Four ways to successfully manage change in the workplace

By now, you’ve probably heard about the new ban on telecommuting being implemented at Yahoo! The corporation’s latest CEO wants workers and teams to be side-by-side in an effort to improve employee communication and creativity. The change has obviously brought about strong negative feelings from employees and critics from outside the company because they feel it is a decrease in workplace flexibility. But, the simple fact that it is a change is also likely another cause of anxious feelings because something familiar is being phased out.

Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, when policies and procedures change (especially ones that have been in effect for a long while), it can be difficult to adjust and do things differently. Even when the change is seemingly positive and welcomed, it will probably mean that you’ll need to learn and adjust to a new way of doing things. Rather than get thrown off track, start planning how you can successfully transition and incorporate new changes into your work life.

Keep your emotions in check

You may want everything to stay exactly the same and hearing that there will be new policies and procedures can make you feel uncomfortable and unsure. Try to keep negative emotions under control so that you can strategically plan your next steps. If you’re freaking out, you’ll have a harder time crafting a plan of action. When you’re tempted to complain, pause and remind yourself that you are in control of your emotions and have the ability to see things in a positive light.

Gather all the necessary information

Getting as much information as possible about why things will be done differently can help you to better understand why the change is happening. Equally important is making sure that you’re getting information from the appropriate sources. Water cooler conversations or highly charged reactions from colleagues likely will not have the details that can help you process and understand why things are changing. It’s okay to have questions, but be sure to communicate with the right people (human resources department, direct supervisors) to get the answers you need. Find out how your position will be impacted and what the new expectations are. Though you may not agree with the upcoming changes, knowing what to expect will help you …

Create a new plan

Once you have all the pertinent information, you can plan how your new day-to-day work life will look and feel. Consider mapping out (or sketching) what your new day might look like. Do you need to travel to a new work location? Will you have new responsibilities? Consider uploading your plan (and any notes you have) to Evernote or record them in a paper journal so that can refer to it when you need to. Whatever the changes are, be sure that you have the tools needed to do your job well. Do you have the proper training to manage new responsibilities? Are you making use of technology tools (like reminder and project management apps)?

Focus on the benefits

With change, there are usually opportunities. They may not be as obvious at first, so take a minute to think through some of the positive things that may come about because of the change. Perhaps you will learn a new skill or get a chance to demonstrate your level of expertise more fully. If, like Yahoo! out-of-office employees, you will need to begin working from the company headquarters, it is possible you might strike up more fruitful partnerships with your colleagues. Being in the same location may change the dynamic of your working relationship, and you might find working alongside your coworkers in the same office will allow for greater creativity and collaboration. Keep in mind that there is often an upside to things that initially seem negative. Think things through fully to discover the positive impact that change may have for you.

10 Comments for “Four ways to successfully manage change in the workplace”

  1. Avatar of

    posted by mad_scientist on

    Looking on the bright side is fine. Private conversations outside the office can often fill you in on what the new changes really mean, while HR often doesn’t have a clue and can’t do anything to help you, anyway.

    As for the Yahoo no-telecommuting change, taking away any privilege is hard on employee morale. Changing the work conditions is a major change. It makes perfect sense to stop and take time to figure out how you are going to work around the “must be in office” time, especially if you have kid pick-up or drop-off responsibilities during normal working hours. You’ll have to factor in new commute time, increased transportation expenses, and figure out backups for kid-related emergencies. You’ll also have to decide what to do about medical appointments and home repair problems (who is going to meet the plumber?). Medical and dental appointments are often available only during working hours; it is not unusual to have one or two *routine* appointments every month if you have one or two kids. Plan for these in advance and clear your plan with your manager, too. If your manager is hostile to family responsibilities (and they often are), then you get to figure out how to work with the new rules: take vacation days, sick days, half days, whatever. Obviously, the situation is different for each job, and for exempt vs. nonexempt employees. Don’t underestimate the power of pushback from a group of employees, but don’t just pushback on your own.

  2. posted by Barb on

    I think the big to do about Yahoo has to do with the fact that it’s very hypocritical for the CEO to demand face time for everyone since she was only able to go back to work two weeks after giving birth because she built a nursery next to her office. Is she adding daycare in the office for everyone else? In addition, Yahoo is supposed to make remote work possible for everyone else — why not for its own employees?

  3. posted by Jeannette on

    Let’s call it what it is (re Yahoo): Changing major terms of employment –even those contractually agreed to–makes it in many cases impossible to continue to work for a company. It’s not about adapting, when you cannot adapt (Sell your house and lose money? Move your kids from existing schools? Etc. Etc. Etc. Lose the job you’ve invested yourself in? Etc.)

