Seven ways to overcome fear of change in the workplace

Change is an inherent part of life; the trick is to see it as an opportunity to challenge yourself and learn

Ruben Montenegro

Our brains are programmed for survival, not for happiness. That’s why change can often startle or overwhelm us. We see it as an attack on our precious “comfort zone” and become defensive. It’s curious because change is a natural part of our lives: the cells of our body renew themselves, nature transforms itself, yet we panic because of a department reshuffle or a new boss. So let’s see what we can do to find the positive side of change in our professional environment.

Seeing change as positive is not just good for us, it is also good for the people around us

First of all, collect reliable information. If you want to feel overwhelmed, listen to rumors from the company or on social media. They are like the Ebola virus. Rumors get into our cellphones and work departments and set up shop. What’s more, there are purveyors of bad news who take genuine pleasure in alarming everyone. Listen but be skeptical. Look for other sources and compare information. It is very likely that what you hear on the grapevine is not going to happen at all.

Second, put things into perspective. Get some distance from the consequences that the change could have in your life. When we were younger we tortured ourselves over exams. But looking back now with the benefit of hindsight we see that they weren’t that important. A good way to do this is to follow the 10-10-10 rule: if this happens, what impact will it have in the next 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years? Another option is to ask yourself a second question: what’s the worst that could happen? 

Third, take action. Fear is a product of the mind that doesn’t stop churning over problems. Action subdues fear. When you see that a change is coming, take a step forward. Volunteer to lead the digitization process (if that is the case), to help with the restructuring process, or whatever the change may be. Put yourself in the learner’s seat. And if it looks bleak, at the very least you can update your CV and contact your friends. But don’t sit still. Think and act. This is the best way to reduce fear.

We can’t spend more than three years doing the same thing

Fourth, surround yourself with people who have an optimistic approach to change. We are social beings and we learn by imitation. If you think you are not good at something, follow people you consider to be good role models. Don’t surround yourself by victim types who like to complain again and again about the same thing. Complaining for a bit is fine, but you should walk away after and look for the right mentors – the people who will inspire you. 

Fifth, train the muscles of change. We can’t spend more than three years doing the same thing. We need to renew ourselves to avoid getting bored, to find new challenges and above all, to train our mind. Finding the upside of change is a skill that we can practice during calm moments at work and then introduce into our daily routines – like, for example, taking a different route home, trying a new flavor or listening to a different type of music. Whatever it may be, as long as it is different.

Sixth, find your “for who.” Sometimes seeing change as positive is not just good for us, it is also good for the people around us: colleagues, team, family… So when things get you down, think about someone important to you and take action for them. What would you like your children to say when this office shakeup is over? Or your siblings or friends?

And seventh, never forget that change is an inherent part of life and that we have the option to look at it as an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to learn, if we can follow these guidelines.

English version by John Clarke.


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