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Managing Change

July 17, 2010

massive change

Picture uploaded to Flickr by 416style and used here under the terms of the Creative Commons License

I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of change just recently, ever since I readily accepted the invitation to share my thoughts and feelings about a particular issue at work. It was another reminder of how my relative comfort publishing all sorts of nonsense on the internet all too readily translates into a similar behaviour in real life. It’s something I need to work on.

That very ‘incident’ (there was no violence or malice, instead just a lot of people looking quite winded when I arrived at a full stop) stirred up memories of when I found myself experiencing the same feelings six years ago. No one is to blame least of all me, or indeed anyone else who recognises that mild feeling of panic when all the signs point to a return to a distressing experience from the past.

That said, I’m both surprised and impressed about the capacity the brain has for recalling specific details from our past in an attempt to help us cope with the present.

It was a Friday afternoon. We all knew it was coming. There had been months of idle speculation. Lots of worried looks passed across the department at one another. Changes of managers. Talk of amended floorplans. Then I was asked into my new manager’s office.

The conversation went something like this. Please do bear in mind that this is a conversation from six years ago.

“I’ve decided that you’d be better doing desktop support. So I’m transferring you to that team. You start on Monday morning.”

“But, I’ve just completed a training course in how to configure routers. You paid for it. This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, things are very difficult. You start on Monday.”

“Presumably I have some time to think about this?”

“You’ve got the weekend.”

I gave him my response before the end of the day and handed in my notice on Monday morning.

Over the past few days, I’ve ended up thinking more and more about that incident. The company was going through changes. I was being offered an alternative job. It wasn’t the job I’d originally applied for nor the one I’d been doing for the previous 7 years. It was just different. Why didn’t I accept it? Did I let pride get in the way? Did I in fact make the wrong decision? Had I demonstrated to what extent I was resistant to change?

Erroneous or not, I’m thinking about change now, what impact it might have on me in my short term future and – far more importantly – how I might do things differently should I find myself in a similar situation. To that end, I found TechRepublic’s 10 Tips For Dealing With Change very helpful in emphasising both things to look out for as well as the suggested coping mechanisms to implement in response.

Theme 1:  Change

Picture above uploaded to Flickr by Xcode and used here under the terms of the Creative Commons License

But more than, I’m heartened by what recently departed Big Brother 11 housemate explained during her post-eviction interview with Davina McCall. During her 38 days in the house, housemate Ife prided herself on her direct nature which at times came across at best blunt and at worst unintelligible.

Of particular note was a sequence in which she had explained in a private Diary Room entry how she felt uncomfortable around one of the other housemates – Caiomhe. In line with her own personal guidelines relating to honesty and integrity, Ife promptly told Caiomhe exactly what the former had said about the latter whilst she was in the Diary Room. She wasn’t intending to be mean, she explained, more that it was important to her to make sure her housemate knew she was being honest by explaining what she had said behind closed doors so as not to appear two-faced.

It was a relief to hear someone else say that on TV. It’s a trait I’m actually quite proud of on the basis that if I know I’m being honest I know I’m not being malicious. Consequently anything I say is heartfelt. It’s also meant with the best intentions. It’s true it may appear mean or blunt or inappropriate, but its never malicious.

And that strikes me as the most important element in managing change. You need to be honest with yourself. Honesty will fuel honesty. And that will ease the passage of change. It will also insure against any negativity in the future when all of us do the inevitable thing and start trying to revise history.

Change. It’s not that difficult.


Since publishing this post, quite a few people have got in touch asking me whether I’ve left my job at the BBC or whether I’m about to. Neither of these are the case.

The blog post merely reflects a series of thought processes I’ve gone through this week.

It seeks to raise the question of how we all go about adapting to change and makes no direct or indirect reference to my worklife. Because, after all, even if there were such things occurring, revealing such information would be questionable, professionally speaking.

  1. Rob permalink

    Your resignation story reminds me of something similar I did eight years ago – the department I worked in was reduced from about ninety staff, to six. We all had to fill out a form to re-apply for our jobs. There were about ten questions, I ran a pen through all of them and wrote on the bottom “I have worked for you for two years, if you don’t know whether or not you want to keep me, this form won’t help.” I got one of the six jobs (I was bright and massively underpaid and hadn’t realised either), but it’s not a moment I’m proud of, and it probably placed by infant career in real jeopardy.

    I’ve since managed what we insist on calling “difficult change” from the other side. There were plenty of times when all I had to say was “yes, well, it’s all very difficult.” If your boss was anything like me they probably went home each night nursing an ever growing guilt complex.

    I hope it all works out for you

  2. Rob permalink

    Oh, and, for years I had a tendency to bottle up frustration and then let it all out in one horrendous lump for the people around me or managing me. I then met a management consultant who recognised that I am wired up to constantly be nursing some guilt about something or other, so she set about bluntly telling me that each time I lost it in that way I was making my colleagues lives difficult and letting down the organisation I worked for, and failing to do the job I was paid to do. She gave me a whole new positive guilt complex which stopped me exploding in the office… This is possibly from the book of “what not to do” in management, but it worked for me!

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