4 Secrets To Make Workplace Change Go Smoothly
Delivering the opening keynote at a recent conference, a woman told me she had just found out the day before arriving that her company was being bought out by a larger company. She and her colleagues were facing a huge change, and she was (understandably) nervous about what to expect.
Every company is different, and every change is different, but there are a few things you can do to navigate workplace change and make the transition a little easier on yourself – and maybe some of your colleagues, too.
Volunteer to Help With the Change
Longitudinal research of companies going through change found that employees who reported feeling “connected” at work also reported feeling confident and positive about the situation. Employees who are engaged with the change are the ones who have a seat at the table, and may even have the opportunity to direct certain aspects of the change. Raise your hand and get involved! Usually when a company change is happening, committees spring up. Maybe there’s a committee researching this new technology versus that new technology. Maybe there’s a committee planning an all-hands staff meeting to celebrate the launch of the new direction. Find a way to volunteer, because getting involved won’t just help you feel more positive, it will give you a way to participate and maybe even give input into the change.
If you’ve been blindsided by an announcement of change, you and your colleagues might not have had the wherewithal, in the moment, to get answers to every detail about what happens next. But don’t let that stop you from getting your questions answered! It’s not only okay, but actually a good thing to ask your manager or boss about what’s going on. (If you’re a manager, check out this post on 5 Things a Good Leader Does During Change for more info) The best questions you can ask are “why” questions, like “why is this the direction we’re choosing?” “why is this going to be good for the employees/customers/etc.?” The more everyone involved understands the purpose of the change, the more smoothly the process goes. So don’t be afraid to ask why.
Change takes more time than you think. In my research, I’ve noticed that a lot of company changes actually fail not during the change itself, but during the period afterward, known as “transition.” Transitioning to the new normal can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. During transition, you don’t have the robust support and intense focus you had during the time of change. Everyone assumes that since the change is over, we should get back to top performance. But there may be new systems, new processes, new technology, new employees… you get the idea. If you expect everything to fall back into place right away, you’ll be disappointed.
You can get on-board mentally with change by making positive comparisons. Are there things that frustrated you or were challenging before? Change is a great opportunity to start fresh and fix those problems! But sometimes we don’t even notice when something changes for the better, so we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be happy about it. (Sorry, our brains are just wired that way.) Instead, make a note of the way things were before, so that you can actually look back and make a positive comparison after the change. That will give you something to appreciate, even if there are some hiccups during the transition period.
Workplace change is never easy, but it can be positive, if you handle it correctly. Whether you’re facing a merger, a restructuring, a new boss, or anything that shakes up your team, it’s time to stop dreading change and get on board.