An office is a dynamic space, and ‘adaptability’ should be a mainstay on job descriptions for all but the most relaxed of workplaces. There is a big difference, however, between the ebb and flow of daily stresses and the upheaval that comes with restructuring or relocating.
The adaptability you require from your workforce is founded upon a certain underlying stability, and when the very foundations of your business are shaken by new events it is not unreasonable that your staff may look to management for additional support.
It is a shock to the system for a boss to be fired, for colleagues to be laid off, or for a merger to result in a sudden influx of strange new colleagues. The same adrenalin rush that keeps an employee sharp during the occurrence of more or less regular daily surprises can paralyze him or her when that surprise is up-scaled to ‘shock’.
That’s because we are fundamentally animals underneath our suits and ties, and we still respond to the fight-or-flight instinct when we feel out of control.
In fact, the stress of uncertainty can actually be greater than the stress of the change itself.
For the sake of your business and for the good of your colleagues, it is beneficial to arm them with coping strategies ahead of a big change. You can begin this by reasserting the stability of everything in the situation that won’t change as a result of the upheavals: let your staff know what they can rely on and what they can expect.
Management can also lead the way by demonstrating how seeming disasters might in fact be opportunities. A creative, constructive response to misfortune can become part of a company culture. Let staff know what you’re doing to ensure everyone benefits from the change, and encourage them to find the potential, too – even if it’s as basic as seeing the changes as an opportunity to learn.
Upbeat is the key. Without losing all sense of tact (massive layoffs, for example, are rarely a laughing matter for the friends of those who’ve gone), use humor to keep the atmosphere light. Laughter can actually help to reset those hormone levels and empower your crew to deal with the changes that come their way.
You might also share this visual guide to handling change, since it offers simple advice that can be used in the workplace and beyond. A balanced workforce is a powerful one, and will roll with the waves as they come.
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