This post was originally published on September 29, 2011.
I want to share an emerging learning. That which we seek to control, is that of which we must let go. In a way, this is similar to the quote by Richard Bach (and more recently a song lyric by Sting), “if you love someone, set them free.” What I’m talking about here is a bit different though, as it has not to do with people, so much as it has to do with situations or events.
For example, I have wasted an unquantifiable amount of time and energy worrying about schedules for a construction project taking place at our home. I don’t know how many times I attempted to emphasize to our contractor my interest in knowing what would be happening before it happened, only to find myself surprised by changes for which I hadn’t felt adequately prepared.
Another example rests with a friend who recently learned she was passed over for promotion by someone who didn’t meet the company’s stated requirement of time in current position. She was very upset and wanted to take action as a result of her perceived injustice of the situation. I should note that this situation of being passed over had happened many other times in the past with my friend, so it wasn’t just a one-time thing. This time seemed to be a tipping point, however, as I could sense an elevation in her anger. She desperately needed to make sense, and try to take control, of her situation. Considering how often this issue has arisen in her current work environment, I couldn’t help but think that her efforts would be for naught.
It seems when things feel as though they are spinning out of our reach, we try even harder to control it. We see this all the time in high profile situations, from government officials and movie stars. Usually this reaction leads to less than stellar results. I wonder if this reaction is because we sense a change with which we are not particularly comfortable, or because we have been living in a bubble and don’t want to face the “reality” of a given situation.
In my contractor/schedule update example, I noticed how focused I had become on the schedules, and how tense and stressed I was as a result. While it would have been nice to have an idea of work that would be completed, I was making it into a much larger, and more personal, issue than it needed to be. I was experiencing headaches, achy muscles, restless sleep. All because of a silly schedule!
I finally realized that this wasn’t about the schedules at all, but was, rather, about my feeling the need to have some predictability at a time when there hadn’t been much; not just with regards to the construction project, but also in other aspects of my life. My attempt to know the schedules, was in actuality, my attempt to know the future. By knowing the future, I could be comfortable to trust that things would be alright.
With respect to my friend and her job search issue, I would say the same thing applies. She really wants a better paying job with increased responsibility. When she is continually passed over for these opportunities by her current, as well as prospective, employers, she becomes upset and takes it personally, because she doubts that things will be alright for her in the future.
Time and again I’ve heard people talk about the benefits of living in the present, and that it is in the past and future where we often run into trouble; fears created by past experiences that then create fears about, and often hinder, our ability to succeed in the future. When we live in the present, in the here and now, without regard to what has happened yesterday, last week, or last year, and without trying to predict or worry about what will happen in the next hour, day or decade, we can focus on what feels right for us now.
My concern with schedules was based on past experiences that weren’t particularly good, and led to fears of the same experiences in the future. In the here and now, what I experience is positive progress towards a more stable, and comfortable, living environment. A much better feeling than I had when in control-mode.
I suspect my friend’s concerns about being passed over have to do with a lack of results in what has been a very long job search. Her trauma of applying for hundreds of positions without a job offer led to anger, hurt and fear that she will be stuck in her current situation. When she has been able to pull herself out of the past and future, and into the here and now, she has tended to be thankful that she has a job, and appreciative that her work environment has gradually become more pleasant than it had ever been before. While this doesn’t change the fact that she’s working in a position that is neither challenging nor rewarding, it does give her peace of mind and a sense of stability that dwelling on past trauma and the potential for future injustices does not.
As leaders, it’s very easy to worry about the past (that idea didn’t work before, so it won’t work now or the last family gathering was horrible, I’m never doing that again). It’s also easy to worry about the future; (meeting sales goals, staying within budget, meeting deadlines, having a difficult conversation, etc.). Conversely, it’s also easy to reminisce about things we miss from the past (those were the days, I wish work were still like that, or I used to be so skinny!). Dreaming about the future can also be a favorite pastime; (this idea could really take off! I could be on the Forbes Richest People list in no time! or visions of basking on the beach in Bali).
I find that when I live in the past or the future, I tend to be less productive in the here and now. My best ideas come to me when I stop time traveling, and just be. When I’m present, time passes at a comfortable pace, I am engaged and enjoying myself, and life tends to take on a sense of joyful simplicity that I don’t feel when time-traveling. I have also found that being present is not a particularly easy thing to do.
