Dealing with Change is Haarrdd!

All of us have been through change at some point in our lives; some changes are of our own making, but can still be hard. Some changes are not in our control, which are more difficult. Of course, there are some changes that feel effortless in adapting to them.

Why is change so difficult to accept? A lot of it has to do with our genetic make-up. Our internal alert system (the amygdala) is always looking for threats to our safety; when something new comes along, it feels different so the alarm automatically goes off as a threat, leading to how you will deal with this new situation.

Depending on how you adapt, you will be in fight-flight-or freeze mode: fight is when you don’t know how to deal with a situation, or want to; fight is resistance; freeze is ‘this is too overwhelming for me to do anything about it.’ When we feel overwhelmed in our ability to deal, one of these will occur. Now, it is important to point out that there are individuals who adapt to new situations well, which is so interesting to study how they are able to be so receiving.

Rick Maurer, in his book Beyond the Wall of Resistance, says it comes down to two issues: 1) the goal or situation we are faced with is not clear to us, and 2) we don’t understand how that new change will benefit us. If one of these two are out of alignment, resistance will occur. Maurer also says that resistance occurs and results if we don’t like the idea or if we don’t really trust that the person leading the change will follow through on their words.

This happens frequently in the corporate world. Organizational change occurs frequently, of which many of the reasons are not known to employees and are not conveyed well, if at all. I never understand when an employer says they don’t want their workers to know of an upcoming change ahead of time so as not to upset them – don’t they realize the impact when it does occur, i.e. anger, disappointment, broken trust, etc.?

Change is harrdd. Plain and simple. But, there are ways to get through a change, if the emotional work is done which is really the root cause of resistance. Big changes, such as losing a job, going through a divorce, or a death, all can overtax the system with loss of which these will take time to get through.

But other changes, such as an organizational change, seem scary due to a fear of the unknown – will my job, pay, benefits, etc. stay the same? Will I have to learn new skills or will my hours continue? Whatever fear elicits will vary by individual but the fear is real. How you deal with it will determine how you get through and adapt to the new situations.

  • Recognize that change is hard but that you will get through whatever comes up: this seems simplistic but the natural response of the ego is ‘I can handle whatever comes up, it’s no big deal.’ Until it is. Being aware that you may not like the proposed change is the start of controlling any resistant thoughts that arise and help you recognize that you have been through many changes before and survived, which helps to give calm when you hear the news.
  • Take time to uncover the source(s) of any resistance felt: getting into deep-level awareness of why you don’t want the change will go a long way to overcoming these objections. You can now challenge any negative thoughts and begin to identify ways that will help you to cope better and accept new changes.
  • Identify your strengths in dealing with past challenges so you can take them in dealing with new ones. You are stronger than you believe and will make it through. However, how you deal will either determine your success or failure in your role. I once worked for a company that went through four mergers within a relatively short period of time; resistance was rampant at first, then turned into resignation. But I looked at each of these as a challenge, and an opportunity, to shine within the new realms that led to recognition and, eventually, promotional opportunities. You can do the same.

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Can Organizations Have Bright, Shiny Object Syndrome?

Years ago, during my corporate days, I can still remember how frustrating it was when I was put on a project, worked hard with those of us on it, only to be told the project was going in another direction. This is a common complaint I’ve heard lately from clients – their organization starts a new system or program which doesn’t pan out. Just as they are getting used to it, it’s off to something else.
So this begs the question: can an organization suffer from bright, shiny object syndrome? Meaning that they implement some type of a new program or system which makes no sense for their current ones; or, it’s something that’s trending so they jump on the bandwagon (my experience).  What leads to this confusing behavior?
There are several reasons why this can be the case:

  • Brand – organizations are always needing to ensure their brand is visible to consumers but, if traffic seems slow or projected numbers aren’t reached, this can lead to wanting to enhance the brand. Looking at how others, who are in the limelight and getting attention, can lead to wanting to go into that same direction
  • Fiscal – if an organization is not doing well, they will try many ways to bring buyers in so new programs will be developed in the hopes of doing so. Also, as profits decline, looking at trimming expenses needs to occur, which could be through layoffs or ending current programs that are high dollar, in lieu of others
  • Jumping on the Bandwagon – there are just some leaders who have heard of a new trend and want to jump on, too; it’s the old “if it works for them, it will work for us, too”
  • New Direction – companies always need to be expanding and growing to keep up with consumer needs, so this can mean that new processes or systems will be implemented to ensure that growth

While all of these reasons have merit, it seems that there is no forethought into any of these ideas, or at least from an employee’s standpoint who is the one to carry out that new newly developed program. This is not to suggest that leaders don’t put thought into their decisions but, when doing so, it’s not about tunnel-vision to the perceived end-result. Switching from program to program will only create misery all-around: the brand can be confused; more money will be spent, and lost; doing what other’s do won’t always mean it works for all; and new directions can still mean you will get lost.
Don’t be one of these organizations who switch and change randomly. Pulling the rug out from employees, from one idea to another, can frustrate and deflate the creativity and effort of the team. I remember having worked for months on a new program and, just as it was about ready to launch, being told that the project was scrapped for another, which a competitor had implemented. Talk about an emotional time!
This is a time of transparency for the needed change, and then for inclusion of workers and getting their feedback; if these workers don’t know the reasons for the changes or the benefit to them, resistance will occur, which can lead to high levels of stress, dissatisfaction, and disengagement. People will leave under these circumstances, so communicating openly with them will get more buy-in, resulting in program success.
New systems, processes or programs can work but there should be a method for making the decision, as well as for how it will play out. This means being open, transparent in intentions, allowing employees to share ideas and feedback, keeping them informed along the way.
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