Years ago, when I worked in the corporate world, a colleague once told me “it’s business, not personal” with reference to a change that had been introduced. He said this to me because he could sense I was, well, really pissed-off. And I was. And I did take it personally, whether it was intended that way or not.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this topic - where a change is said to be business not personal - and those times when my reaction has been clearly weighted toward the later.
Why was my reaction so strong, and so emotional? I knew that the powers who made the decision were considering the business element of it, but that didn’t help to keep me from feeling so personally affronted by it.
Did the change matter all that much in the grand scheme of my life? Doubtful. But it did result in a change in perspective and beliefs which impacted my behavior moving forward. In fact, for the situation mentioned above, it wasn’t long afterwards that I made the decision to leave the company.
It's not the change, it's how we adapt to it.
What I have written since is that it isn’t so much the change event that is personal as much as the way each of us transitions or adapts to that change. And I still believe this to be true.
But our initial reactions usually aren’t all that detailed in deciphering whether it’s the change or the transition, we just know we either like, don’t like or don’t care about it.
I declare - declarative statements are risky.
While recognizing our initial reaction is good, making a declarative statement when it comes to change is risky in my view.
When we decisively say that we like, don't like or don't care about a change, we may believe that with such a clear statement, comes a responsibility to support, resist, or step away from all aspects of the change, when in reality we may secretly only like, dislike or not care about parts of it.
Consider the bell-curve approach to change, where on the extreme ends are the people who wholeheartedly embrace or reject a change, while everyone else has a mix of reactions; some who lean more towards one end of the spectrum than others, and even more who are somewhere in the middle.
Add in the complexity of initial reaction styles (naturally resist things that feel imposed, or embrace most new ideas at first), false assumptions ("great, they're going to downsize", or "this means a sure promotion!") and historical influencers ("we tried it before and it failed", or "I left my last job because a similar change resulted in long hours and extra work."), and it becomes very clear that there is a lot more to our individual reactions than meets the eye.
This is where having a better understanding of our own personal reactions to change comes into play; why they are the way they are, and what is needed for us to adjust or shift our perspective.
Tomorrow we’ll apply an example and take a closer look at how to figure this out, so stay tuned.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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