Career Guide

Top 10 ways to embrace workplace change

When faced with the prospect of massive workplace change, your first impulse may be to go into a spin of reactive activity. However, there is a lot of value to taking some time to “sit quietly” and take stock of the situation wholistically – to consider all perspectives. In the realm of language learning, there’s a stage called the silent period: Adults may try to avoid going through it, but if you take a kid and plop her in Paris for a spell, she’ll naturally clam up for a few months. When she opens her mouth, her French will have flowered. Making sense of a major change is a lot like that. You need to allow yourself a quiet contemplation period before you can blossom.

When familiar workplace routines suddenly dissolve, it can seem as if all your supports are gone. You may even have a sense that you are in free fall. It’s crucial, while absorbing the shock of the new, to make yourself feel well taken care of. Give yourself a well-deserved break, let off some steam. Say “no” to non-essential tasks if it is an option.

There’s a part of the human mind that is often referred to as the “lizard brain,” because it existed in even the earliest land animals. The lizard brain is concerned with survival; it likes the tried and true, so it’s likely to pipe up right now, flooding you with adrenaline warnings of “danger!” as you veer off course. This was a handy function to have when deviating from the familiar path to the watering hole. It may have led to an encounter with a predator. But in the modern world it’s like a misfiring car alarm: pointless and annoying. Focus on gathering facts and allow yourself to see it objectively.

It helps not to be too smart, more often than not: smart people don’t like having their minds changed. Generally to learn and adapt to something new, it involves changing your mind about something so if you’re so smart that you can’t rethink your positions, all your IQ points won’t do you much good when your all things familiar in workplace life are turned upside down.

Cultivate your “I don’t know” attitude; it works to assume you don’t know anything and in that way you stand a chance to see the impending workplace change with a fresh perspective. This is a great way to approach change – as an opportunity to start anew, to consider all possibilities. Ask naive, wide-eyed questions of anyone who is doing anything you might be interested in trying. Listen seriously to arguments you might once have dismissed. This is why newcomers to an organisation tend to do better in embracing workplace change.

Try taking on new tasks, activities assigned to you, even if it seems scary or makes you feel uncomfortable. Why? Because this is a chance to explore what it is that you really like. Catch yourself off-guard and see what happens. You never know; the experience may be elating and terrifying and show that you want to lead a more creative life.

It’s dangerous to live in the aggregate, especially when you’re trying to figure out your next move. One year, everyone knows you have to develop a full array of skills to be successful at the workplace, then the next year they say focus on building only selected skills, especially the ones that you have a natural aptitude for. So, it’s best to go with what you know best given all the facts and decide for yourself your ability to take on new things.

There is a false reality that in the workplace eventually things will go back to being “normal”. There is no such thing, it’s really about your acceptance of the “new normal”. if you look back critically on the past – the workplace has changed significantly and so have you. So when faced with change at the initial stage do bear in mind that - that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach does not signal that you’re doing something wrong, only that you’re trying something new.

When you start to turn this sudden shift in your professional life to your advantage, you might shake up a lot of people, especially the ones who aren’t happy with the change in question. To them, your efforts to move forward and support the change may feel like a glaring searchlight that needs to be switched off. To their descriptions of the terrible fates that will surely befall you if you dive headlong into a new life, respond with “really?” and a big smile. In a Malaysian context “you sure or not?” also works.

Discard physical clutter, tired ideas, old routines and do so fully – no “safety-nets.” Accepting change and looking at others who have successfully embraced workplace change as your role model helps. Ultimately it’s our perceptions that drive our choices, and our choices that drive our actions. It’s only when you have cast off what has been weighing you down that you can finally move on.