(Originally posted April 22, 2008. Updated April 14, 2020)
NOTE FROM SHAUN:
When I first wrote this, the world was in the middle of the Great Recession of 2008. It was, for a great many people, a nightmare. Few envisioned that things could actually be worse. Yet here we are, twelve years later, and things are indeed worse — a lot worse.
How this chapter in our personal stories will conclude, nobody can really guess with any degree of certainty. One thing for certain, however, is that the plot in each of our stories has taken a dramatic twist. And we play a big role in writing the upcoming chapters.
All workplaces undergo change from time to time. Sometimes it’s new leadership, sometimes it’s a new direction, sometimes the whole organization becomes transformed by growth, downsizing, mergers or takeovers. Change, even when it has a positive outcome, is stressful for most people.
Change creates uncertainty, and often challenges our abilities as we’re forced to embark on new learning curves. In today’s hyper-speed world, which seems in constant flux, it can be a little overwhelming. There’s so much change these days that a flourishing industry exists focused on ‘change management’ – with people telling us how to deal with it, cope with it, manage it, understand it and embrace it.
The best approach, though, isn’t trying to figure out how to survive change – it’s finding ways to champion it.
You see, change on its own isn’t intrinsically positive or negative, or good or bad. Those are value judgments we choose to place on it. Unfortunately, when it comes to the workplace, we all too often focus on the negative. We dwell on the dark side. It’s a shame, really, because change is something we should be looking forward to.
We do, of course, look forward to some kinds of change. Getting married, buying a new car, having a baby – there are many types of personal change for which we have generally positive associations. But in the workplace we often struggle to find the positives in change.
How you approach change is really a matter of choice. You can choose to be nervous about the uncontrollables, or you can choose to take charge of those things you can control. Try this: The next time you’re faced with changes in your workplace, make a point to list all of the positives you can think of that are associated with it. Once you’ve done that, don’t just wait idly by to see what transpires. Do everything in your power to make those things happen.
The beautiful thing about all change is that it brings new possibilities and new opportunities. Without change there can be no growth, no improvement, no creativity, no energy. And a workplace without these things quickly becomes stagnant and unfulfilling. Yes, it can be scary. Yes, there are risks. Yes, sometimes unexpected change happens because of unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances. But if you walk through the door of change with your head up, and your eyes and mind open to possibilities, great things can happen.