How to keep focused during workplace change

I am taking an educated guess here – we have all experienced workplace change during our career.  Some great, some terrible.  When a major workplace change is underway —such as a Chief Finance Officer, CEO or a newly elected Premier, tensions mount among the organisation’s upper ranks.  Upheaval among the upper ranks of any organisation can send anyone into a frenzy mindset.

In the government world particularly, officials are elected according to a regular cycle, their expiration dates firmly in place from the start.  The fixed nature of this cycle affords employees and leaders the benefits of planning and foresight. On the flip side, the reality of political appointments or having a new CEO is that they often clean house upon arrival and some jobs may be lost.

When that new leader arrives, everything certain is uncertain again.  You make your way to your cubicle, brew your morning coffee or tea, and the first thing you do: absolutely nothing!

Then the questions start circling in your head. 

  • Is my job safe?
  • What happens if they replace my manager?
  • Will we merge with another government agency or team?
  • Will that project I have been toiling away at for the past 6 months be deprioritised?
  • And what will become of the team culture from happy hours to casual dress Fridays?

It may seem like a good time to make an impression to your new CEO, however, the best thing you can do is listen, observe and stop catastrophising.  You cannot predict what this new leader will truly be like until you see them in action.  Besides, you do not have the answers to these questions.  Think of what you can control in your sphere and stick to a plan.

Corporate restructures, upheaval and change management strategies can also be a major cause of stress for employees.  However, from my experience, take a positive mindset as change is full of new learning and career opportunities.

Remember workplace transitions and change take time.  It also takes time for a new leader to get a handle on a complex organisation in motion, and a deep reserve of patience will help you through the transition.  Along with patience, bring along a high degree of openness.

Many people welcome leaders because they are ready for a new approach to the same old problems.  This fresh take can benefit not the public that relies on its government or the customers that patronise a business, it can also help the employees.   Take the opportunity to challenge the framework through which you view your job, your role in the organisation, and the organisation’s approach to doing business. 

Here are some tips that might help you through a major workplace transition:

Show flexibility.  Recognise that restructures and change are a common feature of organisational life, and they are not personal.

Speak up.  Transitions are key times to make sure your contributions in the past and continued commitment to the organisation are well communicated.

Do not fear the process.  There is no need to be afraid of the process.  Take a different approach and become involved in it.  Not only will you demonstrate your capabilities, you will also enhance your skills as a result.  Companies value employees who search for ways to improve their team’s performance and are adept at implementing them.

Demonstrate grace under fire. Remain focused on previously established goals and timelines.  While panic may seem like a natural reaction, use the change process as an opportunity to demonstrate grace under fire.   Show your superiors that you are capable of meeting and exceeding goals no matter how the hierarchy may shift.

Stay healthy.  It is crucial that you continue to be active outside of work, connect socially with friends and family, talk openly with colleagues, eat well, limit alcohol intake and relax at home.  A restructure is not your problem to solve (unless you are the CEO!).  Perhaps you could take an extended weekend away to unwind.  Reflect on what you must do to stay mentally, emotionally and physically resilient.  After all, you are in charge of your life!