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How to Overcome Fear of Change at Work – Part One

Most of us don’t like change at any time in our lives. But to get ahead in your career you must learn strategies to overcome change at work.

It’s no secret that most people are averse to change. When it comes to change at work, this adversity is especially important to manage, as the impact on you, those around you, and even your career can have a direct dramatic impact.

The first step to overcoming your fear of change at work is to realise that some change can be good for both the company and you. People can grow accustomed to schedules and routines, which gives them a feeling of comfort. It may not be the most exciting prospect, but there is a certain sense of being at ease that comes with being able to go to work every day and knowing exactly what to expect. But, unfortunately, the lack of change is not always a good thing. It can lead to a stale, unbending work environment that is not able to quickly and effectively adapt to new opportunities. It may also hinder the flow of new, creative ideas that could lead to improved operations or the development of fresh product and service offerings. While change may be difficult, it can also be tremendously beneficial to both the company and to you.

You can usually sense when change is afoot. Even if you’re not attuned to the rumour-mill that exists in every office, you’ll hear word when things are about to change. Take time to watch and listen carefully to your co-workers. Whether it's a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change (or even the anxiety over impending change) can unsettle you and negatively impact your performance as well as your mental wellbeing. This is especially the case when change threatens you're comfortable and stable routines. Take time to observe and listen to the pulse of your organisation, and then take steps to deal with the anxiety that you may be feeling.

Firstly, try and reach a state of acceptance. Recognising and accepting change will be the first steps toward managing it. Then, acknowledge your fears. When you fear change, it can sometimes be an abstract, ill-defined concept. Write down your fears on paper so you have them in a concrete, objective form and then you can begin the process of unpacking them and being to stop dwelling on them. Then go through each one and jot down what you would do in the event that fear came to pass. Knowing you have a backup plan can defuse emotional angst. A great piece of advice is to ask yourself “What would be the worst thing that would happen if...?” We guarantee nine times out of ten the answer is usually “nothing”.

Next, learn to accept your feelings and seek support. When you’re going through a change at work, it’s going to feel uncomfortable, no matter how beneficial it may actually be. Depending on the change you may be coping with loss of co-workers, a project, prestige, or simply your predictable routine. You may be experiencing a variety of fears. Expect and accept those feelings and reach out to others to share your experiences, reactions, and emotions. Talking with your colleagues, your partner, your friends will make you feel better and remind you that you’re not alone.

Throughout the whole process of change at work, try to show fortitude. Fear can come from creating negative (or even catastrophic) scenarios about the future in your mind. In other words, your anxiety and consequential fears largely result from how you view the change. How do you describe the upcoming change to yourself? What are your negative beliefs about this change and how you handle change? Think of past situations when you had to deal with change. Ask yourself questions about times you’ve successfully navigated change in the past. What was the situation? How did you handle it? What worked for you in how you handled it? Take good care of your health? Were you active in seeking solutions? What personal qualities did you exhibit that helped? Were you persistent? Going through this process of examining your concerns in detail will be a good way to dispel your fears.

If you can’t change the change – join it! If there are new policies afoot that means a major change in how your department handles its work moving forward, don’t shrink from it because it’s inevitable. So why not put your hand up and offer to be part of helping to initiate it? It will both help dispel your own fears, and help you completely master the new paradigm at the same time.

In Part Two, we’ll look at more ways to help you overcome your fear of change at work.



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