Em­brac­ing Change In The Work­place

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS - This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent writer Kelly Bilodeau. The pro­duc­tion of this sec­tion did not in­volve the news or edi­to­rial staff of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

If the high New Year’s res­o­lu­tion fail­ure rate is any in­di­ca­tor, nav­i­gat­ing change is a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge—and those are changes you de­cide to make. Changes in the work­place are of­ten un­wel­come. “It’s much eas­ier to nav­i­gate change when you feel like it’s your choice. This of­ten isn’t the case at work,” says ca­reer coach Phyl­lis Mufson.

This may ex­plain why suc­cess rates re­lated to change are so low. One 2013 study found only 25 per­cent of com­pa­nies are ac­tu­ally able to sus­tain change over time.

Work­place change comes in many forms, from a new of­fice soft­ware pro­gram to changes in job ti­tle, man­age­ment or depart­ment. How well you adapt to these shifts de­pends on many fac­tors, from your per­son­al­ity to how the change is in­tro­duced and man­aged. But what­ever the change and how it ar­rives, there are some strate­gies that can help you ac­cept and ad­just more suc­cess­fully.

Know your­self. “Some peo­ple, whether be­cause of ge­net­ics or life ex­pe­ri­ence (na­ture or nur­ture), have a harder time cop­ing with change. The good news is that how­ever you re­spond now, there are ac­tions you can take, habits you can build that will help you be­come more re­silient,” says Mufson.

Ac­knowl­edge your feel­ings. We of­ten don’t rec­og­nize or ac­knowl­edge how change is af­fect­ing us. “But it’s not a sur­prise that it would be,” says Ta­mar Chan­sky, PhD, and au­thor of “Free­ing Your­self From Anx­i­ety: 4 Sim­ple Steps to Over­come Worry and Cre­ate the Life You Want.” Ac­cept­ing the emo­tions that go along with it, and that you are go­ing to have them, is one of the first steps to­ward ad­just­ing. Give your dis­com­fort an end date. The ad­just­ment to change is tem­po­rary, says Chan­sky, and peo­ple should rec­og­nize it as such. It can vastly lessen anx­i­ety about change to es­ti­mate how long you think it will take you to ad­just and get back to nor­mal. Some­times it will take more or less time than your es­ti­mate, but re­in­forc­ing the tran­sient na­ture of change will be help­ful ei­ther way.

Em­pow­er­ing self-talk. Avoid cre­at­ing neg­a­tive sce­nar­ios that may not even oc­cur. In­stead fo­cus on the ev­i­dence at hand, says Mufson. Re­call times where you suc­cess­fully adapted to change to shore up your con­fi­dence.

Take con­trol. “Al­though wor­ries tend to be overblown, they are of­ten cre­ated around a ker­nel of truth. Are there big lay­offs loom­ing? Is it pos­si­ble your job re­ally is in dan­ger? It’s time to up­date your re­sume, chron­i­cle your suc­cesses, and re­vive your net­work,” says Mufson.

Don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions. The 2013 study men­tioned ear­lier also notes that while 87 per­cent of man­agers were trained to help em­ploy­ees with change only 22 per­cent found train­ing ef­fec­tive. So speak up if you don’t un­der­stand, says Chan­sky.

Take small steps. If you un­dergo a large change, for ex­am­ple, mov­ing to a com­pletely new depart­ment with all new co­work­ers, take small steps. Try to con­nect with one per­son to start. “Don’t think: how can I get in the mid­dle of the whole thing,” says Chan­sky.

Fo­cus on life out­side of work. Hav­ing other in­ter­ests, such as hob­bies, or time with friends and fam­ily can help you nav­i­gate pro­fes­sional changes, says Chan­sky. “Your job is not your whole life,” she says, and know­ing that will help pro­tect your self-es­teem when go­ing through a rough patch.

Don’t ig­nore it. It’s easy to avoid think­ing about a big change by binge watch­ing tele­vi­sion shows, eating ice cream by the car­ton or go­ing on a shop­ping spree, but ul­ti­mately you’re just avoid­ing the prob­lem, and it will be there wait­ing for you when you re­join the world. “When you face your fears and act, even if you don’t get what you want, you’ll feel greater self-con­fi­dence and con­trol,” says Mufson.

Get help. Some­times a change pushes you be­yond the bounds of what you can han­dle on your own. Seek help if you feel like it’s af­fect­ing your heath or wellbeing or you are act­ing out at home or at work, says Mufson. Un­der­stand your re­sis­tance to change. “We’re crea­tures of habit and changes at work move us out of our com­fort zone,” says Mufson. But adopt­ing tools to man­age the stress of those changes can help make the tran­si­tion eas­ier ac­cept.

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