The fear of change is natural. As human beings we tend to prefer stable environments/situations. Change requires us to step out of our comfort zone and adapt or become obsolete. Just thinking about that can scare the buh-jeez-us out of most people.
|photo by coffeego||via PhotoRee|
Throughout my career I have worked on change initiatives at both a corporate level and at the business unit level. What I have learned is that people generally respond to pending change in one of three ways. They embrace, fight or are indifferent. But even those who choose to embrace the change still seem to go through a period of fear and uncertainty. Most of us will inevitably ponder what it could mean to us as an individual.
I understand the fear of change and self-preservation. I also understand that not all change is good, but what about instances where a company needs to make changes to remain competitive and continue to meet its customers’ needs? Yet the employees fight the changes they see as an infringement on their comfort zone.
Change is nothing new. We just convince ourselves it is and that, I believe, is at the root of the problem. If you convince yourself that the world is static it is definitely easier to cope and fall back into a comfort-zone and when that zone is disrupted we panic. In reality, if we step back and take a broader view we would realize that change is happening every day. Political policies shift, customer preferences/needs change, families change, technological innovations disrupt, economies go up and down.
So how do we cope with change, both individually and with others? There is a lot of good methods and practices out there, but some simple things to keep in mind from a professional perspective include:
Think Macro – understand your broader environment. Too often we are satisfied with working with our heads down focused on our individual role not recognizing pressures on the horizon that will force our employer to change. Spend time educating yourself not only on your role, but your employer’s industry and environment. You don’t have to be an expert, but even a little knowledge can make you more adaptable and valuable to your employer and less reactive.
Be Adaptable – be willing to learn new skills. I have worked with too many people who could have easily accepted some training to fit the new organizational needs but instead feared having to learn something new. Somehow they were still surprised when they were let go because their current skill set was outdated and no longer valued.
Don’t Obstruct – you don’t have to be an agent of change, but being an obstacle eventually makes you a target. You then go from being a potential asset to the organization to being an anchor holding it back.
Change is Constant – As much as we would like to believe change is a new thing, it really isn’t. History shows that we have been in a constant state of adaptation. The more we realize this the more we can work to be adaptable and valuable.
At the end of the day we need to be adding value to our employer. So if we think of change from a purely individual perspective we run the risk of becoming professionally extinct.
What are some things you do to be adaptable in the face of change?