Navigating Change in the Workplace
Change is inevitable, especially within the workplace. Businesses and companies are constantly evolving, and employees must learn to navigate change to remain effective. Some leaders underestimate how hard change can be on their workforce and fall short of providing adequate resources to support employees.
TYPES OF CHANGE
There are several changes that can occur in the workplace. Some include:
- Opening or closing locations
- Reductions in force
- Leadership changes
- New technology
- New service lines
Carlos A. Vargas, Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Technology at Adventist HealthCare explains, “No matter the change, it affects all of the employees, emotionally and mentally.” Even if the change doesn’t directly affect a person, it can change the morale of the company and how it operates or functions. “When a large change happens, like opening or closing facilities, people are losing what they once knew and are being forced to adapt to a new standard, operation or life,” adds Vargas.
HELP EMPLOYEES WITH CHANGE
“Each employee is different and needs to be treated as an individual,” says Kathleen Crowley, EAP Clinical Supervisor with Adventist HealthCare. “Some employees have anxieties that do not allow them to easily adapt.” It is important for the company to offer their employees assistance, especially during re-organizational changes. Support can be provided at an organizational and manager level. Managers know their employees the best, how they operate and how to assist them in a time of need. In some cases, managers may need resources to learn the skill of leading through change. An employee assistance program (EAP) can help train managers to better understand how to assist their employees through the change. Some ways to help employees with change include:
- Watch and listen – Pay attention to the actions of employees. If there is discussion about changes occurring, or they are actively taking place, each employee is going to react in a different way. Some people might keep their worries and fears inside but display them in their performance or work. Others may express how they are feeling to their managers or team members. “Be aware of how people react and understand that everyone will show it in a different way,” says Crowley.
- Show genuine concern – In a time of need, employees search for guidance. By going to their manager, they are looking for some sort of comfort and reassurance. As a manager, you set the example. Show them you are listening and hear their concerns. Even if you aren’t a fan of the change, talk about the advantages. “Employees look toward their managers for understanding and guidance and will follow their lead in reactions,” states Vargas.
- Fix what you can – Give advice and fix the things you have control over. If you can’t, offer tools and resources that will help employees in the situation. Don’t promise things you can’t follow through with. Instead, tell them what you can do. A little bit goes a long way in a time of need.
- Be positive – When employees see their managers being positive in a negative situation, it gives them the reassurance that everything is going to be okay and get better. Typically, they will begin to mimic the positivity, bringing the company morale up. When its low, employees tend to wish things were back to how they were instead of accepting the change.
- Coach, train and prepare – As change is occurring and you are assisting your employees in the changes, prepare them for the next thing ahead. Even if you don’t know what it is, get them ready by training and sharing ways to help get through tough workplace situations.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
When change occurs in a company, it’s best to go into it with an open mind. This allows you to have a chance to digest the changes that are happening and understand the reasons behind them. Plus, it ensures that you do not make any rash decisions.
- Acknowledge the change – The best way to handle change is by accepting it is going to happen regardless.
- Face your fears – Change can be a frightening time because of the unknown. By facing your fears and accepting the change, good will come out of it even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
- Seek support – Find someone to confide in that is either going through the same situation, close to you or professionally trained to help. They can assist you in getting through the changes that are happening in your life.
- Be flexible – Go into the change with an open mind and be fluid. This will make it easier to move with the company and help you grow not only as an employee, but also personally.
- Become one with the change – Change within a company creates new opportunities for its employees. It can mean a new role, job opportunity, or a larger business. Enter the change with excitement and a great attitude and you’ll be able to see the positive changes occurring.
The most important piece to dealing with any change is communication. Communicate with your manager regarding how you feel, ideas you have and ways you can grow. If you don’t like the direction things are going, communicate with your manager to discover steps you can take to ensure those changes are something you can be a part of and enjoy.
No matter the change, your manager and company leadership are there help. Talk to them about how you are feeling. There may be ways to help lead through the change and help others. Utilize your company’s EAP program too. These programs can be a supportive resource for change management. They provide education for leaders while also working to support employees one on one.