Six Keys to Surviving Organizational Change

Whether you choose to make a change or you have it thrust upon you, changes in your job and organization are inevitable.
Posted March 14, 2005

P.G. Daly

Whether you choose to make a change or you have it thrust upon you, changes in your job and organization are inevitable.

As I see it, there are several ways in which you might experience organizational change:

  • You change jobs by choice for a new opportunity or promotion;
  • You change jobs involuntarily as part of a reorganization;
  • You change jobs because of a merger;
  • You change companies for a new opportunity, locale or career;
  • You change companies as the result of being laid off, terminated, downsized, or right-sized (or whatever lingo is in vogue);
  • You change jobs because your boss or supervisor leaves or changes, or
  • You change jobs because the actual nature of your job responsibilities change.

    By looking at all the different possible change scenarios, you might conclude that we spend more time experiencing change than not. Therefore, organizational change is likely to impact you personally several times over the course of your working life. You need to have some strategies to fall back on so you cannot only survive, but thrive during these changes. A plan and method to approaching change is crucial to your success and peace of mind.

    Be Proactive

    Make the first move to introduce yourself to others both up and down the management chain. This not only sets the tone for the relationship, but also allows you to get clear on the working style of your boss (and employees, if applicable) so you can start with a clean slate and get off to a strong start. Remember, the relationship factor in business is more than half the key to success. You can know technology like the back of your hand and code miracles in your sleep, but if you can't relate to (and effectively work with) others, you're sunk.

    Never Burn a Bridge

    No matter how bad your last job, no matter what a horrible boss you had, you should never burn a bridge. That doesn't mean you have to be a wallflower and let someone walk all over you, nor does it mean you have to be factitious and sing the praises of idiots. However, it does mean you need to maintain your professional nature and not gossip or badmouth the last guy.

    Here are three good reasons why:

  • When you speak with others, you never know who knows whom;
  • You never know when you may have to work with this person again. It is a small world; and
  • It demonstrates poor character and is a bad reflection on you -- not the person you're badmouthing.

    Seek to Learn

    Every change brings about an opportunity to learn whether it is you or someone else who is the new kid on the block. If you find yourself on a new team, ask questions and seek to learn the existing processes and team dynamics as quickly as possible. Practice patience so you can strike a balance between your eagerness to learn and that ''new kid'' annoyance factor. The quickest way to blow fitting in with your new team is to show up either as the ''know it all'' seeking to change every last thing or as the over-eager person grabbing every moment to brown nose the new leadership.

    Listen Twice, Speak Once

    As the saying goes, we were given two ears and only one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak. This especially holds true during times of transition where everyone is sizing up everyone else, learning the new rules of the game, and getting used to working with one another. Not only will this help you learn more about the situation faster, it will also keep you from putting your foot in your mouth and begging for forgiveness.

    Let It Go

    Whether your last position was the best thing you ever knew or a long visit to a toxic waste dump, you need to let it go and start with a clean slate. Nothing is more draining to you or to those around you than to hear about how the current situation doesn't measure up or how you were so woefully wronged in your last position. Leave your baggage at the gate and don't allow your past to hold your current and future hostage.

    Lighten Up

    Unless you work in a few key careers (emergency room employee or military combat officer for instance), nothing at work is a life or death matter. What that means is that on your death bed you're never going to recall or care about who reported to whom or what job you did for 18 months in mid-1990. If you can keep the things that matter in perspective it'll be a lot less stressful and allow you to have a clearer perspective about the present as well as the future.

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