Personally Surviving Resistance to Change

The winds of change keep blowing – growing stronger and stronger each day. This wind is striking more people. It is reshaping more organizations and changing how they function.

Change is as far-reaching as it is rapid, cutting across all sectors of our society, cultures and economy. Change is affecting businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations.

We always read about how organizations are coping with change. In this article, I would like to focus on how you personally are coping within this sea of change.

Some people cling desperately to the past. They hang on to what is familiar, snuggling ever deeper into their comfortable routines to avoid the chilling thoughts that they might have to change. Someone said, “No organization is so screwed up that somebody doesn’t like it as it is.” Change always means giving up something, and the higher the personal sacrifice, the more you feel like dragging your feet.

Another reason why people defend the old way of doing things is to maintain personal stability or feel more in control. They battle against change out of fear of the future, not because of love for the past. If uncertainty and ambiguity get on your nerves, you cannot get very excited up about “progress.” The more you dislike unpredictability, the more you are likely to protect the status quo.

The third group of people resist change as a way of getting even. They play “punish the company” in retaliation for changes they do not like. We are talking here about plain old revenge, and the fascinating thing is to watch how people are willing to damage themselves just to get back at the organization.

Finally, some change resisters are well-intentioned people who think they see the company about to make a mistake and have the courage to try to stop it. They fight change because they either have the company’s best interests at heart or have enough nerve to take a stand. However, frankly, these people with good intentions often happen to be wrong. In trying to save the organization, they shoot themselves in the foot.

When the winds of change hit your organization, here’s the bottom line: Resisting does more harm than good. To begin with, you could get nailed for being oppositional, and someone may accuse you of causing trouble, getting in the way of progress. That could easily damage your career.
Instead of trying to hang on to the past, grab hold of the future.

The way you look at the situation – how you mentally frame it, and the conclusions you reach determines how you react to organizational change. Your thoughts can cause you to resist, or they can cause you to embrace and support the change.

Of course, a variety of factors shape your thinking. Each person translates events based on available information and their background – their experience, wants, needs, fears, hopes, values and beliefs. It is human nature to filter the data choosing what you’ll pay attention to or ignore. You weigh the information in a very personal way, sizing up the situation and drawing conclusions that reflect your own perspective.

Frequently people develop a negative mindset based on misinterpretation, faulty assumptions, ill motives, or wrongheaded thinking in general. Change hit. The organization bounces. Things start breaking. Employees interpret the upheaval in a distorted manner and come to the wrong conclusions.

It is understandable that a person would be upset or disappointed about certain aspects of the changes. However, how long should you let these feelings go on? Two weeks, six months, a year? Are you going to hold a grudge for five years? Many people do.

You can concentrate on what is going wrong and become preoccupied with things that are aggravating and upsetting. Or you can be a “change agent” and throw your energies at correcting problems. So, get caught up in the new directions of the organization. Take control of this chance to learn and grow. Deliberately choose to be positive, optimistic, and enthusiastic. You will benefit far more than the organization will.

In today’s world, business, as usual, is business as Un-usual. This is the norm, not the exception. Change has become the new status quo. Consider a central part of your job description to be personal responsibi1ity for managing change. That seems to be a core element of every job.

Complaining, however, is not the same as contributing. If you wish to flag a problem, be prepared to suggest workable solutions. Have the courage to report problems to management and not just go around griping.

This is YOUR organization that is changing. If the changes run into problems, you, as a paid employee of the company, have a responsibility to help fix things. That is the best way to protect your paycheque and your career.
You have heard the line: “They said cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.” An upbeat attitude and a good sense of humour will not keep you from being hit by trouble, but they will help you handle it if you are hit.

For years, we have heard the saying: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Psychological and medical research solidly confirm this, humour is good therapy. It helps you keep things in perspective, and that is important today.

Change usually offers plenty of reasons to be upset, worried, and confused. You can laugh at the craziness of it all, or you could choose to cry. Either one would be an understandable emotional reaction to the situation.

Crying may be cleansing, but humour is healing. So, choose laughter. It also helps keep you from blowing all the aggravations out of proportion.

The best way to predict the future is to help create it. This suggests that the best way to know what is coming is to put yourself in charge of creating the situation you want.

Be purposeful. Look at what is needed now, and set about doing it. Action works like a powerful drug to relieve feelings of fear, helplessness, anger, uncertainty, or depression. Mobilize yourself, because you will be the primary architect of your future.

One of the keys to being successful in your efforts is to anticipate. Accept the past, focus on the future, and anticipate. Consider what is coming, what needs to happen, and how you can rise to the occasion.

Stay loose. Remain flexible. Be light on your feet. Find the funny stories you will be able to tell in the future about the current situation. Instead of changing with the times, make a habit of changing just a little ahead of the times.

Next Edition: I know what I need to do to change, but . . .

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