Feeling the same way? Here are some tips I have found helpful in bringing myself back to the here and now:
Meditate I have experienced, and have heard from many people about the benefits of meditation. Even if you can take 5 minute breaks every couple of hours, it can be very helpful in staying in the moment. It might take some practice to let thoughts pass through you, instead of sticking and beckoning you to a past or future moment, but keep with it. It’s worth it.
Take a Breather This is a variation of the 5-minute meditation mentioned above. Schedule time in your day where you just sit and concentrate on breathing. So often we forget to breath deeply, and are particularly prone to shallow breathing when under stress. Air wakes you up, clears your head, and keeps you in the here and now. Just ask any athlete.
Take a Walk Yes, again with the air thing. The important thing besides breathing fresh air (if you’re able to get outside), is to walk with an intention of curiosity rather than focusing on a problem or issue. Having a curious approach to your walk will open you up to your present surroundings, and you will likely see things in a different way. Besides keeping you present, this also helps spark your creativity; helpful in any situation.
Give Yourself a “Present” Make little notes encouraging you to focus on you, here and now (example: a note that says “You’re fabulous. Give yourself a moment to revel in that”). Leave them in your lunch bag, on the side of your coffee mug, on your mirror, in a folder on your desk, in your laptop. Honor and show gratitude for the present by acting upon it.
Have Impromptu Musical Interludes or Dance Breaks This one was inspired by an old episode of 30 Rock , where as a means of shaking up the creativity, they would take a 1 minute dance break. For those of you who aren’t inclined to get up and dance, or don’t want to scare your coworkers by doing this in your cube, you could switch this to a musical interlude. Listen to your favorite song, staying with it (not daydreaming of yourself as JayZee or Adele), for the duration of the song. Singing is optional.
Challenge Yourself to Stay Awake While Driving Sure, most of us think we’re awake while driving, but are we really “there” or floating off in a rant or starring in an episode of Fantasy Island? Make a conscious effort to be with yourself and your car on your drive. Turn off the radio, turn off your GPS, turn off your Mobile, and just be with your drive. Trust me, the force will be with you!
This post was originally published on September 9, 2011.
Following a recent talk in which I presented my Change Reaction(s)™ model (note: The name has since changed to the View Finder Perceptions Model™), somebody asked me a question that I have been contemplating ever since. The person asked what to do when a leader is satisfied with the way things are, and refuses to accept that employees are not experiencing the same level of satisfaction?
The leader in question, as I was led to understand, did not respond kindly to any attempts by middle managers to discuss issues employees were facing. I heard this as a shift in the leader's reaction mode from a place of satisfaction to one of resistance. This shift was likely prompted by a lack of flexibility to hearing alternative points of view and by an unwillingness or inability to understand the world beyond his or her personal perceptions.
What can be done under such circumstances? Do direct reports have a duty to bring issues, such as employee dissatisfaction, to the attention of their leader? If yes, how do they get the point across, and, more importantly, how does one get the leader to accept uncomfortable or difficult information without being attacked as the messenger?
An earlier blog post talks about how difficult it can be for people who have been, as I called it, living in a bubble, to come to terms with a new reality. In cases where the person living in the bubble is the leader of a group, whether a team, department, division or company, the unfortunate person to succeed in bursting the leader's bubble can find themselves in a very dangerous position, which can often end badly for them.
When pondering this conundrum, I remembered a line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The main character wanted to go to college, but her father was adamantly against it. The mother volunteered to intercede. When the main character suggested that, as the head of the family, there was no point in trying to change the father's mind, the mother responded, "the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants."
What if we took this example and applied it to the workplace by switching the father for an organization's leader, and the mother as the leader's direct reports? Can direct reports, as the neck, steer the direction of the leader?
Later in the movie, the mother devised a scheme by which a problem was presented to the father, with the hope that he would come up with the solution that the mother, daughter and aunt had already reached. They leveraged their knowledge that the father would want to feel as though he had come up with the solution in order to achieve the outcome they desired.
Sound disingenuous? Perhaps it is, but when a leader refuses to accept or believe information that is crucial to the ongoing performance or success of the company, could such an approach be a way to get him or her to refocus away from their resistance towards a potential resolution of the issue at hand? If a leader is unwilling to trust the observations or pleadings of direct reports, he or she is likely more willing to trust a solution that they come up with themselves.
A burst bubble is like a wake up call, and it often leads to new perspectives and new behaviors.
Here are a few tips for working with a leader in a bubble:
Focus on the leader as expert. Experts are often flattered when asked for advice. By bringing the situation up as a problem, one in which you're asking for the leader's advice and not urging action, you are more likely to engage the leader in the problem-solving process without necessarily bursting their bubble.
