How to find your power when dealing with change at work
One day when I was in the 5th grade, I was riding my bike to school on a small country road.
I was about halfway to school when I heard a vehicle coming up behind me. I turned my head to see a white pickup truck bouncing down the road in my direction.
I was pretty sure he saw me but I made sure I was fully on the right side of the road on the shoulder. I grabbed the handlebars tightly and steadied myself as I braced for the truck to go by, my little legs still pedaling so hard.
This was not the first time a truck had passed me on this road. So I fully expected to feel a breeze from the truck as it went by.
What I didn’t expect was a loud, obnoxious “Woof!” in my left ear as the truck flew by.
Okay, that was my attempt to sound like a very large barking dog.
Turns out, there was a big dog in the back of that truck who decided to say hi to a little girl on her bike right in that moment.
I was so startled I drove straight into the ditch next to the road and flew head first right off my bike and in to wet grass.
Books, lunchbox, glasses and all.
I’m sure it was a YouTube worthy moment. Thank goodness there was no YouTube in those days.
I can promise you the next time I heard a vehicle come up behind me on that road, I had some extra information in my pocket to prepare myself.
I became more keenly aware of the possibilities for what could happen when a truck goes by you on a country road.
And I learned what I need to do to become more resilient to prepare myself to stay out of that ditch.
Does this experience describe how you feel when change happens all around you at work?
We all just want to get on our bikes and get to school, for crying out loud. But you don’t know what you don’t know, and that can be really frustrating.
Constant change is just part of being in the workforce today.
It’s lovely to say that we wish it wouldn’t change so much and remember how it used to be.
But work is now very competitive and companies have to run fast to keep up with changes in your industry.
This means that:
- leadership teams shuffle around more often,
- technology gets outdated more quickly and has to change, and
- markets get more unpredictable and require fast changes for companies to stay afloat.
And all that can add up to uncomfortable changes in how you do your work.
Remember in yesterday’s episode we talked about how resilience isn’t just about what you’ve already been through. You can use your own strengths to help you stay forward focused to weather what’s ahead of you.
The same formula applies here.
The first thing you have to remember here is to not take change at work personally.
It’s rarely about you and almost always about trying to survive to live another day.
Instead of complaining about how all these changes are affecting you, you can take a more offensive approach.
Use this time as things are shuffling and moving around to assess what you would like to see in your job.
- Are you really feeling SO challenged and engaged in your job?
- Is there some scenario where you would be okay with seeing some things change so that maybe you can re-engage in your work?
Ask yourself a series of questions to help you come up with some ideas in the middle of all this change happening around you.
- What’s working for you?
- What’s not working?
- What skills would you like to continue to develop or deepen?
- What other levers could you pull to achieve some larger career goals?
- What do you want to do? There’s a wild question.
You don’t have to necessarily share your answers with anyone. But knowing what options you might have can help you have a little more power in those times when you feel like you have very little control.
The second thing to remember is to avoid sitting and stewing about all the negative possibilities in your situation.
Ruminating about all the things that are going wrong or could go wrong with all this change leads to a feeling of hopelessness.
And it certainly removes your power from the situation. Resilience is all about keeping your power so you can access it when you need it.
Because you answered those questions I mentioned earlier, AND you made a list of your strengths from yesterday‘s episode, you already know what you bring to the table. 😉
Now you can walk through a different perspective.
Not a paranoid one that thinks all of these changes are about making me miserable.
But a perspective that helps you learn how you might contribute to some of this change in a positive way.
Instead of replaying your scary movie in your head over and over again, challenge yourself to look for all of the possibilities and sniff out your opportunities.
Which leads me to this.
One of the most important things you can do to stay flexible and resilient through change at work is to stay away from gossip and rumors.
This is your kryptonite.
Sorry I just mixed a barking dog in a pickup truck analogy with Superman. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Gossip is the one thing that sinks many good people. When things change at work, we can be filled with fear.
Every little snackable morsel of information that comes your way is like kindling on a fire that stokes your fear.
To be fair, sometimes poor communication during times of change makes you desperate for any communication at all.
But the more you poke at gossip and entertain it, the more oxygen it gets and the brighter it burns.
Gossip takes away your ability to ask meaningful questions and find out where you have real power.
Instead it wants you to position yourself as the victim.
Now you’re more concerned about what’s happening to you and how you can protect yourself instead of focusing on your strengths and what you’re grateful for.
And for what might still be ahead.
You can’t avoid change at work.
And you can’t avoid all the ways it might affect you.
But you definitely have the power to use what you know about yourself and challenge your thoughts about what you see happening around you.
You have this power all day long.
Knowing what strengths you bring to this equation will help you keep your hands firmly on the handlebars, and hopefully, keep you out of the ditch looking for your glasses.