If the high New Year’s resolution failure rate is any indicator, navigating change is a significant challenge—and those are changes you decide to make. Changes in the workplace are often unwelcome. “It’s much easier to navigate change when you feel like it’s your choice. This often isn’t the case at work,” says Phyllis Mufson, career coach, @phyllismufson.
This may explain why success rates related to change are so low. One 2013 study found only 25 percent of companies are actually able to sustain change over time.
Workplace change comes in many forms, from a new office software program to changes in job title, management or department. How well you adapt to these shifts depends on many factors, from your personality to how the change is introduced and managed. But whatever the change and how it arrives, there are some strategies that can help you accept and adjust more successfully.
Know yourself. “Some people, whether because of genetics or life experience (nature or nurture), have a harder time coping with change. The good news is that however you respond now, there are actions you can take, habits you can build that will help you become more resilient,” says Mufson.
Acknowledge your feelings. We often don’t recognize or acknowledge how change is affecting us. “But it’s not a surprise that it would be,” says Tamar Chansky, PhD, and author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety: 4 Simple Steps to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want. Accepting the emotions that go along with it, and that you are going to have them, is one of the first steps toward adjusting.
Give your discomfort an end date. The adjustment to change is temporary, says Chansky, and people should recognize it as such. It can vastly lessen anxiety about change to estimate how long you think it will take you to adjust and get back to normal. Sometimes it will take more or less time than your estimate, but reinforcing the transient nature of change will be helpful either way.
Empowering self-talk. Avoid creating negative scenarios that may not even occur. Instead focus on the evidence at hand, says Mufson. Recall times where you successfully adapted to change to shore up your confidence.
Take control. “Although worries tend to be overblown, they are often created around a kernel of truth. Are there big layoffs looming? Is it possible your job really is in danger? It’s time to update your resume, chronicle your successes, and revive your network,” says Mufson.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The 2013 study mentioned earlier also notes that while 87 percent of managers were trained to help employees with change only 22 percent found training effective. So speak up if you don’t understand, says Chansky.
Take small steps. If you undergo a large change, for example, moving to a completely new department with all new coworkers, take small steps. Try to connect with one person to start. “Don’t think: how can I get in the middle of the whole thing,” says Chansky.
Focus on life outside of work. Having other interests, such as hobbies, or time with friends and family can help you navigate professional changes, says Chansky. “Your job is not your whole life,” she says, and knowing that will help protect your self-esteem when going through a rough patch.
Don’t ignore it. It's easy to avoid thinking about a big change by binge watching television shows, eating ice cream by the carton or going on a shopping spree, but ultimately you’re just avoiding the problem, and it will be there waiting for you when you rejoin the world. “When you face your fears and act, even if you don’t get what you want, you’ll feel greater self-confidence and control,” says Mufson.
Get help. Sometimes a change pushes you beyond the bounds of what you can handle on your own. Seek help if you feel like it’s affecting your heath or wellbeing or you are acting out at home or at work, says Mufson.
Understand your resistance to change. “We’re creatures of habit and changes at work move us out of our comfort zone,” says Mufson. But adopting tools to manage the stress of those changes can help make the transition easier accept.