Mix up the messengers. The more people who approach the leader with problems and advice, the more likely the leader is to, in time, recognize potential issues that might require more attention. This allows a slow deflation of one's bubble, in lieu of a more turbulent bursting, and is less likely to result in unfortunate victims of circumstance (aka metaphorically shooting the messengers).
Stay vigilant to the leader's reactions. If a leader's bubble has deflated, he or she may be more interested in, and/or willing to hear about issues to which they were previously resistant. They may also wonder why nobody brought these things to their attention before. This can be perplexing and frustrating to those who have made several attempts to do just that. The leader, however, was likely unable to digest such information when in the happy space of their bubble, so be prepared.
If the leader's bubble has burst (rather than slowly deflating), they will likely demonstrate a more extreme reaction by shifting to a place of distress. They might become a bit withdrawn, and possibly moodier than usual as they work through the elements of their new reality. This is often a difficult place for people to be, leader or not, as it is often accompanied by questions of self-adequacy or self-blame for not having noticed those issues that others saw first. Leaders in this reaction mode require support through empathy, and knowledge that they aren't being negatively judged by others.
A burst bubble is like a wake up call, and it often leads to new perspectives and new behaviors. In the case of a leader who was previously oblivious to the plight of his or her employees, this can lead to changes for the better, so remember this as you weather the storm.
The most effective leaders learn from their mistakes, so whether their bubble slowly deflates, or bursts, they will likely learn from their experiences so it doesn't happen as easily again. For those leaders who aren't so effective, such an experience could result in few changes, detachment and/or entrance into another bubble. At that point, the question is, how much longer do you want to work for this person?
What experiences have you had with leaders in a bubble? What, if anything, did you do (or try to do), and what were the outcomes? Any other tips or advice on how you've handled such situations is also very welcomed!
This post was originally published on August 25, 2011.
A colleague once told me, following a decision that he had made with which I was unhappy, “it’s business, not personal.” “I know.” I replied. That was years ago, yet that brief conversation has remained with me through the years.
On the surface it seems innocuous enough, but, upon reflection, even though the decision might have been made without any thought given to how it might directly effect me or any of the other people impacted by the decision, the way I received it was most definitely personal; personal in the sense that the decision ran contrary to my personal value system, personal in that it ran against my view of the world and how I perceived right versus wrong, personal in that it did not meet the expectations that I had for the person who made the decision, nor for the company in which I worked.
Based on these things, my reaction to the decision and the associated change were not only personal, but how I received them had a direct influence on my perceptions and behaviors moving forward. Had my reaction to the decision mentioned above been one of satisfaction, my associated perceptions would have been noticeably different. I might not have looked for another job. I might not have started my own business. I might not have pursued a higher-level degree. My whole path in life could have been dramatically altered, had I accepted, rather than resisted, this one, relatively small decision!
Since change is a personal experience, paying attention to our reactions and those of others during change can help us to better understand our behaviors as well as the behaviors of others. We might even notice patterns of behavior based on similar reactions that we, or others close to us, have when certain types of changes occur. For example, when someone takes the liberty of making a decision for me, without consulting with me first, I tend to initially resist, and adapt in time if I decide the decision was a good one. A colleague of mine, on the other hand, tends to accept such decisions until there’s a reason not to.
When one person resists a change while another is satisfied with it, there is a potential for conflict, because one is happy with the change, while another is not. The same goes for someone who becomes overwhelmed during change, while another, satisfied with it, has difficulty understanding why the overwhelmed person is having such problems. The person in resistance can certainly point those reasons out to the person who is satisfied (using the person in distress as an example), but if the person who is satisfied is unwilling or unable to listen (they might be so happy that any negativity is deflected like Wonder Woman’s magic bracelets), conflict will likely result. The person who takes a wait-and-see approach to the change, or, for whatever reason, is unable to get on board and distances themselves from any attempts by others to get involved, can inadvertently spark conflict by their disinterest. By refusing to choose a side – satisfied or resistant – the compliant person can evoke resentment in others, often without knowing about it and, in some cases, without caring.
With so many possible reactions, many of which are based upon perceptions, values, experiences and expectations that are often unknown to others, and such a land mine of potential conflicts, what can we do to prevent such conflicts from arising, or identifying and resolving those that have already occurred?
I like to use an approach originally promoted for pedestrian safety: Stop, Look and Listen.
