If you work in the corporate world, there is a very good chance that you have experienced some type of reorganization in the past 18 months. Any change like this comes with worry and stress because many things seem to be out of our control. As change author William Bridges said, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.”
From a logical perspective, it's not changing from "A" to "B" -- that's the easy part. It's what happens in the weeks and months as you transition from "A" to "B" that makes it hard. Getting as many facts as you can will help you have more control during the transition. Here are a few tips to help navigate the change, especially if you are a virtual worker:
Understand the full context around the change.
While it's always important to know where the company is headed and why, it's even more critical when change is happening. Working on a distributed/virtual team makes this knowledge even more important. When you are working virtually, you don't see what's physically happening in the office. When the brain doesn't get the information it needs, we start to create stories in our heads about why something is or isn't occurring. To avoid making up these stories, ask questions and gather information from your contacts in the organization, no matter where they are located. Read message boards and external articles about the company. Through the use of informal instant messaging, texts and emails, try to get to the facts of what will change and what will stay the same. Use this information to get a big picture perspective on the change. Focus on the facts.
Don't let your emotions sneak up on you.
With any change, you must face and acknowledge that you have feelings about what is happening. These could be amplified on a virtual team if you feel a lack of connection. These feelings could be similar to a death in the family, being asked for a divorce or feeling betrayed by a friend. We tend to ignore these feelings at first because "we are at work", and believe we shouldn't have an emotional relationship. The challenge is that many define themselves by their work and as a result are deeply connected. Acknowledging your emotions early on will aid you in making clear headed decisions during the period of change.
Make a self-assessment and see how you fit.
There are two aspects here:
- Assess your skills and knowledge in relation to how they fit with where the company is transitioning. You must be honest here and determine how well suited you are for the new environment. Is there a skill gap and how will you fill it? If the role you have goes away, what are you best suited to do based on your skill set? Decide who you are now, and find ways to convey that new identity to people in your in-person and virtual collaboration.
- Assess yourself from the perspective of your personal goals. Take a look at what's important to you, such as your significant relationships, children and friends. Where do you spend your time today and how will the current or impending change impact the time and energy spent in this area?
Remember the only reason you are stuck in a job is that you have eliminated all of the other possibilities like changing departments, companies or what you do.
Assume positive intent.
This has been something that has positively impacted how I have viewed others over the past fifteen years. It's rooted in the notion that people are generally good hearted and wake up in the morning with good intentions. Even the people you work with who are rude or self centered may be driven by the same things that drive you. They are just evidenced in a strange and ineffective manner. It's like someone writing with their left hand when they are right handed -- messy and inefficient. I'm not saying that you should be a naive boob! I'm asking you to "walk a mile in their shoes" before you pass judgement. Believe me, during a transition, you will experience all types of behavior. Focus on the real intent and give them a pass.
Stay positive and let go: Recognize that everyone you work with will make the transition at their own pace. Use positive language when you communicate and collaborate with others. Realize that you need to let go of the way you used to do things. Use positive language Don't expect your journey to happen all at once. Break it up into manageable steps. Focus your early efforts on achieving a few quick successes. They build confidence in you and others.
Use these five tips to feel some certainty at a time when there seems to be none.
* Source Bridges, W. (2009). Managing transitions: Making the most of change.
* Source adapted from Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey