You didn’t see it coming. The sudden restructuring at work. The sale of an entire business unit. The firing of a beloved leader.
You think you’re cool with change. Or so you tell yourself. This isn’t your first time at the rodeo. Yup, been there, done that.
Your first reaction is This sucks. Big time. And it’s not just a thought. You get this steady pinch in the pit of your stomach. Your chest and shoulders feel tight and tense. Headaches at night.
It doesn’t feel good.
Yes, you believe in continuous improvement. Seeking efficiencies. Consolidating resources. Merging business functions. Eliminating others. You have said you’re all for it.
But it doesn’t feel good.
Change is not a four-letter-word … but often your reaction to it is.“
This is the time when many of your colleagues start sending out resumes. Fine strategy, even when you don’t wish to leave. It creates options. Removes the sense of being stuck.
But you don’t actually wish to go somewhere else. There is too much you love about where you work, major changes and all. So how do we align ourselves around a change that we simply don’t like?
Think of the following 5 steps as your inner homework when a major change storm makes landfall at your place of work.
1. Let it rip.
Get real about how you really feel about the change that’s happening. Don’t try to be all cool about it. Don’t try to hold it all together. If you’re pissed, be truly pissed. If you’re disappointed because your dream of what you thought this company was has just been killed, wallow in that disappointment. Feel it fully. Go there.
Yes, let it rip. Preferably in a safe place outside of work. When we constantly pretend to be more OK with something than we actually are, our emotions fester. Energy gets blocked. We exist in a state of ever-simmering resentment. We don’t move forward. Emotions need to move. Staying resentful isn’t pretty. Let it rip.
2. Don’t make it all about you.
Shift your thinking from how a change impacts YOU to WHY the organization needs the change. Major organizational changes, even when they are painful, happen for a reason. They are usually intended to create a more robust and competitive business. They may not be “good” for what you do every day at work – yet they may be exactly what the business needs to move forward.
Shift out of how-this-impacts-me-and-my-team thinking into this-is-why-the-business-needs-this thinking. Not easy, I understand. But when coupled with a clean execution of Step #1 – powerful and freeing.
3. Let go of attachments.
Many of us like routines – even as we’re busy complaining about them. I often marvel at my clients who leave a firm because they don’t like the business practices where they are, only to immediately re-create the same practices in their new job. Such is the power of attachment to what we know.
Don’t be one of those employees who clings to how good it was in the good old days. Your attachment to the good old days gets you nowhere. It’s an attachment to rituals, habits, processes. There will be new ones. There’s more than one way of doing most anything. When we compare a new process to an old one, our attachment to the old way invariably sets the new up to fail. Stop glorifying the old. It’s the only way we ever move forward with a measure of grace.
4. Take yourself a little less seriously.
Our mind will whip our initial reactions to change into a frenzy if we allow it. We obsessively think the same dark thoughts, over and over. We latch onto doom-and-gloom thinking. We project ahead to a future filled with insurmountable challenges created by this change.
None of these challenges are real. The future has not yet come – and we are already placing ourselves at the center of this impending doom. Victims of a change not of our making. Martyrs who have to make this odious new stuff work.
Take a walk. Do some fun things. Clear your mind. Shrug off the worry-thoughts, tell them to also take a hike. Smell some fresh air, literally and metaphorically. We are responsible for our perspective shifts. They tend to not happen by thinking harder, they happen when we think less.
5. Shift into a helping mindset.
Resisting the new is exhausting. It feeds on itself. The more we resist, the more we drain mind, body, soul, spirit. The spiral descends downward at lightning speed. Choose to be a helper instead. It is invariably the most potent mental frame for showing up at work. It’s a choice that is always available to us. This choice becomes even more compelling when we’re in the midst of a major change. A desire to help, in small and big ways, gets us to the state where the change begins to feel good. That’s a fine destination.
When a change feels intolerable, when a workplace becomes toxic – by all means, leave. But when you choose to stay, do your inner homework. The 5 steps outlined above are your guide. Feel. Feel quickly. And then shift out of resistance.
Do not procrastinate when it comes to doing this homework. In the end, you, and only you, are the one who pays the price.
Don’t. Align instead.