattern of predictability. We like things to be predictable because it gives us greater control over the situation. Once this predictability is gone, it’s like the rug’s been pulled from under your feet.

Naturally, the biggest fear of them all is the fear of losing your job, a danger that could accompany changes like budget cuts, hiring freezes, and a reorganization, not to mention rumors about downsizing or a possible sale of the company. But promotion can also breed fear, the fear of proving to be unable to live up to expectations, the fear of looking like a fool, experts say, and add that all this is normal. It’s normal to feel uncertain and out of balance when a new boss comes to replace the old one who you were used to, even if you didn’t like her too much. It’s normal to be alarmed if the company is starting to lay off people. Knowing that such reactions are normal could help reduce the anxiety that goes with them. What’s not normal, or rather, not healthy, is reacting to any change in an entirely negative way, fighting the new situation and refusing to adapt, or even ignoring that a change had taken place. Stress and fear make us irrational but it is within our control to pull in their reins.

The first step is to acknowledge both the new situation and your fear of it. It might help if you list your fears in writing and then add some ideas of how you would cope should any of these fears come to fruition. Sharing these fears with others is also a good coping tactic. Talking to co-workers, your family and friends will all help you overcome your anxieties, seeing that you’re not the only one having them and knowing that you have close people to rely on should they become a reality. Another very important thing is to keep your expectations realistic. We may be creatures of habit but we’re also creatures of adjustment, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived. So, while a change is more likely than not to make you feel uncomfortable and uncertain for a while, as time goes by you will adjust and you may even find the change has been for the best. Give yourself time to get used to the new situation, try to be flexible and be ready to co-operate. This will help you pass through this transition more quickly and with less stress, as you gradually accept the fact that things have changed and that’s how they will be from now on. Until the next change.