change signI work with a number of different organisations across a variety of sectors and they all have a common theme – constant organisational change. There seems to be a perpetual conveyor belt of change management projects big and small regardless of the nature of the organisation.

Most organisations have got the change management technique down to a well oiled machine. Options for change are identified, researched thoroughly and presented to employees for consultation prior to a final decision. The employees have already been notified in advance of impending change. Once the submissions from staff are considered any adjustments are made, the restructure is announced and on we roll to the next change item on the agenda. The process of organisational change has become the new normal in the workplace.

In a conversation with a colleague today who was about to have their annual performance review, they indicated that they had been told the function they perform in their organisation was likely to be centralised as part of a shared services arrangement. The life expectancy given for their role was around 18 months. Unless of course a place was found for them in the new structure.

No matter how much we get used to change in the workplace it does not take away the impact of being told you personally, or your team are under review. It is doubly stressful when a possible scenario of terminal employment is mentioned at the outset which draws the obligatory question from us – “how long have I got doctor”?

We live in a society that sees our lives finely balanced when it comes to income and expenditure. The ease of getting credit has seen us willing to take on greater risk when it comes to levels of debt. If the supply of income which fuels the lifestyle we have fashioned for ourselves is threatened it is inevitable that stress and anxiety are going to take hold.

As workers we seem to respond in different ways to change in the workplace. Here are some of the modes of response I have observed:

Passive: These people ride the change to its eventual conclusion even if that means the loss of their job. They cling to employment as long as possible and accept their fate.

Fighters: They are not happy with the proposed structure and use the consultation period to make sure that their alternative ideas are fully heard. If the organisation is going to cut them loose they are not going to roll over and make it easy for them.

Adjusters: These individuals choose not to expend energy fighting against the inevitable. While they may still make contributions to the consultation process it is not their main survival strategy. They assess the situation and decide what the best outcome is for them then they start implementing their own change management strategy.

Everyone is wired up differently and responds in different ways to the challenges of organisational change. Personal circumstances too can influence the course of action we take. There is no right or wrong approach to coping with change but I do see that ‘adjusters’ are under represented when it comes to people facing restructuring in the workplace.

Some of us end up with tunnel vision and become focussed on the change as a threat and are unaware of the possibilities it may present for us to further our career. Sometimes it is as simple as having a paradigm shift in perspective and seeing change as a positive opportunity to reassess where we are going in our career. Often when looking back we can see that getting booted forcibly out of the nest has worked out really well. We just didn’t think that at the time.

If any of you are thinking of becoming an adjuster then these are the types of questions that adjusters ask themselves:

  • How can I turn this situation into something positive for me?
  • Are there temporary transitional role opportunities here I can put my hand up for to further my experience and enhance my CV? (making the best of a bad situation)
  • What roles in the new structure can I realistically target getting? How am I going to market myself to get the inside running?
  • What useful development/training opportunities can I get my employer to pay for as part or the exit package of going quietly?
  • Even if I am given notice of termination – what are ways that I can still be a positive influence in this organisation in my remaining time? (I need the best reference possible to give me the edge for the next role I apply for).
  • Maybe I’ve decided to up-skill or change tack with some part-time study – Would my employer be willing to give me ongoing employment on a reduced hours or casual basis to help me? (if I don’t ask I don’t get).

Copyright: HR Development and Training Ltd