Recognise the emotions you have are in response to change.
Fear, anxiety, frustration, despair, anger and excitement; all are emotions associated with change. It is OK to feel some, or all, and many other emotions besides when it comes to change. What we must do is recognise it is the change that is causing these emotions, not other people.
If we centre our response to the change on our boss, our spouse, the government or anyone else involved in the change, we lose perspective. Concentrating on the person rather than the change means we are being ineffectual in our response. We lose control. Reasoned thinking is a strange bedfellow of high personal, emotional response.
Understand what change is happening.
Sounds simple, does it not? How many times though have we and others subject to change responded when we have known only half the story? Sometimes it suits us to only know half the story. It can legitimise our sense of injustice and feed our expression of righteous indignation. We don’t often get to feel like we do when we are in full flow, railing against a change which has been imposed against us “unfairly”.
However, it usually does us no good unless the proponents of change are weak.
It is much better to gather information; as much as we can get from different sources. Then we can verify fact from opinion, truth from rumour.
Only when we really understand the change can we start to control our response to change, which may tactically include some railing against the change to see how weak the proponents of change are. We may find, however, that the change is not what we thought and that a much less exuberant approach is warranted.
Reflect on other change you have gone through.
If we do accurately know what the change entails and we are still afraid or angry or otherwise upset about the possible outcomes, then it pays us to reflect on previous change.
When I was a small child and my mother and father had been away and were late getting back home, I always used to worry. I would picture them in a car accident or being held against their will or other such maladventures. I learnt probably by the age of seven or eight that nothing sinister ever happened and, in fact, they were mostly late because they were having an enjoyable time. I was worrying and they were enjoying.
That learning has stood me in good stead to always reflect on my past history with change. Did I find a way though it? Was it ever as bad as it seemed at the time? And if it was did I find a way with my friends and family to move on? The answers to those questions always give me some confidence there will be a way of getting through the change, even though it may be painful now.
Determine what change you want to happen.
When change is thrust upon you there is not the luxury time you can afford yourself compared with change you have planned yourself. However, the principles of planning for change are still valid.
After getting over the initial shock and making sure you understand what the change is about, it is time to begin to wrest back control.
What do you want out of this change (the real change, not the rumours)? What is your goal? For example, if people are being made redundant, do you want a job with the organisation or not? Do you want to pursue another career altogether or the same career in another organisation. Do you want to take early retirement? Do you want to fight to keep as many of the jobs as possible for your friends and colleagues by coming up with innovative ways to fix the problem that is the root cause of the redundancies?
It is your choice.
Find a mentor.
Sometimes it helps to have a mentor. A mentor is someone you trust to give reasoned advice, or more appropriately, to challenge your rationale for doing things by asking penetrating open questions. They will also have a knack of asking defining closed questions to get you to commit to an action.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes from all sorts of backgrounds. Their common characteristic is a certain sort of bluntness that usually only close friends can get away with. Often, however, they are not close friends. They are people whom you trust to be honest with you and are able to force you to be honest with yourself.
In most cases they do have grey hairs.
Recognise your choices.
When change is thrust upon us there is much we cannot control. Or so it appears at first glance. For example, the company has decided to shift the marketing function under sales and reduce the headcount by ten percent. What can we do?
What can we do? We can stay or go. We can gather facts and figures and argue the case of why it is a bad idea. We can gather facts and figures and argue the case about how reporting lines don’t matter, it’s the services that are offered that matter and here’s how to do it right. We can up-skill ourselves to understand more about sales. There is a myriad of choices which are under our control. The only thing not under our control is the announcement.
Over the time taken to implement the change some of our choices will close, however, new ones will open. Always, always be aware of your choices.
Choice delivers control.
Plan small steps to change in your preferred direction.
Once you know what you really want to do in response to change which has been imposed upon you, plan your next steps. If you are not used to change, plan in small steps for a short time ahead. Planning in small steps, for example setting up appointments, updating your CV, checking what your redundancy payout might be or checking the training options available, allows you to have a high degree of success. You will feel better because you will see progress and any setbacks will be seen more as one step out of ten that did not go right.
If at first you do not succeed?.
If your plan of many small steps hits that metaphorical bump in the road, don’t despair. It is one small setback amongst a wide range of activities you are undertaking. Regroup and replan and try again.
Persistence and consistency have won many battles where talent has not.
Celebrate small wins.
Take time to celebrate your wins as you execute your plan in response to the imposed change. Look back at where you came from occasionally to see how much progress you have made from the initial shock, denial and then emotional turmoil that had awaited you if you did not take control.
Not enough people look back to see where they have come from. In most cases it provokes a feeling of self satisfaction and steels you for the challenges that lie ahead.
Build your skills.
Last but not least, build your skills. Never stop learning. By continuously learning, two things occur. You have a greater array of options when change is imposed. You skill base is deeper or wider and your network is broader.
You become much more used to change. Every new learning environment you are thrust into under your own volition, is, a change environment. The same emotions of fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, at times, are apparent in small doses. You become more resilient to change in much the same way as a vaccine prepares your body’s defences against viral attack in the future.