In our hustle and bustle world of constant connectivity to both work and in our personal lives, it’s easy to react quickly and ask questions later. In order to see current or potential conflict, however, we must first step out of the constant go, go, go of our hectic lives to see what is going on right now, in this moment, as clearly (aka with as few distractions) as possible.
Whether you are planning a change, or are the recipient of one, take a step back and observe the environment. What are, or might be, the reactions to this particular change? If planning change, look at how things currently operate, and then imagine how this change might impact various elements of the system or group. Where are the high-risk areas for conflict – those where some might be satisfied, others resistant, or where people might resist each other? Where is the potential for compliance (disengagement), and where is the potential for distress?
If in the midst of change, how has this change impacted you and those around you? Are you or others satisfied with the change? Resistant to it? Does the change create a sense of distress? Have you or others disengaged from the change and emotional aspects surrounding it? Where are reactions similar and different? Where are people unified in their reactions and reasons for them, and where are they butting heads?
Asking open questions, in a non-judgmental way, in an attempt to understand other perspectives, can go a long way in pinpointing where potential conflicts can arise during change. Soliciting input prior to a change will help you to design a better experience for all involved. The key here is to not just ask, but also to listen. Having the openness to hear alternate perspectives, and being receptive to potential critiques or new ideas to a change you might care a lot about, is quite difficult, but is also a very effective way to create a change that will be well received by most, if not all, involved.
Decisions and changes are often approached in aggregate form. Meaning a one-size fits-all approach to change is frequently employed, and those directly affected by the change are expected to immediately jump on board, whether they like it or not. This is where I think companies get it wrong.
While the decisions might be based on business necessity, and rightfully so, decision makers often forget that the individuals working for the company are an integral part of the business. Those individuals react to change in different ways and adapt to change at different speeds. Remembering this when introducing changes, will create a culture where employees feel valued, listened to, and a part of the change, rather than victims of it.
Which type of employee would you rather have, or what type of employer would you rather work for?
This post was originally published on August 5, 2011
There is a fight going on in a northern part of my State, which I recently read about in our local newspaper. It involves employees who have been locked out of work because they rejected a union contract that was presented to them.
The union and its members complained that there were several changes to the new contract that made them uncomfortable, from a change in health benefit plans and increased out-of-pocket costs, to the potential for the employer to hire additional temporary, non-union employees to cover increased work, when the demand required.
The employer indicated that the health insurance plan they proposed in the contract was the same currently used for non-union employees, and that bringing in additional employees if/when the need arose was a business necessity in order to maintain operations under varying market demands. The contract also included annual increases and a sign-on bonus with the ratification of the contract (which didn't happen, resulting in the lock-out).
What I found interesting about this dispute wasn't so much the dispute itself, but, rather, the overwhelming reaction by the readers of the article. Some details of the offer were published in the article, which sparked a firestorm of comments, reaching upwards of 350 within a little over a day!
Reading through the comments, I was surprised by the level of anger directed at the union members for rejecting the contract offer. Words like "disillusioned", "whiners" and "join the real world" were frequently used, with only a few dissenters offering support for the employees.
Why Was There So Much Animosity Towards These Employees?
The way I see it, the employees were sitting in a good place heading into contract negotiations, with good benefits and good pay, which they probably hoped to maintain in the new contract. When the employer suggested an 11% increase in benefit costs with their new plan (which is 17% of the total health care costs to the company), the union membership resisted, as most of us likely would under the same or similar situation. Why, with this new contract, should they have to pay such a large increase in costs, when the employer has been able to manage under the old plan just fine?
For employees who have worked for this employer for many years, it might have seemed like a slap in the face to see these changes. They liked the way things have been, so why should they agree to such drastic changes, especially during profitable times for the company?
For people living and/or working outside of this company; however, they see a very different picture. They see and/or have experienced job loss and high unemployment, frozen or decreased wages, a near doubling of out-of-pocket health care costs over the past decade, and some may have even been required to shift to private insurance plans because their employers have stopped providing health insurance benefits altogether.
I suspect that those who have directly endured these changes are the ones who are the angriest at this union and its members, because they have rejected what seems to the outside world to be a reasonable and fair contract for the times.
The first sign of living in a bubble is a tendency to resist changes to the status quo.
Have the Locked Out Employees Been Living in a Bubble?
