Coping with organizational change

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“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

-Victor Frankl

By Karen Gleason –

THQ employees attending the Coping with Organizational Change Workshop—presented by the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offered through Aetna—received an overview of the effects of high-magnitude organizational change on an individual plus strategies to successfully navigate such changes.

After a reminder that a high-magnitude organizational change impacts the employee’s whole life, not just the work life, facilitator Debra Wardell asked the group to recall past changes.

“How’d you get through it?” she asked. “What worked for you?”

Helpful characteristics include flexibility and responsiveness, and the ability to not be rigid—instead, ride the wave of change finding a new balance in life.

The key to being a resilient person, Wardell said, is to “be aware and acknowledge how the change is affecting you.”

In fact, denying the significance of the change is one of the stages of change, which are losing focus, minimizing the impact, the pit (lowest point on the mood curve), letting go of the past, testing the limits, search for meaning, and finally, integration.

A person does not always progress through the stages in order—someone can be at stage six and then suddenly be back at stage two.

As people begin to let go of the past and focus their minds forward, they can prepare for the future and how they will be within their new circumstances. These later stages of change are empowering and lead to the final stage—integration—when the transition is complete.

It’s important to remember that individuals have a choice in their response to change; they can adopt the “Eeyore” response or instead be “change tolerant,” getting over the initial shock and looking forward to what’s next.

“A person’s level of resiliency is the most important thing that sets anyone up for success,” Wardell said. “Who you choose to be and how you choose to show up influence everything.”

She suggested that people list their priorities, noting that once that’s done, they can create an action plan.

Wardell emphasized the importance of self-care, which is often the first coping technique people abandon during times of change. Something as simple as deep breathing can counteract the physiological effects of stress and help a person calm down and focus.

Finally, seek additional support if needed—social and emotional support is a huge factor in quality of life.

“You probably don’t have control over 90 percent of your life,” Wardell said. “What you do have control over, though, is small but powerful—your thoughts and how you choose to be.”

Beyond its use in surviving work-related changes, the information provided in the workshop is applicable to any of the myriad changes people constantly undergo.

Employees left the meeting with handouts of the workshop content, a worksheet to help guide them through a major change, and information on other resources that EAP offers.

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