Adapting to change in the workplace

Health and Wellbeing

In this presentation learn helpful strategies and coping mechanisms when dealing with change in the workplace.

Key learning outcomes:

  • Understanding how change affects us
  • The transitions we go through when change occurs
  • Our emotional reactions
  • Different coping mechanisms

Adapting to change in the workplace

Adapting to change in the workplace

I'm Evelyn Garrett from Max Solutions and today we're talking about adapting to change in the workplace.

This is designed to be an interactive presentation so I encourage you to take notes if you're interested in learning a little bit more about how you can thrive within the workplace when change comes to you.

Presentation overview

This presentation will cover:

  1. Understanding how change affects us
  2. The transitions we go through when change occurs
  3. Our emotional reactions
  4. Different coping mechanisms

The visual presentation is available for download so help you follow along and give a but more structure to what we’re talking about.

In additions to the above outlines we'll also be talking a little bit about the sorts of things that we actually experience when we go through change and how this can affect your business as well. This particular workshop is for small business owners. So it's designed to help you to have confidence so that you can manage yourself and also the life of your business.

1. Understanding how change affects us

Change is not always a bad thing. It's important for our businesses to adapt when change comes to us. The world changes and it evolves, and so we need to adjust to that also sometimes as well. As individuals we may come to varying challenges within our lives, and so we also need to adapt as well. The organisation actually needs to change in order to survive within the market too.

Reasons why businesses will need to evolve:

  • Challenges to growth
  • Change in strategy
  • Review of business plan
  • Changes to technology
  • Consumer pressure
  • Changes to government legislation and initiatives

A recent example is with COVID-19 and we're still within that. As businesses, we've all had to change. We've all had to have our COVID 19 COVID safe plans in place. If you don't have these together, then you can't operate.

Change or Transition

The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades. What's the difference between change and transition?

Change is the external factor that can impact on the business and impact on you. Transition is what we go through to adjust within that change. This is our response to what we're feeling, what we're thinking and how we behave.

One of the challenges with this is that we, as people, we like to be on autopilot. We don't really like it when our routines change. We don't really like it when the normal is disrupted. This means that when change comes to us and we have to adapt, it can be very challenging.

Phases of Transition

We’ll go through the transition phases to give you an understanding of what you may have previously experienced or may experience in the future. If you have recently experienced high levels of distress because of COVID, for instance, there's just a few things in here that will just help you to know that what you're going through is okay. That it’s not only okay, but it's all very normal. At a global scale, we're all going through this too.

1. Separation (letting go)

The first transition phase is the separation. It’s the letting go of what was the familiar things that we were most comfortable with.

2. Transition

The next phase that we go through is the transition phase. This is when we recognise that change is here, and something's got to change because the ‘existing’ is just not working anymore or we're not able to continue in a certain way. The transition phase is looking at what can come with us and these are put in place to create a new normal.

3. Incorporation

All of this then becomes incorporated. This is how you know that there's a bit more stabilisation. There's an adjustment period that you'll have to go back through this phase. Even though the slide shows a stage-by-stage graphic, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a linear process.

Stages of Transition

What transition stages can you expect to experience?

1. Denial

Initially, there is a denial phase. This is where you think that it just can't be happening. There is a bit of disbelief that something so huge or even something quite small is (in a sense) challenging the normal that we have.

2. Resistance

We then go through a bit of resistance. You might experience anger or loss. Here might be some bargaining involved. For example, you try something else which means you won’t have to change.

3. Exploration

The next phase we'll be looking at is exploration. This is considering what are some of my options. You may explore what other people are doing. There might be asking a few more questions about what can be carried through.

4. Commitment

The final phase is commitment. This is the commitment to where we've got the new plans in place. You’ve refocused your vision and you know where you’re going. You’ve set new milestones and are working towards new outcomes.

Emotional reaction to change & transition

How do we react? Next, we’ll look at our emotional reactions to change and transition, which we’ve touched on already. Emotions you may feel are depression, anger, nervousness, stress, and denial. These emotions would be part of the resistance (stuck) phase.

How I think during change – REACTIVE

How you think during change is really important. You can be quite reactive. People who are reactive may tend to:

  • over-generalize
  • take things personally
  • be a bit pessimistic
  • have some black and white thinking
  • imagine the worst

These signs may mean that someone's quite resistant to the change that’s happening. They're still stuck in the resistance stage and do not want to move forward. Remember that this is a choice and it’s simply where someone is currently at in the stages of transition. There’s no need to judge people during this stage. It’s important to acknowledge what they are currently experiencing.

How I think during change – RESILIENT

How do we go through the process though and develop resilience? You can't just jump from here over to commitment. It can't just happen like that. There is a cycle that you have to go through.

To develop your own resilience there are some very specific things that can be helpful. Some of the things that you can do are:

  • Be specific

What is the change? What is going on? What am I noticing?

  • Focus on the issue:

Being able to focus on what the issue is, is really important. Often when change comes we know what our primary objective is. The primary objective could be the product or the service that you deliver as you as part of your business. But when change comes there can be secondary tasks that we do rather than focusing just on our primary tasks.

  • Be optimistic

Being optimistic is really important. Knowing that even though it may not be completely clear what the final product or outcomes are going to look like, having the optimism that we've gone through this whole process, lots and lots of times and we've been able to recover every time.

  • Exceptions and middle ground

Setting expectations and being able to negotiate with people and also with yourself on what your expectations are is important. For some people who are quite stuck in this area, there might be scope to negotiate.

  • Best/worse case scenarios

Considering best and worst case scenarios can be really helpful, because then people can plan for the best outcome or contingency plan.

