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handle big change at work

Why do we all fear change so much when it comes to our work? Without it, we’d never get promotions; we’d never learn anything new, and there would be no such thing as a career – just a groundhog day of predictable daily chores and duties you’ve done a thousand times over. The colleagues we started out with would be the colleagues we retired with. And innovation would be frowned upon. Sure, it might sound easy – but it’s far from inspiring.  

It’s a good thing then, that despite our fears, change is inevitable – both in life and in work. Often (far more often than we think), change is a positive thing – keeping life fresh, keeping your brain active, and keeping things moving forward. What’s not to like?

The most important thing is learning to adapt to change in a way that will be beneficial to you and those around you. Here are some tips to handle big changes at work with poise and ease.

You really do

Don’t Panic

The first time you sense that change is on the horizon, panic can set in – regardless of what that change might be. Your brain is filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys’ and has an unhelpful way of predicting catastrophe. How could you possibly work from a new location? Why on earth would your boss be leaving? Why are you being put in a new team? Why, why, why? How about asking, ‘why not’ instead? Try as much as you can not to let the unknown become the enemy and stop turning mystery into a meltdown. Acknowledge your feelings of worry and trepidation, of course, but recognise that they are wrapped up in layers of panic that are not grounded in reality. Once you’re feeling calmer, it’s time to find out exactly what’s what.


Get Down To The Nitty Gritty

This is the important bit. The part where you do get to the bottom of things. Communication is key when it comes to processing change in a positive way. If you find your company aren’t keeping up their part of the deal in this, there is no harm in proactively trying to find out more. Getting the details, of course, does not mean aggressively pummelling on doors for answers. Instead, calmly and rationally organise a meeting with somebody who can tell you more. Crucially, once you do know more – try not to have a knee-jerk reaction. Take time out to think through this new information – then assess your situation. Ask more questions if need be – never fabricate answers or make assumptions. Chances are, once you know the real deal – you’ll be able to start making a plan and your distorted visions of the future will shift into a clear (and likely far less daunting), focus.   

Eliminate The Negative, Accentuate The Positive

Here’s the fun part. In change there is almost always opportunity. Even things that at first might seem difficult or negative can end up working out for the best. Getting made redundant might be the push you needed to set up as a freelancer. That’s what you always dreamt of, right? New management who at first seem overly formal and uptight might end up being way more considerate when it comes to maternity leave. That new job role you’ve been thrown into might actually end up being more enjoyable, despite a difficult start. The list goes on. The important thing is to stay in check with how you are framing change. A negative mindset will likely lead to negative outcomes – but if you frame change with a positive attitude, approach it in a lighthearted and upbeat manner, good things will likely come your way. It’s not a bad way to deal with things outside the office, either. Frame the changes folks – and let the good times roll.  


Look Over Your Shoulder, But Keep Moving Forward

Rose-tinted glasses are a dangerous thing – but people love wearing them when there’s been a big change. Fine, slip them on and enjoy the view for a while, but don’t get caught up in reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ for too long. Living in the past doesn’t do anyone any favours. Instead, gather up the best parts from the past, and then move on. That might mean keeping in touch with old workmates if you’re changing departments or leaving – or it might be a case of looking at the great skills you’ve learned so far, and working out how you might be able to use them in your new role. As time goes on, you’ll find you’re looking over your shoulder less and less and powering on with your new challenge. Before you know it, change will strike again and this will be the very position you’re feeling wistful about. Enjoy the ride.  


Dominique Afacan is the co-founder of Bolder and a freelance editor and writer based in London.




The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.

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