“Like it or Not . . . ” Strategies for Coping Effectively with Organizational Change

Intellectually, we all know change is a fact of life. Even unwelcome change can present new opportunities for growth. But when it actually “happens to us,” things can temporarily feel out of control, and we might be unsure of how to cope. We like to rely on a certain level of stability and predictability at work, so it is natural to feel some disappointment, anxiety or frustration when things suddenly change. Below are some tips for managing these reactions in a way that lets us maintain good job productivity and a positive state of mind during a period of transition:

Don’t take things too personally. Most organizational change is due to numerous factors beyond individual performance or conduct. As always, keep the lines of communication open with your supervisor regarding your job performance and professional development.

Figure out which aspects of the new work situation are negotiable and which are not. With things in transition, managers and supervisors might show increased openness to good-faith suggestions that could boost everyone’s job satisfaction and productivity.

Find safe ways to discharge negative feelings by talking with friends and family, writing in a journal, or through moderate physical exercise. Generally, it is best to avoid venting anger to managers or co-workers without careful thought about what you hope to accomplish. If you have difficulty managing your anger about a change at work, a mental health professional can help you figure out how to better do so. Check on whether your company has an Employee Assistance Program, which typically offers free, confidential counseling for personal or job-related issues.

Try not to cope with your stress in unhealthy ways such as compulsive eating, exercise, or spending; “workaholism”; alcohol or drug abuse (including caffeine & nicotine). If you already have some of these tendencies, now might be a good time to seek professional help so that the addictive/compulsive behavior does not exacerbate your problems at work.

Make a conscious decision to invest more time and emotional energy in other meaningful aspects of life. When we are completely “thrown” by a change at work, this can be a sign that our identity is too tied up with the job. Some possibilities are to sign up for an adult education class; pick up an old hobby; or plan a series of weekend outings with your family.

Resolve to maximize the positive aspects of work, especially if you are unhappy with new job responsibilities or a different work environment. Find opportunities to collaborate with co-workers you really enjoy; consider volunteering for special committees or agency-wide events that can enhance the quality of everyone’s work life; use your lunchtime to see friends, read for pleasure, or take walks on nice days.

Remember that nothing is ever static. Circumstances could change again soon, making you wish you had not wasted energy getting upset about the original change. If you are able to adjust to whatever changes occur, maintaining a good attitude and strong performance, you will be keeping your options open. You might even be surprised to find unanticipated benefits to your new work situation!

Good Things to Do For Yourself

  1. Improving basic self-care: food, sleep, exercise, medical compliance
  2. Renewing a commitment to your religious practices or spiritual path
  3. Putting time & energy toward worthwhile projects (e.g., home improvement, volunteer/social action)
  4. Increasing your time spent with loved ones and/or working to create better quality interactions with them
  5. Making it a priority to “try something new” every day
  6. Seeking professional help for some long-neglected health or emotional problem
  7. Reading from a book of affirmations (positive or inspirational thoughts) at the start& end of each day
  8. Giving yourself more permission to express your preferences and opinions
  9. Letting yourself make art or music, even if you have “no talent”
  10. Finding new ways to connect with the natural world (e.g., hiking, birdwatching, picnicking, collecting rocks, stargazing, dipping your toes in a stream).