Big Changes At Work– Threat Or Opportunity?

Your CEO resigned, then a couple of Department Heads left and now you hear rumours that your boss has resigned. Are you in a panic or looking for the opportunities?

This has just happened at two companies I work with. The popular, well respected CEO decided to move on and it created an avalanche of change.

Both companies are fine and have already announced replacements but that movement at the top shakes the whole company.

Big changes in management impact everyone and create a mass of insecurity.

How you cope in this changing environment says a lot about your resilience and your ability to bend or be battered.

The Change Curve
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with The Change Curve in the ‘60s. She researched the emotions people go through with any major change, and a seismic shift in your management team is one.

1. The first stage is shock – I didn’t think this would happen.
2. Then denial –  Maybe they’ll change their mind.
3. Followed by frustration – Nobody seems to know what’s going on, I’m in the dark.
4. Then depression – I’m going to miss those people, I never asked for this.
5. And then we start to recover with experimenting – I wonder if I should apply for my boss’s job?   I wonder what it would be like someplace new?
6. This leads to decisions – Yes, I want more responsibility and the authority that goes with it, I’m going for that job, I’m ready for it.
7. And finally, integration – I’m really settled in this new role, I don’t know why I felt so anxious.

We all move through these stages.  How quickly you move and whether you get stuck at some stage, is something you can manage.

We aren’t naturally wired for change
Even when it could lead to a good thing, our caveman brain isn’t wired to enjoy uncertainty.  We want to control our environment and what will happen.  We hang on to our daily routine because we know how we can manage that.

Two of my coaching clients, in these changing companies, reflected this.  One said “I’ve been in a real funk, but I think I’m coming through it now.”  The other said she found herself unexpectedly on the verge of tears every time she thought about the changes to her job.

So how do you move yourself through that change curve as confidently as possible?

Getting through the first stages:
First, acknowledge that you have to go through these stages and that you are going to feel some loss. Give yourself time to think. This change surprised you and it’s ok to feel bad.  Take time to grieve, this is a loss like any other.  The company, as you knew it, is gone.

Then try to consciously shift gears.  When WE choose to change something, we feel motivated, energized and excited by it.  So ask yourself – “Things are going to be different, what do I want to change?”

This is the shift that helps you move out of the difficult first stages of the change curve and into the more positive steps.  Take control of what you can influence.

Moving yourself forward
If you took the barriers away and let your imagination loose, what would you make of the job you’re doing?

My criteria for evaluating your current job come from Dan Pink’s research on motivation.
-Are you still learning in your role?
-Are you challenged and do you have some autonomy?
-Do you feel valued for what you do?

If you can answer yes then your job still has some mileage in it.

Think about riding out the changes.  Take an active role in supporting the new management group so you are part of their team.

Help the people around you adjust and accept. The colleagues who are negative become contagious, help them understand you are building a new culture and they can be part of that.

If your answer was no to the criteria above, if something is missing, now is a good time to figure out what you’d like and how to get that

Take some active steps
1.  Set aside an hour and focus on what you want in your job, day to day. What do you love about what you’re doing? What are you ready to leave behind? What’s missing?  Be specific, this is your own data and will inform your next steps.

2. It is easier to reshape or change roles when you are already in the company. Look for the opportunities that come from these management shifts. There will be gaps and new needs. Look for ways to add responsibilities, shift reporting lines, change departments or apply for your boss role.

3. If you can’t see this happening where you are, cast your net wider. Is there another company or industry you are interested in? Go explore that. Today’s jobs are morphing and blending, your skills may be easily transferred. Talk to someone who works in that area and find out what their world is like.

4. Then evaluate your options. Now that you’ve set your job criteria and explored a bit, you can compare what you’ve got, what you want and what’s out there.  You’re in a good position to decide what is right for you.  You can proactively begin to make changes.

Moving forward on the curve means taking control
The goal of these steps is to shift yourself on that change curve.  Take control so you don’t get stuck and you don’t feel like a victim.  Grab the opportunities, be part of the progress.  Take a chance to move up, out or on to the next thing.  All of those will feel positive and exciting because you are making the choice about the changes.

The hardest part about change is getting your head around it and the feeling that it has been dumped on you.

If you can change that mentality, you have the chance to help rebuild your job and maybe even your company into something that feels different and exciting.


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