How to Navigate Organizational Changes

Organizational changes - these two words are very common in corporate America and for a lot of people, they come with a lot of stress, fear, and panic attached to them. Changes in your organization can result in layoffs, demotions, promotions, relocations, you name it! All of those possibilities have their own challenges attached to them so it is only natural that you might be overwhelmed by just the thought of a reorganization at work. Because this month on The Stress Less Show has been all about managing job pressure, I decided to bring on leadership and talent development expert, Sarah Noll Wilson.

Sarah’s interest in organizational change began when she faced major changes while working for an insurance company in 2008. In the midst a round of layoffs where one of her good friends was losing her job, Sarah was told that she was getting a promotion. “The whole department was brought together... They're talking about, ‘We let go 20 to 30 people but it's not all bad news, we promoted Sarah Noll Wilson,’ and I just sunk in my chair... They hadn't considered what I was losing as a person. They hadn't considered the loss I would be experiencing. That completely overshadowed what should have been a good experience.”

This experience became the catalyst for Sarah to begin her work as an executive and leadership coach to help them lead their organizations through changes effectively. Through her work, Sarah has learned so much about the effects of organizational changes on stress and she came on the Stress Less Show to share her tips on staying calm and navigating your professional life during an organizational change.

Tip #1: Acknowledge what you are really losing

When we are faced with changes in their lives, it is common to feel fear and anxiety. However, Sarah’s first tip is really about understanding where that fear is coming from. “It's not that people fear change because we actually change all the time. Humans are wired to change… People don't fear change, they fear loss. And that loss could be a loss of a job which would be significant. It could also just be an imagined loss.”

You may be worried that a reorganization in your job will mean losing touch with your favorite coworkers or boss. You may even just be afraid of moving to a new office and losing your familiar routine. All of these losses can fill you with sadness and fear, it’s only natural. So, Sarah notes that is important to investigate the feelings you have around these perceived losses and where they are coming from.

“I believe in a curiosity first approach...Taking that time to reflect will help you better understand what's the root cause that's causing the stress. So it might be, ‘Oh I'm sad that I lost my job, I'm sad that we moved locations and now I have to drive downtown instead of out west which means 30 minutes less with my kids. Okay, now I understand that.’... It's important to open the curtain so to speak and look at the whole picture.”

Tip #2: Ask yourself what you might be gaining

You’ve heard that cliche, every ending is a new beginning? Well, there’s a reason it is repeated over and over again. In the midst of a major organizational change, there is a big focus on the losses and negatives. While it is important to understand those feelings of loss, it is just as important to take the time to consider what gains you will receive because of these changes.

Getting laid off can feel really painful initially, but there is another side to this change. You have the power to view a layoff as an opportunity for growth and take your career to the next level. While it is important to go through the grief process and process your feelings of loss, the next step is to look ahead. When we get out of that space of fear and loss, we step into an excitement for the future that can take us even farther than we imagined before.

Tip #3: Remember that this change is temporary

Often times when we are faced with changes, the emotions we experience are so intense that they feel inescapable. Sarah’s final tip is simply to remind yourself that all of the pain and discomfort caused by this change may be hurtful now but it is only temporary. Maybe, you have to report to a new manager now that you can’t stand or you have been given new job responsibilities that you did not ask for. Sarah stresses how important it is to not only remind yourself that it will not last forever, but also to remember your own agency.

“Sometimes I think we don't take the agency to make those choices, but this job isn't going to last forever… It's really helpful for me to remind myself this is temporary. This isn't going to last forever. And then it gives me some courage and some power to be able to tackle it or [it gives me] a little bit of energy to have some endurance to get through it.”

You can learn more about Sarah Noll Wilson by going to her website here. Also, we are so excited to announce the grand opening of The Stress Less Space - an intentional space for women to relax and recharge away from the chaos of everyday life. Find out more by clicking this link. Hope to see you there sometime!