What is managing change?

Change management refers to a range of approaches used to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations make organizational changes. Change is anything where we “make or become different.” A variation from our usual way of doing things. Change is a part of the human experience. Whether we like it or not change is often out of our control, an unavoidable part of life. It is something many of you experience regularly at work; new team members, policy updates, being moved to new queues, changing mealtimes, and the list of small changes you adapt to on a daily basis is endless. We process these smaller changes easily with the ability to add them to our daily routine without too much extra energy. However, some changes take more of our physical, emotional, and mental energy. Leaving a job to move on to new things is one of those big changes. Big situational changes like this often require support to help us transition mentally and physically from the old to the new.

Why can change be difficult?

There are several reasons why change can be tough! Amongst the reasons outlined here, there might be 1 or more that you can relate to, whatever the case be kind to yourself around this time. Change is hard, it is completely normal to feel scared, out of control, and down when going through life changes. Being able to relate to the examples below and know why you are feeling this way about change is helpful when it comes to coping and transitioning.

  1. Uncertainty and Lack of Control

Most humans do not like uncertainty or feeling like parts of their lives are out of their control. However, some personality types struggle with this part of change more than others. Leaving the safety of a well-known routine behind for something new and possibly unknown can feel threatening. Thoughts like “What if I can’t find a new job? Or What if I don’t like my new job? What if the people aren’t nice?” are completely normal. The unknown can seem scary.

  1. Sense of Loss

Leaving a job can bring a sense of loss. Loss of co-workers whom you got on well with, loss of routines and habits that felt safe, loss of a role you enjoyed, and loss of a part of your identity. The last one can surprise people, but we spend over 1/3 of our waking hours at work per week, so what we do often becomes part of our identity over time. Leaving this role can feel like a loss of that part of your identity.

  1. Discomfort and Stress

Change requires us to exert effort on things that may be outside of our comfort zone and so change is nearly always accompanied by a level of emotional and psychological discomfort and stress.

  1. Fear of Regret

When making an active decision to change can lead to worry about regret. Fear of making the wrong decision, particularly regarding an important part of your life like work is normal. However not letting this fear of regret take over is key to positive outcomes and transitions following the decision for change. We can never be certain that our decisions will go the way we hope and accepting this is important in managing any feelings of regret.

  1. Anger

Some people experience anger as part of the change. It is normal to feel angry at others, yourself or the circumstance, especially if you feel the change happening is unfair or out of your control. Know that this feeling of anger is normal but try to manage it through talking to others, problem-solving, and acceptance.

How can I manage change?

Change is the physical situation i.e. leaving your current job. Transition is the emotional and psychological process we need to go through to cope with and positively manage change. The tips below go through the 3 stages of transition. Be aware that it is not easy. Be kind to yourself and don’t judge yourself for getting stuck at step 1 for a little while, letting go of the past is often the most uncomfortable and emotionally challenging.

Step 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go 

  • Trying to have an ending you are happy with is an important part of leaving the past behind and moving toward the future. Having a chance to say goodbye to all friends and colleagues at work, resolve any issues that remain with Team Leaders, and check in with the wellness team for any worries about leaving, is a good way to bring your time here to a conclusion in a positive way.
  • Acknowledge and respect for the past is important. Try and practice gratitude for the positive things this role brought you, the opportunities you had to make a difference, meet a diverse group of people, learn new skills…anything at all you are grateful for from your time in the role. This action may be done by writing down what you are grateful for or just taking a couple of quiet minutes to think through these things daily when you first leave your role
  • Letting go is difficult, but we cannot transition to a new stage if we are still stuck in the past. If you find your mind is constantly going back to thoughts of your old job try and transform these into more helpful thoughts such as, “I am grateful for what I learned in that role and excited for the future.” One thing ending means the beginning of something new.
  • Radical acceptance. Learning to accept reality as it is rather than spending time wishing/regretting the past is not easy. However, knowing that certain things are out of your control and accepting this wholly in thought and actions will make the transition easier. Acknowledge and respect the past, take gratitude for it, let go of that time and accept your new reality.

Step 2: The Neutral Zone

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”- Winston Churchill

This is a period of uncertainty for many. It is a time of both “what was” and “what will be.” It is normal to feel worried, nervous, or a bit lost during this stage. However, this is a great time for opportunity and growth. During this time of change, it can be helpful to reflect on the skills you’ve developed and the experience you have and think about the opportunities that await in the future.

  • Make a list of things you want to do going forward. They might not be work-related and may be centered around spending time with family and friends, further studies, relaxation, reading, etc. Having a list of things to hand can help you remain focused and positive about the future as well as prevent boredom and isolation.
  • Set some goals. Think of a few short-term goals to work towards during this change period. Make sure they are specific and achievable. A goal such as “Learn guitar” is too broad if you’ve never played an instrument before and don’t even own a guitar! A more achievable and specific goal might be to start guitar lessons or learn a specific song.
  • Talk to those who have been through a similar experience before. If possible, take time to talk to past colleagues or friends who have transitioned from a role like yours. You will feel better and less isolated in your experience and might even get some ideas about the next steps, or ways to manage the transition from this role.

Step 3: The New Beginning

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect”- Alan Cohen.

The final stage of transition is beginning to move into a new routine and leaving the past role behind. This involves new behaviors and new thinking. It might involve applying for and starting a new job or applying to go back to education. Whatever the new beginning might be you know you have reached this stage when you are fully absorbed in the new activity and are no longer thinking frequently about your past role, the content, the policies, or the routines.

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