Work Smarter//

Shifts Happen: How to Help Your Team Thrive During a Change

Pivoting at work is normal — but it doesn’t have to be stressful.

Oleh Donets/Shutterstock
Oleh Donets/Shutterstock

Regardless of your professional field, you’re probably experiencing change at work. Whether it’s a result of developing technology, business strategies, or consumer needs, even long-established companies need to adapt to changing work cultures and environments. And even if that change is positive, it can be stressful for employees.

In fact, those who experienced recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress (55 percent vs. 22 percent), and more than four times as likely (34 percent vs. 8 percent) to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work compared with those whose jobs remained more or less the same, according to results from the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey.

Still, periodic pivoting is the new normal in many workplaces, and there are ways to make the changes less stressful. In the Harvard Business Review, Edith Onderick-Harvey, author of Getting Real: Strategies for Leadership in Today’s Innovation-Hungry, Time-Strapped, Multi-Tasking World of Work, identifies several daily practices that can help get your team more comfortable — and even excited about — a change at work. Here are three of our favorites:

Open up a dialogue

It’s important to make sure your team is not only informed about what’s going on, but feels comfortable asking questions and expressing how they’re feeling about it. Onderick-Harvey suggests holding 30-minute meetings — she calls these “listening posts” —  to talk about both the emotions people have about the change, and how they plan to deal with it. The idea is to make your team feel empowered by the change, and shift over to the mindset of taking action to facilitate the change, rather than focusing on reacting to it.

Encourage collaboration

When a team works well together, it can be easy to turn inward, continuing to operate as a well-oiled machine, independent of the rest of the workplace. But when a big change at work happens, it’s actually a great opportunity to discover new ways to collaborate with other colleagues across departments and boundaries. Onderick-Harvey stresses the importance of exposing your team to new ideas, voices, and perspectives as a way to help facilitate the change.

Embrace mistakes

When major shifts happen at work, there’s usually a learning curve. That means that some mistakes are likely to happen — even with the best leadership and most adaptable teams. Onderick-Harvey recommends viewing mistakes as opportunities for course-correction, learning, and growth, rather than errors you’ll never recover from. Not only that, but she notes that sometimes what initially appear to be mistakes can actually turn out to be really useful innovations. When a company is going through a period of growth and change, it helps to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable enough generating new ideas, and recognize that some degree of failure and making mistakes is a normal part of the process.

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