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How to Cope Effectively With Change in the Workplace

Change in the workplace is normal and so is feeling uncomfortable with it. Here is how to cope with change in 6 steps.

By Alexandria Hewko  •   June 6, 2022  •   8 min read

How do you feel when you walk out of a company town hall or annual general meeting (AGM)? Do you feel confident that there are new processes and more highly skilled teams on the way to save the fate of the organization? Or, do you feel unsure as to why all this change is needed? Maybe you didn’t even see why the organization “needs saving” in the first place. 

When change in the workplace occurs, it’s normal to feel a wide variety of emotions, ranging from negative to positive (or even neutral). If you’re struggling with accepting change in your work environment, you’ve come to the right place. We’re discussing some of the most common examples of change in the workplace and six best practices for coping with them!

Examples of changes in the workplace 

1 Technology changes

By now, we’re all familiar with how the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to digitize many of their processes, including sales outreach. New innovations like 5G and IoT are now being adopted by more organizations—even by older industries like insurance! The increased use of technology in organizations also allows for more automation, which can mean a significant change to human workloads. Changes in technology can impact employee training to learn the new technology, hiring practices to seek out those with more advanced skills, or possibly even team staffing to reduce the number of employees on certain teams. 

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2 Adapted company culture 

Company culture is the shared belief system and set of values that the employees of an organization hold together. Some organizations may have theirs formalized, but many companies, especially smaller ones, will not have their culture documented. Netflix, for example, has a dedicated “Culture” section of their careers site that describes what values and behaviors they expect employees to practice. Shifts in company ownership, trends in worker expectations, and decisions from investors or parent companies may spark changes in a company’s culture.  

3 Different company goals

Companies set goals to meet the demands of the current competitive market. As new competitors enter the market with different offerings and capabilities, other companies continuously shift and adapt to remain competitive. Trends, political factors, and requirements from investors or end users may also affect a company’s decision to shift goals. For example, corporate social responsibility (CSR) became a big focus for companies in the 1970s after the Committee for Economic Development formalized the concept between businesses and society. 

4 New roles

Whether you’re the one taking on a new role or the structure at your company is changing, there will be a lot of movement happening around you. Teams can expand to add new roles, or entire teams can be added. The strategic direction of the company will impact which new roles may arise, which in turn may present either an opportunity for new co-workers or an opportunity for you to take on a new challenge in another role with the company. 

5 New co-workers 

New co-workers may come into your workplace for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the team is expanding or experiencing turnover. On one hand, in small organizations or startups, teams may only get one new employee a year. Enterprise or high-growth organizations, on the other hand, may onboard hundreds of employees at a time. 

Let’s look at an example of how the number of new hires may impact your team. To start, a small team of 3 people will be greatly affected by one new team member, as there will be a 33% increase in available work capacity. A team of 100 that brings on 30 new employees within a month or two will also see similar increases. For both teams, the growth effects may feel the same even if the starting team size is very different. However, if the team of 100 only brought on 1 new person, there is only a 1% increase in workload capacity, so it may feel a lot like less of an impact unless you work closely with the new employee.

6 Schedule changes 

If you’re a planner, you’ll know this one is a bigger deal than most people think. Many roles—like project managers and executive assistants—rely heavily on a schedule to keep projects on track. Poor planning, unforeseen risks, and underestimated baseline plans are some of the main reasons schedules change. In other cases, it may be because the people working on the project made a decision to postpone or even cancel certain items on the schedule. In any case, a schedule change could mean the activity is pushed to a later time, or even to an earlier time, both of which require a schedule reconfiguration. 

7 Organizational structure changes 

In 2020, 58% of companies said that their business needed to reinvent their business every three years or less to stay competitive. Often, when a business changes a core aspect, they’ll make adjustments to their organizational structure. This may come in the form of an entirely new team, or it may mean the removal of one team that is no longer serving the goals of the organization. Additionally, companies will often see organizational structure changes when they are acquired by or merged with another company. 

How to cope with change in the workplace 

1 Offer help

Change is a time of uncertainty. One way to make that uncertainty a little more, well, certain, is to ask questions and offer to be involved. Getting involved with the project can provide you with some new insights into how or why a change might be taking place. 

If your team is experiencing turnover, onboarding new employees, or shifting goals, reach out to your affected team members and see if there’s anything you can do to support them. Even if you may not be able to make decisions or actions that would improve their experiences, just the fact that you’ve extended your offer and shown your care may help morale. 

2 Communicate your concerns

As you shouldn’t be afraid to offer help, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it either. 

If you’re feeling concerned with an aspect of the change process, make sure to communicate your concerns to your manager during your next one-on-one. Your manager’s role is to ensure that you have a positive, growth-filled experience with the company. As an alternative, you may consider reaching out to others in the organization or even into your professional network to see if anyone has dealt with similar situations before. Hearing from others’ experiences can be a great way to learn what has worked and what hasn’t so you can make the right decisions moving forward. 

Manager and report question illustration

3 Stay open-minded to new opportunities

Change means leaving the familiar behind, but it also means opening a door to growth and new learning opportunities. With a growth mindset, you can make the most out of challenges presented by change to become a better, more knowledgeable, and more self-aware version of yourself. Adopting a positive mentality as well can often enable you to seek new benefits from the job. To do so, you can retrain your thinking from, “I can’t believe that I won’t be able to work on my best skill anymore,” to something more positive and growth-oriented like, “I can’t believe I get to practice new skills so that I can widen my toolkit of capabilities!

4 Keep relationships strong 

Change really tests relationships. Whether a new employee is joining the team or an old one is leaving, you may find yourself needing to develop new relationships with people. 

You may also struggle to maintain relationships when a manager or close colleague needs to make a decision that is not in your favor initially. In these situations, you need to trust that the people close to you in the workplace are doing their best for what is needed in the current moment. When the time is right, these same people may be able to honor your commitment, hard work, and loyalty like you had continued your trust in them during difficult changes for the organization. 

5 Plan for roadblocks 

Most organizations are fairly good at putting together a plan for the changes to take place and to provide everyone with a path to follow. However, challenges like schedule delays, budget cuts, loss of team members, or lack of information may prevent or delay the change. If the change is prevented or delayed, it’s important to be agile and do your best to work with the information or resources you have available. When in doubt, ask questions to learn more information or see how you can support your coworkers.  

6 Understand why these changes are being made 

Change is hard to accept when you’re unsure why it’s happening. You may think, “But, why would we change when the old way of doing things was working so well?” 

Often enough, this perspective happens when you aren’t informed of the full picture. There are an infinite number of reasons a company may choose to take a new strategic direction, onboard a new team, or make any other change in the workplace. Again, it’s helpful to stay informed by asking questions to the relevant people in the organization.

Parting advice

As markets and industries shift faster than ever, there’s no doubt that companies need to continuously stay agile to compete. Being affected by change in the workplace can be stressful and annoying when you’re not fully informed or prepared. Staying in touch with company updates, asking team members for support, or even doing some external research can go a long way towards making changes easier to manage. 

If you’re looking for more involvement in your company’s decisions, consider asking your manager if any change management teams are looking to bring on more people—getting involved in the change process could be a good way to stay up to date with updates while also expanding your role!

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