In our world in general, but especially in the workplace, change is a continual presence. Whether it’s driven by new technology, shifts in the market, expansion, or cutbacks, work is constantly changing. And if you think you’ve seen an accelerated pace of change in recent years, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The pace of change will continue to accelerate throughout the 4th industrial revolution. Which means we all need to get better at navigating change.
Change management (i.e., successfully implementing change) is a huge topic in itself. But what if you're on the receiving end of change rather than driving the change itself? How can you navigate change when you're not in the driving seat and continue to thrive in the workplace?
Here are 12 practical steps that will help you stay sane and be your best amidst constant change:
1. First, acknowledge that change is happening. There’s no point burying your head in the sand. Acknowledge that change is an inevitable and normal part of life.
2. Assess your level of adaptability – yes, your adaptability quotient (AQ) can be measured, just like IQ – then look at practical ways to boost your flexibility. For example, you can accept opportunities that push you outside of your comfort zone or try implementing small changes in your home or work environment (such as reorganizing your desk).
3. Gather information. When you're facing change, it can be tempting to leap into action. But that's not always a good move. Instead, take a breath. Ask questions and gather information to help you assess what exactly is changing, how it's changing, and why it's changing. Try to understand the vision behind the change and the first concrete steps that need to happen.
4. Recognize and acknowledge your feelings about change, but don’t let those feelings dominate your reaction to the change. It's normal to be wary of change, but you want to respond from a place of considered thought after gathering the information you need (as per step 3).
5. Don’t assume the worst – think of the best. Try to flip the narrative and visualize the best-case scenario that will result from the change. How will your job or life get better? Because yes, change is often hard, but change can also be a powerful force for good.
6. Look for (small) ways you can control the change. You may not be in the driving seat, but there will probably be areas where you can exercise some control. You might, for example, plan out the steps you personally need to take as part of this wider change. You may also be able to plot your own timetable for achieving certain milestones within the organization's overarching schedule.
7. Set yourself some learning goals that will help you navigate this particular change. For example, if you’re taking on new responsibilities, what courses or books will help you gain confidence in that role?
8. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. The old "How do you eat an elephant?" adage is useful when it comes to navigating change because it reminds us not to get overwhelmed by the big picture. Focus on the first step, and don't think about the second step until you've completed the first one. And so on and so on.
9. Give yourself time. Changing habits and learning new behaviors can be a slow process – in fact, the average time it takes to adopt a new habit is 66 days. Be patient and kind to yourself.
10. Stay connected to your coworkers. Make sure you have ways to communicate with others in your team, especially if you’re not all in the same place. Talk to your coworkers about the change you’re experiencing and how it makes you feel. How are they feeling? How are they navigating the change personally? That said, do try to seek out those who consistently show a positive attitude. You know who they are. And you know who to avoid – those inflexible Negative Nellies who see any change in the workplace as a personal affront!
11. Bang your own drum. Celebrate the big and little wins whenever you can, even if it’s just a mental pat on the back. If you can, celebrate with your team when you achieve common goals.
12. Reflect on your resilience. Think about it – with every goal achieved and every change you navigate, you're ultimately becoming a stronger, wiser, more adaptable person. Isn't that amazing?