Handling Transitions at Work

I was at a meeting in which a c-suite executive proclaimed that her organization had experienced too much tumult lately.  This organization had decided on a new policy: managers in new positions would now have to wait a full year before changing absolutely anything.

Halleluyah.

It is well known that in the business world, people starting a new job will try to make their mark immediately, and this inevitably involves many transitions that may or may not be in the best interest of everyone involved.  Since human beings are not big fans of change, this often causes quite an uproar.

A Fact of Life

It’s good news, of course, that senior leaders are becoming more enlightened, but this does not mean that re-organizations and management upheavals are going to go away.  They are a fact of life.  And how you conduct yourself in the midst of a transition says a lot about you as an employee.  If you think about it, you have two choices: 1) you can leave the company, or 2) you can stay and add value through the transition.

Minding Your Reputation

If you choose the latter option, it’s critical that you are perceived as flexible, capable, and supportive of the company’s direction. When the rug has been pulled out from underneath you and you are thrust into an unfamiliar work situation, it’s tempting to develop a bad attitude and express your displeasure to those around you. This is not a good approach.

Moderate to significant transitions in a company often mean new faces, lots of first impressions, and extra scrutiny from leaders watching to see how the staff is adjusting to the changes.  As this is playing itself out, make an extra to do the following:

  • Drink the Kool-Aid – at least externally.  Tell yourself why this transition is good for the organization and for your career and banish any negativity around it.
  • Get a face-to-face with any new players who might have a say in your destiny. Educate them about what you’ve achieved and why they should care.
  • Offer to pick up any slack that might result from changing roles and responsibilities.  Do a better job at extra tasks than anyone expects.
  • Be patient.  Things may not go back to normal – if ever – but keep focused on the big picture.  The business world is evolving rapidly, and adaptability is an important skill to develop if you are to be successful long-term.

Managing Uncertainty

If you know a transition of some sort is coming, but you don’t have the details, the best thing you can do is anticipate the change and prepare for it as best as you can. Allow yourself to get used to the idea of a new situation gradually, and begin to think about new opportunities that could arise as a result. Consider how you will deal with the worst-case scenario and create a plan of attack for getting through it. Once that’s done, recognize that the situation is out of your control and forget about it for the time being. Worrying will not increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. Instead, you’ll most likely drive yourself nuts in the process.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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