Dealing with change & uncertainty

Dealing with change and uncertainty can be very challenging. How we do this is really important too. It's important that you have some pretty clear strategies for yourself of how you adapt to change on a personal level, because this will also impact on your engagement with other people, and your engagement with businesses.

Some things that you can do are:

  • Make sense of the changes – confront the reality
  • Accept mixed/variable feelings
  • Normalise reactions & track your progress through the change process
  • Regain control

Circles of Influence

Understanding the circles of influence can be very helpful for those struggling to make some kind of adaptation.

Sometimes it can feel like everything is out of your control. For example, work and business changes, personal relationships, parenting stress etc.

The circles in influence are split in to the following:

  • What you are concerned about
  • What you can influence
  • What you can control

If you ever feel that everything is out of your control, slow it down and try to tease out all the things that you do have control over. For example:

You can control:

  • What time you wake up
  • The way you respond to pressures
  • Your relationship with customers
  • Your workflows

Navigating Transition: Aim for the Three “Cs”

Let's now get to some practical things. The Three Cs look at:

  1. Take Control
  2. Keep Connected
  3. Maintain Commitment

Take Control

Taking control is about you being actively involved and participating with the change. It's actually engaging with it. It's being open to what's happening there and contributing your own ideas as well. This is how you can take control.

Then also acting on the plan that you've developed. It's important to participate, contribute your ideas, act on what you can control, take up different opportunities, and also look after yourself. Taking up different opportunities can also help you to just have a bit more understanding about the new levels that you might be able to engage in and it might actually bring out some different strengths for yourself as well.

Keep Connected

Keeping connected is also very important for navigating through change. It's important to talk with other people about change. If looking directly within the business, you might want to talk with your team about what you're planning to do, what you're hoping to do, and also directly how it will impact on others as well.

If you're a sole trader, have a business meeting with yourself because this will help you to validate everything that you have gone through, and it'll help you to debrief what you might be letting go of and what you're trying to implement as well. Networking is also a great example as well of how you can stay connected as well within your own industry.

Providing encouragement to others. Don’t be afraid to connect with other businesses and share successes and challenges.

Maintain Commitment

Commitment is about you, when you have your action plan, putting your energy into the most important areas. Commit to focusing on the primary tasks at hand, don’t be distracted by the secondary tasks.

Change is exhausting. There's a lot of learning that people go through. If you're already spending a lot of your energy just dealing with your emotional change or your thoughts through all of that. Being divided within your business strategy can also be quite taxing on your on your energy as well.

Participate in making the decisions. Again, this is another really important thing to review what you have in place, and then this way you can adapt to little things that might need to be changed as well while you're creating your new plan.

Types of Coping Mechanisms

1. Emotion Focused Coping

There are different types of coping mechanisms. We'll talk, firstly, about the emotion focused coping. These strategies would be attempts to actually manage your own emotional distress. This might be recognising the mood that you might be in - if you notice that you're feeling quite anxious and it spikes quickly. It can be helpful to notice this on a scale from 0 to 10 where you experienced that anxiety. If you can be more aware of how stress impacts on you, then you can regulate your emotions a lot better so that you can then pull back, calm down and then you can be thinking a lot clearer.

When people experience high levels of emotional distress people, they often quite tend to cry or they might be venting or yelling as well.

The crying aspect It's not a bad thing. It has been known for some people when they get stressed could be in a pleasant conversation and then, all of a sudden, tears will just start rolling down their face. This is also the body's way of supporting you through change. It's supporting you through grief and it's helping you to let out some of that stagnant energy.

Sometimes just stopping, taking some quiet time to just meet with yourself can be very helpful to process all of the stuff that's been just sitting there.

2. Problem Focused Coping

For problem problem-focused coping we can use the acronym PEEP.

Define your PRFERRED outcome

EXCEPTIONS to the problem

EXISTING resources

PROGRESS made so far

Another useful strategy for problem focused coping is MAPS.

Generating MULTIPLE options

Ask HOW rather than why (HOW helps to create strategies for getting through change)

Turn PROBLEMS into platforms for solutions

Use small SMART steps (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound)

Self Care and Resilience

Even though all of this chaos and change is going on, your self care is very important. You are the driving force behind your business and your vision. Your own health is very important. Some helpful examples for self care and resilience are:

  • Put work into perspective (work is just one aspect of your life, make time to not think about work)
  • Play
  • Learn something new
  • Spend quality time on relationships
  • Take both shot & extended holidays
  • Be kind (to yourself and others)
  • Laugh
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Plenty of sleep

Some other things you can do:

  • Engage with your GP
  • Talk with a counselor, psychologist, social worker
  • Connect with EAP (employee assistance program)

How to relax

Learning how to relax is also really important. Correct breathing is important to know. For meditative and relaxed breathing, it's best to do the diaphragm breathing. I know that I'm breathing correctly if I hold my hands on my stomach, and if I breathe in my hands will expand a little. And then breathing out, they'll come back together. That's how I know that I'm taking a full deep breath, and not a shallow breath.

This can be really helpful as well with people who experience anxiety or panic attacks. If you can breathe down through the diaphragm and have the focus on the out-breath. This can be really helpful to just calm those nerves and help all of that energy to cycle through properly.

Mindfulness to relieve stress

What is mindfulness?

  • Consciously brining your complete attention and intense focus to you’re here-and-now. Experience with openness, curiosity and receptiveness
  • A heightened sense of awareness of sensory stimuli: noticing your breathing, using the five senses
  • Being “in the now” rather than being caught up with thoughts and feelings

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