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5 Tips for Facing Change at Work

Selena Dehne, JIST Publishing

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Most people can recall dozens of situations when they experienced change while on the job. Whether it's converting from one software system to another, relocating to a new office or adjusting to new or revised protocols, change is inevitable.

During economic turbulence, however, people often find that the changes they encounter on the job are suddenly much more frequent and substantial than usual. Unexpected layoffs, drastic budget cuts and the sudden expansion of one's job responsibilities are now all too prevalent in the midst of today's recession.

For employees left in the wake of such changes, it can be difficult to set aside their frustrations and anxiety to adjust to challenging new situations.

"When your company enacts change that represents some sort of threat or loss, the reflexive reaction is denial. You might tell yourself that it will never happen, it won't work or it won't affect me. Unfortunately, being resistant to change doesn't stop it from happening and may even jeopardize your job security," says Sandra Naiman, author of the recently released book "The High Achiever's Secret Codebook."

Naiman acknowledges that adapting quickly to significant change is easier said than done.

"We often resist change because we are afraid that a critical need will go unmet," she says. Naiman coaches her clients to identify exactly what they are losing. "In reaction to the same change event, one person might fear a loss of control while another might be threatened by a loss of status," she explains. "Once someone understands the source of their resistance, they are better able to manage it and proactively move forward."

In her book, Naiman reveals the unwritten rules for being successful at work. According to her, embracing and implementing change are keys to being a valuable and valued employee. To respond positively to change, despite being fearful of it or resistant to it, Naiman suggests the following strategies:

1. Define and acknowledge what is over and what is not. Honor those feelings of loss. Face them and do not deny any emotions that might surface. At the same time, identify what is not changing.

2. Look for the pony. Naiman recalls the joke about the quintessential optimist who jumps into a pile of manure, certain that there must be a pony in there somewhere. "No matter how tumultuous the change, there are opportunities available if people are open to looking for them," she says. "Identify the positives for yourself and the company, and then set your focus on them."

3. Jump on the bandwagon early.  Once change is inevitable, people can choose to accept it or actively resist. "Whatever they choose, the change will take place. Those who engage sooner, rather than later, will be noticed and remembered, and so will those who go kicking and screaming," Naiman cautions.

4. Acquire new skills and knowledge that change necessitates. Be clear about what you need to learn in order to implement the change and take the initiative to do so. Read, take classes and seek opportunities to learn on the job.

5. Share with colleagues why the sudden change presents opportunities. Support peers by exploring with them ways that they can benefit from the change and help them take advantage of potential opportunities. They will appreciate your efforts, as will management.

Naiman advises that being a champion of change is not to be confused with indiscriminate cheerleading for every change in the offing.

"You will certainly lose credibility if you are perceived as misreading a situation, or worse, being untruthful. However, if a change is inevitable, you can still get behind it, do the best you can to make it work, and encourage others to do the same." 

Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. She is also the author of JIST's Job Search and Career Blog (

Last Updated: 27/03/2009 - 5:01 PM

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