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When Change Comes Knocking At Your Door: 5 Tips for Managing Change

Posted: February 3, 2017
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Change is inevitable and even accelerated in today’s world. These tips for managing change apply as much to the personal as professional parts of our lives.

Much has been written about how organizations deal with business related change; for this purpose, a plethora of customized frameworks, diagnostics and experts are available to help them through this process. As a human resource consultant, I worked on several such engagements – where our game changer was facilitating conversations between leaders, influencers and the audience that would be impacted.

A business related change could be propagated by either a technology upgrade, strategy change, organizational structure change etc. Mostly the change was for the better – to facilitate better operational efficiency and to stay competitive in a dynamic business environment. However, an initial push back from the audience was always there – leading to several roadblocks along the change journey.

Therefore some organizations even hired ‘Change Managers’ whose sole purpose was to facilitate multiple change management engagements. However, ‘managing change and ambiguity’ is now a key skill for most job roles at all levels of an organisation rather than being restricted to a few. Additionally, this skill is also becoming essential to not only sustain a dynamic professional environment but also to maintain a balanced work-life equation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with changes in a personal capacity there are no off-the-shelf frameworks or diagnostics to refer to. Socio-economic and behavioural factors lead to many positive and negative changes in our lives such as location change, job change, promotion, rejection, marriage, heart break, child birth, family issues etc. Sometimes we recognize them early on and are prepared; however a sudden change may impact us in an unfavorable way too.

Our personalities and environment also impact our reactions to change – while some of us are excited about change and look forward to experiencing newer things in life, others fear any digression from routine. An aversion to change is natural human tendency, but if you prepare yourself for it – it can alleviate any unnecessary stress and anxiety associated with it.

For folks who find themselves in similar situations, here are some simple tips for managing change that may help you whenever change comes knocking at your door.

Increase your awareness 

Often the uncertainty associated with the change is more daunting than the change itself. Knowing less about the change leads to confusion – therefore try and gather as much information as you can. Seek answers from the experts about the what, why, when, how? Then deduce the impact that it may have on you and what you need to do to prepare for it. Also, make sure that your information sources are credible!

Relocating to a new city or country is quite common these days as more organizations offer global career opportunities. This would mean adjusting to a new work culture, new policies, people and environment as well. If you are planning to move with your family then schools, housing, jobs are also additional parameters to consider. Most organizations provide relocation support to help employees settle in a new place. However, if you find yourself in a situation where help is not readily available, reach out to your network of experienced colleagues who can guide you with the cultural and admin requirements. Having your personal life in order will definitely help you be more organized and focused at work.

Identify the probable enablers and barriers 

Every change is accompanied by its own set of issues and enablers in the form of people, situations and attitudes. There will be positive influencers and folks who are excited about the change – these are your pillars of strength and you must leverage their support to mitigate any issues. On the flip side, there may be people who are not enthusiastic and their negative attitude may bring you down too – the only way out is to ignore them.

Changing economic (Demonetization, Goods and Services Tax etc.) and demographic factors (increased focus on millennials, diversity etc.) are prompting organizations to relook their business models frequently. This would also mean adjusting their internal people related policies. Budget cuts, hiring freeze, downsizing or new task forces would lead to changes in current job roles and the way work is done. This could impact the morale of the workforce and if not handled in a sensitive way, lead to loss of high performing staff. Hence, ‘managing change and ambiguity’ is a key competency for line managers as the responsibility of driving change at the grass root level falls on them.

Apart from identifying the problem areas/people, they should also be able to handle difficult conversations, personalities, seek relevant information and provide feedback to the project teams immediately. E.g. Before announcing a decision to downsize, a defined process should set up and used by all line managers to deal with exit formalities such as payouts, deposits etc. Constructive conversations about future job prospects for individuals who are let go can alleviate insecurity and gossip in the team.

Ask for help

If you have any doubts its best to ask the experts – there will always be a pool of people who are either experienced or technically qualified to help you. Often we try to solve our issues ourselves – but its also important to realize that asking for help is okay. Life changes can impact us physically, emotionally or psychologically and we may not always be equipped to deal with them. Hence seeking professional counseling or support from family/friends is not to be looked down upon.

Several gender based studies suggest that women are more prone to stress-related disorders than men. Many women are juggling a full time career with family and home responsibilities that can be exhausting. Even today, women are more impacted by marriage or child birth than their partners which may lead to significant lifestyle changes. As a result, some even experience low self esteem or depression that impacts their daily functioning and morale. Fortunately, everyone has a support system in the form of family and/or friends who can either help in maintaining a work-life balance or coping with adjustment issues. Also, seeking professional help is encouraged nowadays to deal with stressful life changes/events that may need medical attention.

Leading organizations have also recognized that a large talent pool of professionally qualified women are available who are seeking jobs after a sabbatical. While they have designed policies like flexi-time, part-time and work from home to tap into this talent pool, their supply is still far more than relevant job opportunities.

Design a solution/plan

Once you know how the change will impact you, you can also start identifying the probable solutions or best approach. In some situations you maybe the sole decision maker, however where more parties are involved or impacted – inform or involve them as required.

Buying a house is a significant investment for any family and should ideally have the thoughts/involvement of at least the impacted family members. Any parties who are sharing the financial duties of this investment should be involved in the decision making and future planning process as each person may have preferences related to the location, design, fund sourcing, financial impact etc. Having a plan with timelines and resources will help you stay on track, manage financial expectations and cater for any surprises too.

Accept and stay resilient

Once you have taken the plunge, stick to your decision and look ahead. Think positively and look for outcomes that will have a positive impact on your life. Don’t think of the past as it leads to confusion and delays. It’s also important to take care of your health to be better equipped at handling physical and emotional changes. Also, be accepting of things that you are not able to influence such as difficult family members, friends, colleagues or situations – some things are meant to be out of your control.

All entrepreneurs have tasted success and failure in their lives but a few things are common in their personalities – passion, courage, positivity, hard work and perseverance. Not many people can stomach the idea of leaving a secure career to venture out in the unknown. With a more favorable economic environment and changing professional mindsets many are taking the plunge. Leading dailies carry encouraging stories of how young some of these entrepreneurs are. They are not shy to admit that some of their initial ventures have not been successful – they struck gold probably in their fourth or even fifth attempt. They have faced criticism and negativity such as being an unstable employer, inability to scale up quickly etc. – but at the end of the day many have managed to weather the storm by sticking to their decision and staying resilient.

Therefore, managing change is not a one time exercise, sometimes it takes days, months or even years to accept a situation or a person in our life. But change is a constant companion and without it life would be rather mundane! Eventually the idea is to enjoy the journey, hence lean into that support system and power of positivity – the rest will fall in place.

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