by Connie Podesta
Like it or not, change is an integral part of today’s business climate. Those employees who embrace and initiate change will thrive, while those who complain and fear change may be headed for the unemployment line. Employers feel strongly about the need to have employees who are successful change agents for their team and their organization as a whole. What exactly is a “change agent?” An agent is someone who represents the interests of another person or organization, and his or her job is to take care of business and make sure everything goes smoothly. Thus, a change agent helps take care of an employer’s business by facilitating change. Are you a change agent for your organization? Can others count on you to make sure things go smoothly? Do you continue to take care of business in the midst of change?
Although some employees have been conditioned to fear change, we must not lose sight of the fact that change is normal, and most of us will experience unpredictable changes in both our personal and professional lives. In the workplace, changes can occur as a result of new thinking, advances in technology, innovation and progress, knowledge and communication, as well as mergers, takeovers, layoffs, and downsizing. These organizational changes can directly affect our professional lives as well as our personal lives. They may also lead to feelings of sadness, frustration, grief, and anger, especially when jobs are lost or worse, when an entire organization ceases to exist. So let’s discuss how we can make this normal life experience-change-as positive and beneficial as possible.
What’s Wrong with Change?
Employers want commitment to change when it’s necessary. Knowing that, then, why are so many people resistant to it? The number one reason is fear, although very few people are willing to admit it. None of us want to acknowledge that we doubt our ability to integrate new ideas, use new technology, or adapt to new organizations. We don’t even want to think about what’s ahead: new management, new ways of doing things, new terminology, new titles, and new job description. Fear can have several components:
Fear of the unknown: What will happen to my organization, my job, my life, as I know it now? How secure is my future?
Fear of not being in control: What should I do? Should I just wait around while they make decisions that could seriously affect my life?
Fear of being inadequate: I know how to do this job now, but will I be able to do it as well as they expect me to when everything has changed? And if I can’t, what happens then?
Fear of moving outside your personal comfort zone: I’ve been doing my job this way for years, and I’m very good at it. Why do we have to change what has worked so well for so long?
Plus, this is definitely not the time to drag your feet because managers are not inclined to take employees by the hand and lead them through the change process.
Communication is Key
There is no doubt that employees often view change from a different perspective than their supervisors. Many employees believe that management doesn’t understand their side of the story, and managers often feel it is the employees who don’t understand why the change is necessary. This is why communication is so vital during any change circumstance. It’s been said that lack of communication is the number one reason why personal relationships can develop problems, and the same holds true for relationships between employers and employees. Change will require open communication on both sides. Unfortunately, fear has the power to freeze employees in their tracks and prevent them from expressing their ideas and opinions. When faced with change we must always ask ourselves this important question: Does my resistance to change have anything to do with my own fears? That’s a tough question and one that’s not easy to answer honestly. It ‘s natural to fear the unknown and lack of control. We know that we won’t be quite as proficient at our tasks while we’re in the process of learning to do things a new way. We know we will have to work a lot harder. Are we willing to let go of the present to embrace the future? We may not know what the future will bring, but we are responsible for what we bring to the future.
The Positive Side of Change
If you routinely describe your current job as boring, mundane, or menial, then perhaps a change is good for you. One of the most positive aspects of change is that it is never boring. On the contrary, it can create passion. And passion-and the excitement, creativity, and energy that accompany it-is the spark that keeps us going.
Passion could be called the charge for our life’s batteries. Without that charge, it’s hard to get our engines revved up. That igniting charge is sparked by the challenge of change-learning new things, meeting new people, growing as professionals, and taking risks that push us to reach our potential. None of that can happen unless and until we are willing to experience the fear that inevitably arises when we move out of our comfort zones. No risk, no fear; no fear, no passion; no passion, no fun. If we want passion back in our lives, we must be willing to meet the challenge of change. What might that mean for you? Perhaps it might involve going back to school, learning how to work with a computer, working with a team, taking on new responsibilities, or redefining a career path. If you want to remain employable, you may have to change more than just your attitude and your reaction to change. You may have to change some of your ideas and goals to create a better future for yourself.
Embrace Upcoming Changes
Many people are content to live their lives by playing it safe. If fear, pain, and hard work are prerequisites of change, it’s easier to understand why some people are so dedicated to resisting it. They might be good at giving all the best-sounding reasons why this particular change is not right for the department, the organization, the team, or the customer. However, their underlying concern may be their fear about how the change will affect them-their job-their lives.
If you’ve been reacting negatively to change, it’s important to modify your attitude and your behavior before it’s too late. Think about what you really want. Comfort at all costs? The status quo? The good old days? If those are the aspects you desire-if that’s what you’re waiting for-then you will probably soon be out of a job. If, instead, you want challenge and welcome change, you will always be employable.