Managing Workplace Change
A big change in any area of life—professional or personal—can feel worrisome and unmanageable.
A big change in any area of life—professional or personal—can feel worrisome and unmanageable. Your professional world can go through upheaval when your supervisor leaves, is fired, or dies; your company is sold; or a coworker is promoted. How can you manage changes in the work setting?
Preparation is the key to success in all walks of life.1 Many business experts indicate that constant workplace change is the new normal, so all workers should be change-ready. This is how businesses survive and thrive. Therefore, employees need to have patience, flexibility, and optimism to successfully navigate change.2,3
The following strategies can be implemented as soon as you hear about a proposed or actual change:
- Anticipate challenges and brainstorm. If your fantastic boss is leaving and your coworker will step in to replace her, think about how you will interact with your former peer who is now your supervisor. If a large corporation just bought your independent pharmacy, prepare for potential changes (Table1,3,7).1
- Contemplate coping mechanisms. Many people greet change with high emotion and resistance. It is normal to wonder how your workload will increase (or decrease) or whether an already busy pharmacy will become a pressure cooker environment. Acknowledge emotion, but do not let rumor or assumption feed the “beast” of anxiety. Rely on fact and observation.5 Once you identify challenges, visualize coping mechanisms and keep your focus on the mission and top priorities.1,6 For example, if your new boss appears to micromanage, you can discuss how to best keep him in the loop. Or if the new owner will require you to work two 10-hour shifts, talk to your family now about how to manage the new schedule. If you think you will clash with a new employee, part of your coping mechanism might be taking a 20- to 30-minute walk at lunch.1
- Network. As the old adage goes, “There is no need to re-invent the wheel.” Chances are a colleague has experienced similar change. Ask for advice on how to deal with change.3,7
- Maintain your resume. If a change is cataclysmic or unmanageable, at least your resume can be ready for you to enter the job market. Contact former employers, update your LinkedIn account, and peruse job-posting websites.1
- Keep your personal life calm. Experts tell marathon runners, “Nothing new on race day!” In a way, a big workplace change is like a marathon, as it can pose unexpected challenges and the discomfort may seem unending. When you know your workday will be emotionally taxing, do your best to keep your personal life stress-free. Consider delaying extensive home renovation projects, avoid hosting long-term guests, and do what you can to keep your home life calm.1
- Embrace the change. If committees are being formed to discuss specifics, join. If managers solicit input, participate. Your involvement will help you feel invested in the change.1,3 The Table1,3,7 lists ideas for managing specific workplace challenges.
Workplace change is constant. No one can anticipate every challenge that will arise. As the unexpected occurs, use the coping mechanisms you contemplated ahead of time. Some employees slack off during periods of intense change; avoid that approach. Continue to do your work well and look for growth opportunities.3,7 If workplace management communicates new directives poorly, ask for specifics and to participate in projects.6,7 A polite e-mail or quick meeting with your supervisor can go a long way.
Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.
- Weston B. 10 tips for dealing with change positively in your workplace. Linkedin. linkedin.com/pulse/10-tips-dealing-change-positively-your-workplace-ban-weston. Published February 23, 2015. Accessed May 30, 2016.
- Hewitt F. Supporting a brave culture. Institute of Management New Zealand website. http://imnz.net.nz/supporting-a-brave-culture. Published May 28, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Smith J. 12 tips for overcoming your fear of change at work. Forbes website. forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/01/18/12-tips-for-overcoming-your-fear-of-change-at-work/2/#4277471f7ae9. Published January 18, 2013. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Miglani B. How to adapt to change in the workplace: 6 tips to gain control and move forward. Embrace the Chaos website. embracethechaos.com/2014/06/how-to-adapt-to-change-in-the-workplace-6-tips-to-gain-control-and-move-forward. Published June 19, 2004. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Covi I. Coping with change in the workplace. Business Know-How website. businessknowhow.com/manage/leadwithin.htm. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Gil L. What millennials want from work and life. National Underwriter Life & Health website. http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2016/05/27/what-millennials-want-from-work-and-life. Published May 27, 2016. Accessed October 14, 2016.
- Sun C. 10 tips for dealing with change in the workplace. TechRepublic website. techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-tips-for-dealing-with-change-in-the-workplace. Published October 22, 2007. Accessed June 7, 2016.