Career Tips for Embracing Change

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” – Robert C. Gallagher

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The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is famous for his beliefs in change as being the fundamental essence of the universe. Two notable quotes attributed to him are “change is the only constant,” and “you cannot step into the same river twice.” At some point in life, people may encounter the values embedded in one or both quotes. Why is it common place that the average individual is often circumspect about change?

I have come to the consciousness, that the emotions I felt in response to an announcement of change were not peculiar to me, but also shared by many of my colleagues. Indeed, we experienced the various stages associated with change, as espoused in the Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model. That interesting framework describes how people respond to and deal with change. Intrigued, I promptly engaged my web browser to further research and better understand the model. I was pleased to find out that: my reaction to change and those of my colleagues were significantly normal; initial responses and the various stages of changes are in no particular order – people generally respond to change differently anyway; and that individuals start the process it at different times, and may linger at one point on the curve, before transiting to the next.  An understanding and appreciation of the Change Curve helps one identify what stage one is in, and to address one’s emotions to move forward.

The change curve may be summarised in these three stages:

1. Shock or Denial

This is usually the first reaction to news of change, and the first stage for many people. Expressions such as, “I don’t think we need this now,” “we have tried this several times before, this won’t work,” “why now?” spring forth at this stage. People feel that their current ‘ways of working’ achieved the desired result, and need not be altered. They then try to focus attention on anything but the change.

One useful tip for dealing with this stage is to acknowledge the change, and the fact that it will not go away. In that way, one would keep an open mind, to understand the ‘why’ and the expected outcomes. Another tip is communication, and keeping oneself informed by reaching out to peers, bosses, mentors, and asking constructive questions that could assist in acquiring a better understanding.

2. Resistance (Anger and Depression)

At this stage, anger, fear, anxiety, and depression creep in. Often times, such anger is repressed as one would not want to let it show. That leads to frustration stress and subconscious emotional outbursts. A typical question that pops up in one’s mind at this stage is, “what will be my fate in the new dispensation?” It is important to note at this stage that one might not be alone, and seeking support through discussions again with colleagues, bosses, peers, help contain the emotions, and allow for constructive advice.

I gleaned also that documenting one’s fears is another useful tip for this stage. Writing down what one is most afraid of, and what one would do should those fears materialize provide succor and a back-up plan to deal with such change. It also helps replace the negative thoughts with positives.

3. Integration and Acceptance

An optimistic stage, after having experienced and overcome the previous stages – and for some people the first and only stage. Here, individuals have accepted that the change is here to stay, are realistic about the situation on ground – in the organisation or industry, and are looking forward to what the future brings. Statements such as, “I believe we can make this work,” “I am ready to be a part of this winning team,” “yes, this is what we have been waiting for.”; and so on on get voiced voluntarily here. One begins to perceive the bigger picture and visualizes brighter prospects in the new setting.

As professionals, it helps to realise early that in career journeys change will be the only constant. Change may come in the form of a new role, a new boss, a new team, new priorities, or through technological advancement and automation of the business processes. It is inevitable, and given the fast-paced, rapidly growing world we live in today, very crucial for an organisation’s success and survival. It is therefore advisable for everyone to have a positive mindset to and embrace change.

Over the past few months, Ericsson has introduced certain changes aimed to reposition the organization positively. It feels good to be a part of an organization that is innovative and then supportive through the transition process. From weekly letters by the CEO, meetings with our organisation heads; through sessions with HR, the communication has been lucid, consistent and helpful.

In sum, it is vital that one keeps a positive attitude to change, conscious that one’s disposition to change impacts the company’s fortune. The smoother it is for one to implement change, the easier for the organization to achieve its goals and attain success. In the words of Gail Sheehy; “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living”.

Have you dealt with, or observed any other reactions to change? Please share!

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