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  • Vanessa Barajas, MPH

Navigating Change in the Workplace

In our fast-paced and interconnected world, agencies and organizations face constant change. It could be a change in technology, needs of the people they serve, funding, and regulations to name a few. They must continually re-evaluate their strategies, systems, and business models. Agencies and organizations must make changes not just to survive, but to also thrive. The issue with change is that we as humans are creatures of habit, so we enjoy doing things a certain way especially when we’ve been doing it for a long time.

It can be difficult to hear someone tell you, “We are changing your role.” or “We are changing your responsibilities.” Just from reading those statements did you feel anxious, uncertainty, resistance, or fear? If you did, you're not alone. One in three people would avoid change if they could. Thankfully there are positive ways to navigate change.

When change is occurring in your agency or organization:

  • Keep an open mind about why things need to change

  • Consider the impact of your agency or organization failing to adapt

  • Be flexible and don’t be afraid to learn new skills

  • Be patient and understand that getting comfortable with new ways of working may take time

Change can be scary but acknowledging your feelings, facing your fears, and talking to someone about it can help you overcome your fears. The last thing you want is for fear to hold you back. You could also utilize a journal and write down your feelings. Sometimes we just don’t know what we just don’t know, and by journaling you are reflecting on your thoughts which can give you the insight you need to understand where your resistance is coming from.

Of course you can’t forget about mindfulness to help you navigate change. Remember, you are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts and can ultimately choose to attach to them or not. Being mindful of your thoughts and emotions during change can help you retake control of the driver seat and shift the way you respond to change.

It can also help to find opportunities during change. When change is happening there is opportunity for you to learn and grow. Find out how you can be involved to make this change happen. Change is a lot less scary when you are an active part in it so get involved!

Additionally, it's important to focus on what you can control. You can control your thoughts, mood, words, and actions. It can be useful to write down what you can control. For example, you might identify giving feedback to your supervisor about how the change is in your control. You do have control on how you decide to communicate your needs in a respectful and professional manner.

To help yourself focus on big projects or even big obstacles, try breaking them into small pieces. Ask yourself what you can achieve today and focus on the problem or project one piece at a time. Focusing on what we have control over gives us an understanding of what choices, decisions, and communications we can make to better navigate the change. Be sure to celebrate your personal progress along the journey too.

If problems occur:

  • Be mindful that you are in the learning process so don’t give up

  • Help your colleagues adapt to the changes

  • Notify your manager, supervisor, or upper management if it is something you need additional support with

In general, we don’t resist change, but we often resist being changed. It is human nature to fear change. Breaking up what you know as routine is often uncomfortable and destabilizing, but by practicing these techniques, you can be more in control of navigating the ups and downs of change with an open heart and positive mindset.

If you want to learn more about how change is impacting our lives and what we can do about it, listen to the latest podcast episode on A Mindful Moment with Teresa McKee. Click here to listen.


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