My work anniversary was on February 1st. It’s hard to believe that I have been working with Signature Worldwide for 22 years! I love to see people’s reactions when I tell them that I have been with the company that long; I always wonder what they are thinking, but won’t say, especially the younger folks. When I first started with the company, we were a very small, home based company with a few dozen employees. Needless to say, in the past 22 years, I have seen change; some changes that were minor and some that were significant, but somehow, I managed to survive them all.
A funny story from quite a few years back that has stayed with me and always makes me smile – We hired a new employee and I was working with her during her orientation as she would soon be acquiring several of my client accounts. I was explaining where she might find historical information for these clients that would soon be in her portfolio. I mentioned that she would have to check the black filing cabinet to see if there was a client file. She looked at me as if I had three heads and then said, “Really, you have files, with information on paper?” It threw me for a loop, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to her except, “Yes.” Then, I thought to myself, I hope she doesn’t look too closely at my desk and sees my paperback dictionary and thesaurus! Later that day, as I was driving home listening to my classic rock station, I heard the lyrics from a Bob Dylan song loud and clear, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin.” How appropriate, I thought, I better start swimmin’.
But let’s face it, no one really likes the thought of change. We find peace in keeping things the way they are. At work, we feel content when we know what our day looks like and what is expected of us. We like our daily routines as we come to work around the same time, eat lunch around the same time and end our workday around the same time. When change is introduced, we start asking ourselves questions such as, “Why do we have to change?” and “How is this going to affect me?” We might have thoughts such as, “I like everything just the way it is.” or “Great, I have to learn something new.” or “I don’t want to change, maybe all of this won’t really won’t happen.” Just the thought of change causes emotional reactions and creates chaos in our minds.
As a manager or supervisor, you must help navigate your employees through change. Your job is certainly not an easy one. It’s important to understand, and not ignore, the emotions that most of your employees will feel. This range of emotions might be anywhere from surprise to denial to panic and distress. As a leader, you must provide reassurance and support. Be sensitive and use empathy to show that you understand how your employees feel. Keep the communication flowing, your door wide open and encourage your employees to keep an open mind. In the words of Mr. Dylan, remind them to keep swimmin’, while remembering that you might occasionally need to throw out a life preserver.