Monday | 04 May | 2020
By Essie Bester
Changes in our workplaces are unavoidable and necessary if we want businesses and organisations to survive and prosper. That is why we must learn to overcome fear and embrace the pending changes.
Why do we offer so much resistance to change?
Neuroscientific research shows that people prefer certainty because it brings about clarity and predictability and gives a feeling of control. On the other hand, change often activates feelings of being threatened. The powerful effect on our bodies and minds is called stress.
One of the biggest life stressors that we can experience is changes in the workplace. The state of uncertainty into which this pitches us can be restrictive because one’s thoughts uses brain power (energy) that can debilitate our memory, undermine performance and can be the reason why you are not fully present.
It is perfectly normal to feel afraid and uneasy during changes, but it is unhealthy to show unhelpful reactions such as fight or flee or to experience a negative attitude.
Intelligent, mature and driven employees realise that their perceptions (about how much control and influence they have over change) is the key with which they can manage their fear for change. That is why they are always on the lookout for adaptation possibilities that will enable them to flourish in a changed environment.
Hints for getting over your fear for change at work
- Acknowledge the change. Acknowledging and accepting it is one of the first steps to managing it.
- Face up to your fears. Writing down your fear objectively can help to prevent you from brooding over it all the time. Write down every fear that you have as well as what you will do should they materialise. To know that you have a plan ready can help to lessen the emotional fear.
- Confront your feelings and look for support ─ especially if the change is out of your control and is being forced on you. This could mean that you will have to handle the loss of your team or a project that is close to your heart. You do not have to behave like a victim, even if things are beyond your control. Accept your feelings, reach out to your partner, loved ones and colleagues with whom you have close relationships, and talk about your feelings.
- Replace frightening thoughts by positive ones. Fear can arise from negative thoughts and scenarios in your head about what the future might hold. Ask yourself: “How do I see change? Which aspects of it do I regard as negative? What impact does it have on my life?”
- Stop negative thoughts the instant they emerge and change it to something positive. Ask yourself: “What did I do in the past when I handled change really well? What steps did I take that worked for me? How did I handle the change in communication with others? How did I handle my mental health? What personal characteristics did I use to change things into something positive? Was I patient? Was I rational?”
- Be flexible and embrace new challenges instead of hiding from your fear and building hiding places. Approach change open-minded ─ show that you are prepared to learn even if you don’t like something new in the system. If you are flexible, people will want to cooperate with you and you will have a bigger chance of handling the change successfully.
- Be part of the change. Adopt an attitude of expectation and excitement. See change as an opportunity. Become involved in new committees and work teams. Be a person who can influence others positively. In this way you will empower yourself and feel less afraid.
- Communication is always important, but especially if you’re dealing with change. Your fear for change is partially due to your fear for the unknown. If your organisation does not communicate change effectively, you must be proactive and make it your goal to find out more of what the change entails. Talk to your boss and your coworkers to bring about understanding but guard against negativity in these sessions. Ask constructive questions to gather meaningful information that could lead to better insight. But you must bear in mind that when you talk to employees news can be distorted sometimes and is not always factually true.
- Reduce tension and fear. In stressful times we are inclined to feel tired while it is exactly then when we should focus on being fit, healthy and flexible. Flexibility requires calmness and control so that you can take good and rational decisions. Focus on what you eat, breathe in deeply and make sure to get exercise. Twenty to thirty minutes’ walking, meditation or yoga is enough.
- Look for meaning. Reflect on what value you can add to the organisation. Admit to your successes as well as your skills and contributions that you can offer the organisation. Now is the time to make yourself even more valuable.
- Focus on the bigger picture while you keep on doing your work to the best of your ability. In times of reorganisation one easily adopts an attitude of sitting back and seeing what happens because the work you do may change. Guard against this and keep on concentrating on achieving your goals and tasks until you have to go in a new direction.
It is important to realise that change is unavoidable today for all organisations and therefore it is also important for you to learn how to overcome your fears.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.