It was the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who told us that the only constant is change. But that was back in the fifth century BC—what did he know? Turns out, a lot. (Besides the facts that Spartan warriors were not to be trifled with and that olive trees were as good as gold.) The Job Maestro asked Anita Manuel for her take on modern change.
As program manager for career development at SJSU, she often hears that Silicon Valley employers are seeking candidates who can work in an ever-changing environment. But whether we’re talking staffing turnovers or a shift in consumer demand, wise ol’ Heraclitus didn’t give us any tips for transitioning on the job. So how do you deal?
My boss, who has always been a brunette, just went blonde for the summer. It’s like I don’t even know who she is anymore! Is that what you mean by change and transition in the workplace?
Changes are events that affect us or our course of action, whether we want that change or not. Transition is how we deal with those changes. Workplace changes can be as simple as a co-worker calling in sick, or more complex, like a re-org where your role changes significantly. Change can happen immediately, but transition can take time.
Change freaks me out, personally. When I was 15, I locked myself in a closet after my dad threw out my butter sculpture collection and tried to make me carve soap instead. (It was not rancid.) But how can change affect a whole company?
Change and transition can be stressful because you are dealing with something unknown. However, some people embrace change and see it as an opportunity to try something new or to recalibrate their career. If people are given a chance to process change, express their reaction and feel that they have some sort of influence on the outcome, they are more likely to transition in a positive manner. The biggest contributor to negative transition within an organization is lack of transparency and communication from leadership.
So what you’re saying is: the closet is not the answer. What are some more effective, workplace-appropriate coping strategies?
Since transition is an emotional process, it’s best to start by finding a person you trust to help you process the situation.
- Talk through your frustrations without getting bogged down by emotions. Realize that while you don’t have control of the changes, you do have control over how you react to them.
- Write down your questions and concerns and ask to review them with your leadership.
- Take advantage of resources offered by your employer like job retraining or counseling services.
- Ask for feedback. What are the new goals? What have you been doing well and how can you contribute?
- Remember that this could be an opportunity for a better role, new experience or a career move toward something more suited to your goals and lifestyle.
- Finally, change is normal and part of life. If you are going through a transition, it will get better. Cultivating positive transitioning skills will be an asset as you build your career.