Managing Through Change: An Employee Perspective

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunities.”

Albert Einstein

Thanks to the current pandemic, employers are now faced with a myriad of new challenges all aimed at keeping business afloat beyond the current crisis, while watching daily for the recovery curve to take new form. Companies are forced to conduct business differently; thereby accelerating the rate of change for the organisation – from the introduction of new digital services to new or restructured operational models.

This level of change however, does present new opportunities for employees to learn and grow as the business continues to evolve. Interestingly, I recently came across a Harvard Business Review article entitled “The Hard Side of Change Management”. The article sought to highlight an important factor in managing change, arguing that “Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on what factors most influence change.” The authors articulated the fact that “It isn’t easy to change employee attitudes towards change since it is deeply ingrained in organizations and people.”

As business leaders, we all know that this pandemic has brought about a whole new level of doubt, fears, and anxiety amongst the work force. With so much uncertainty before us, the challenge facing employees managing through this change has been intensified ten times over, particularly in cases where the coping skills necessary for managing change may have been underdeveloped. The fusion of business uncertainty due to the current economic outlook, coupled with increased employee fear and anxiety make for a very tense, unproductive, and somewhat volatile work environment. This obviously proves counterproductive in the face of declining business performance.

So how can employees survive this period of uncertainty and increased anxiety?

There really is no easy or straightforward answer to this question because it all comes down to the individual employee’s mindset and attitude towards managing through change. Employees must be mentally prepared to grow through the pain in order to gain new experience. If we consider the acronym PGE, which stands for Pain – Gain – Experience, as introduced by John C. Maxwell during one of his “Leading in Times of Crisis” webinars. The concept argues that first the employee will encounter pain as they maneuver through the crisis but this same pain allows employees to gain some valuable lessons and even enhance or even acquire new skills, which ultimately adds to a wealth of experiences.

Employees therefore must maintain an open mind in these changing circumstances as it helps to better embrace change, while creating the resilience needed to overcome underlying fears. Where the opportunity presents itself, there is great value for employees that are prepared to step up and step forward while repositioning themselves to do more and expand their knowledge. While by no means discounting the feelings that many employees are experiencing since these are quite normal for the times we are living in, employees simply should not allow themselves to wallow in negativity or fear as this will only have a further adverse effect on overall productivity and individual performance.

It is vitally important that we as employees realise that now is the time to elevate our contributions. In these overly complex and volatile times, it is so much easier to default to what we know; that warm, fuzzy place called our “comfort zone”. Nevertheless, we must adjust our attitude and mindset so that we allow ourselves to be stretched, while taking intentional actions that guide us away from a place where we fail to grow. The notion of “smooth sailing” rarely adds any value to professional growth and many times creates a false sense of security.
The challenges and obstacles presented throughout this crisis have started to build the foundation needed to reposition our economy for the future. Now more than ever, businesses will need their most customer centric and solutions driven employees.

With the understanding that this is a very intimidating and overwhelming time for employees however, this phase can also prove to be one of our most defining moments. The right mindset, attitude and even the benefit of a good mentor, can ensure that our employees are also being repositioned for future. The idea of failing forward should be seen as progress too so we must be prepared to make the most important decision for our careers and – keep moving, keep adapting, keep learning and keep growing.

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