The Importance of Coping with a Change in the Workplace

by Kenya Lucas

Change is part of the fabric of the workplace – anything from a new colleague joining your department to the company moving its headquarters constitutes a change. Some workplace changes are predictable while others seem to come out of the blue. Your ability to adapt affects both your professional and personal life. Balance your own needs and values against those of your company. Focus on as many positive aspects as possible. And, finally, use coping strategies that are proactive and harmonizing.

Maintaining Job Satisfaction

Your response to change can affect satisfaction with your job. When you do not cope well, you risk being less enthusiastic and, ultimately, can emotionally distance yourself from daily tasks. If, for example, your company undergoes restructuring – which increases your workload – take actions to avoid feeling helpless. Talk with your superior about how to prioritize all of your duties. Find new ways to energize yourself such as setting new professional goals or rediscovering a favorite hobby outside of the office. Remind yourself that your efforts still have positive results for the company.

Preventing or Reducing Stress

Stress wreaks havoc on your quality of work and life. It comes from many sources like being written up by your supervisor or operating in emergency situations all of the time. Whether change comes through a workplace event or appears to be written into your job description, find positive ways to prevent or respond to stress. Look at your situation differently. For example, if your boss falls ill and you are named interim director, be optimistic. Embrace the opportunity to strengthen your leadership skills instead of feeling threatened by the challenge. Increase your social support at, and outside of, work.

Preserving Relationships with Colleagues

When you are unable to cope with change it can have negative outcomes for your workplace relationships. Sometimes a change in your company creates competing demands. An example is when your “best friend” at work is promoted to be your boss. While you have a strong emotional connection, his new position and office politics demand a shift in your regular interactions. If you cannot make the personal and professional “leap,” you risk being unclear about his management expectations, undermining his authority or otherwise damaging your personal bond. Communicate openly and honestly to better understand and reconcile your adjusted roles.

Empowering Yourself

Triumph over change to empower yourself. Your workplace experience is about finding creative ways to solve problems. Identify and respond to each change with the goal of becoming a better professional overall. If, for instance, you are charged with a new project that seems overwhelming, reorganize it into smaller, manageable tasks. If you receive a memo from management that the company’s hours are changing, line up a meeting to discuss creative ways for you to balance those hours with personal obligations. While tackling developments head on will not always translate into the results you hope for, they will make you feel like you have more control over your professional destiny.

About the Author

Kenya Lucas has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in “Anthropology & Medicine,” “New Directions for Evaluation,” “Psychology of Women Quarterly” and “Journal of the Grant Professionals Association.” She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Brown University.

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