    Let’s not sugarcoat this. Change does NOT always bring opportunity (Yes, opportunity to job hunt and work elsewhere and have your whole life literally disrupted)or benefits. That’s management BS to justify their decisions. Personally, I hope that the top talent who had been telecommuting leaves for a competitor and/or starting their own business.

    It reminds me of when I worked for an international company. In the US, because the managers had to show up in the office daily, some with long commutes, they abandoned the corporate policy of letting people telecommute and forced those, who had contracts to telecommute, to come to office…even though a majority of the staff in the foreign dividions continued to be allowed to telecommute. Oh, did I mention that this was an Internet company, whose business was ALL done online? Talk about hypocrisy.

    And this idea that you need to be physically around each other for spontaneous innovation? What a piece of crap.

    Most creative and tech types work well unsupervised when they have clear goals and their role/resposibilities are clear.

    If you can only run a successful company by having everyone in your line of sight, you have the wrong people. But then, this all wreaks of a CEO looking to blame distance for POOR MANAGEMENT decisions,etc.

    It will be interesting to see just how well Yahoo does with this change. The disruption to the lives of its employees will do nothing to improve a sense of team and purpose, or encourage spontaneous creativity.

    In a world of video conferencing, SKYPE, IM you only really need a weekly or monthly on-sight meeting or assembly to keep people in touch when you have a well-run company.

    And I know this because I spent years working with clients, other team members and vendors…via phone, Skype video, etc. Our efficiency, productivity AND creativity were high. Clients were satisfied.

    Some of my closest professional relationships are not based on seeing each other each day. That’s not what makes it work.

    Yes, companies get to set the terms, but when they then change them, they should NOT expect people to just blindly accept this and worse, act as if this is not a major issue for people. I guess Yahoo could care less about losing employees.

    As a good boss/manager once said to me, “If I have to have someone in front of me all the time to ensure that they are doing their job, I’m the problem because I’ve hired the wrong people.” Amen.

  4. posted by Linda on

    I used to work at a company where telecommuting was the norm and I now work at a company where it’s on an “as needed” basis.

    The telecommuters had a spectacular sense of entitlement. Even the HR director agreed with me when I had my exit interview.

    At my current company, I only work from home when I have to drive my aging mother to a doctor’s appointment or there’s a blizzard. We understand that we are paid to behave like professionals, not college students.

    There’s another difference that bears discussion here: organization. The telecommuters were remarkably disorganized, working on multiple projects and never really finishing them. My current job has deadlines that are non-negotiable, and we make sure we plan out how to meet them as well as have a life.

    I suspect that the Yahoos are going to experience the same thing. Once you have to be someplace every day and (I hope) dressed like a professional, you become more organized and efficient at getting things done. I suspect that this is what Marissa Mayer hopes to achieve by making employees work at the office.

  5. posted by Janet on

    I don’t think that you can make too many generalizations about the productivity of telecommuters. It depends on so much – type of work, how much needs to be coordinated with the office staff, how your direct customers are best served, etc. etc.

    I happen to work in an office that is very disorganized and whose key staff members are all related – and it’s not a family business. It was disruptive and aggravating to have to see and listen to the nonsense that went on for 8 hours at a time. My direct customers do not come into the office unless I make an appointment to meet them there – no walk-ins. My productivity must have tripled since I made this change.

    And Barb had a good point about the CEO’s new desk-side nursery. It’s good to be queen.

  6. posted by Mark on

    Change is inevitable. So it is best to prepared for anything. The emotion thing is big. If that’s not in check, the change may be having to find a new job.

  7. posted by Mardra on

    This is a great post.
    yes, use every change to make yourself better.
    Sometimes that comes from articulating your position,
    And sometimes it comes from learning something new.
    In all cases, you’ve given good advice.

  8. posted by Bill Matthies on

    After 4 years of research into “change” culminating in my book, I’m no longer surprised to see different terms and words describing was is essentially the same thing. If you want to benefit from inevitable change, rather than be subjected to its consequences, you have to plan.

    But beyond that this post makes another very critical point; you need to “keep your emotions in check” while navigating uncertain times.

    Well said Deb!

  9. posted by Joshua Banker on

    Thanks for this post. The company I work for got purchased in January by a bigger corporation. They are a great company but change can be hard even when in the long run it will even benefit me personally. This post is a great reminder to keep positive. Thanks!

  10. posted by Jemma Taylor on

    Good information to tie in with the “human” side of change.
    Especially about understanding that people will complain and not to let it mean anything!!

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