Change is practically a given in today’s competitive work environment. But how is an individual employee supposed to thrive in an environment of constant uncertainty? To successfully navigate this near-constant change, research suggests that it’s critical to stay engaged.
In the first post of this 3-part series (click here if you missed it), I shared strategies from my book The Successful Struggle, that help you stay engaged and in tune with the purpose of corporate change.
In addition to connecting with the reasons behind the change, there are other things you can connect with that make corporate evolution easier to swallow. One of the most helpful? People. Connecting with colleagues helps us feel better emotionally when we’re facing change, and increases the likelihood that the outcome of the change will be successful.
In a study of employees in large-sized companies facing major changes, those who reported the highest levels of satisfaction after a change were also the most engaged employees. This makes sense on several levels. Actively engaged employees are more likely to be participating in the change or at minimum feel as if their voice is being heard. Engaged employees also reap the benefits of having relationships with colleagues they can lean on when transitioning becomes stressful or confusing.
In The Successful Struggle, I tell the story of David, whose role at work was changing because of a new strategic direction. David was off-balance because of the change, and worried he couldn’t deliver on his new goals. Because he didn’t want to be perceived as negative about the alteration to his role, he was reluctant to speak up in meetings. Withholding his thoughts in this setting became so innate to David that he pulled away from his colleagues during the work day, too.
David convinced himself that disconnecting from his colleagues was natural. He told himself that he was just putting his head down and focusing. It made sense to him that he would hunker down in his office, not emerging until he had a successful action plan completed. But pulling away from his colleagues was only making David more isolated. His ideas had been created in a vacuum, they lacked the fine-tuning they usually received when David shared his ideas with the group. As a result, David was not only miserable, but also less successful.
Employees who stay connected during change – to their peers, their managers, and even their personal social circle – navigate change in a much healthier way than those who pull away from others. Studies show that maintaining personal connections is a predictor of a well-handled change.
If you feel yourself pulling away from colleagues and friends during change, that’s a red flag. To connect with the people around you, try these three things:
- Speak Up – It can be intimidating to verbalize your concerns about change, because we’re often taught to wait and evaluate a situation before we speak. But if we don’t speak up and ask questions, we run the risk of not getting the information we need so that we CAN effectively evaluate a situation. What a Catch-22! But don’t let it silence you. Ask clarifying questions as needed, just try to do so in a constructive way. By asking questions with a positive slant, you are demonstrating that you are engaged as well as exhibiting a positive attitude about the change.
- Build a Work Support Network – If you’ve avoided having a work support network, change can be a great catalyst for creating one. Identify a mentor and at least one or two peers you can lean on for support. Be sure that your conversation topics don’t center on “venting,” which is an unhealthy dialogue style that keeps you feeling agitated and ignores problem-solving.
- Lean on Your Personal Support Network – You may not feel like talking about work problems outside of work. But having the support of your friends outside of work has been shown to be helpful. Even if you only spend a few minutes catching them up on the issue, you’ll feel like you have the moral support that will keep you going the rest of the work week; then you can lay those issues aside and go out and have a fun evening.
It’s natural to want to crawl into your cubicle and disconnect from the world when you’re facing the uncertainty of change, but you’ll be significantly more successful if you make it a priority to stay connected to your workplace and the people in it. When you stay engaged, ask questions, and lean on your support network, you’ll be surprised – and relieved! – to find how much easier it is to handle change.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my three-part series. And for those of you that need to catch up, you can find the first installment of my blog series here.