People who live in a place of satisfaction may not recognize that they are living in a bubble, but it could be very apparent to others, as exemplified in the example above. The first sign of living in a bubble is a tendency to resist changes to the status quo. This could show up in a couple of ways:
Unwillingness to, and/or inability to, positively receive new ideas or improvements to the current state
"That's the way we've always done it" or "If it's not broken, don't fix it"
Inability to see the bigger picture
An 11% increase to a 17% share of health care expenses is too much to pay when it was only 6% before versus Employee's pay on average 40% of total employer health insurance costs, an all time high in 2011.
People living in a bubble and who are content with the status quo, often find fear in change.
People living in a bubble, content with the status quo, often find fear in change. In the example above, besides the increased cost of health care, employees are fearful of losing their jobs to outsourcing. Even though there appears to be wording in the proposed contract that limits the employers ability to outsource existing union jobs, employees are skeptical, which I read as a fear of losing the type of protections they have enjoyed through their union membership, and a lack of trust in how this change will benefit them. While these may be very real fears, they may also be indicators of fear of change; a refusal to recognize and adapt to the shifts that have recently occurred in our society.
We don't know what concessions the union gave in their negotiations of this contract; however, based on employee comments in the article, and the contract details that were disclosed, it appears as though the union and its members are in the midst of a wake-up call to the changing conditions in the employment landscape or, in other words, their bubble is bursting. This is further evidenced by the employer's decision to lockout employees upon their rejection of the contract. Clearly the employer wants to make a point that they believe their offer is reasonable, and their continued unwillingness to return to the bargaining table, despite requests by the union to do so, further exemplifies the employer's unwillingness to compromise; a clear and difficult wake-up call to the union and its membership.
The Bubble Bursts
Once the bubble bursts, there will likely be an adjustment period, which could include a period of grieving (denial, which we're already seeing to some extent, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) as people in this situation adapt to their new reality. There will likely be a great deal of fear, and distress by some, when facing this new world, as they begin their adjustment period. The thicker the walls of the bubble, the more difficult the adjustment will be. Ingrained beliefs and values are difficult to change, and for some, this will mean longer adaptation periods. For people in this group, it may take a series of difficult situations such as loss of work, no comparable work/pay/benefits, the end of unemployment insurance (for MN employees) before these individuals are ready to make adjustments.
Minimizing the Impact
We've all encountered situations that have forced unwanted changes. They are seldom enjoyable experiences. The impact of these types of situations can be minimized, however, by two simple approaches:
Flexibility - Taking precautions to prevent ourselves from getting too set in our ways, or too content with the status quo. Regularly changing routine tasks, trying one or two new things a week, seeking a new adventure, whether at work or in our personal lives, will help to keep us flexible and more adaptable when change comes a knocking.
Openness - While our natural tendency when in a place of satisfaction might be to protect it, when approached with a new idea, a concern, a proposed change, try to take note of your reaction. If your initial response is to say "no" to such information, try to reframe your response to one of open curiosity. Ask questions, and truly listen to what is being proposed, rather than closing the door before collecting all pertinent information. Ask yourself (and the proposer, if possible), why such a change would be beneficial or is necessary. Be prepared for difficult conversations about the changing state of your environment. While you might not want to hear them, it's a lot easier to adapt to such changes gradually, by receiving information with an open mind, then to have to go through much more difficult adjustments later due to the bursting of your bubble.
There are a few things that we observers can do to lend a helping hand to those going though difficult transitions:
Listen without judgment.
Empathize by trying to see the situation from their perspective.
Share with open, honest, feedback, and examples from your own experiences, especially with how you adapted, and/or any tips in retrospect that might be helpful.
Remember though, that such feedback and sharing should only be done when a person is receptive to it. Always make sure to ask permission before taking this approach, as unsolicited feedback, or a focus on you and your experiences when what the person needs is a good listener, could unintentionally push the person into a deeper level of distress and despair.
There are a lot of bubbles floating around in our world. What bubbles have you experienced and/or observed in your life and/or society at large? Please share by posting a reply in the comment section below.
This post was originally published on July 29, 2011
There are three women in my life who are currently pregnant. For all three women and their families, these pregnancies will be a significant change. Even though each woman is going through the same change event, however, each of their reactions to the news have been very different.
Upon learning the news, one of the women, let’s call her Abigail, mentioned how everyone around her seemed to be so happy and excited, but because there was so much uncertainty surrounding finances at the time, she wasn’t able to share in the excitement. Rather, Abigail was concerned about how her and her family would manage with this new addition. Already under a great deal of pressure to bring in an income, this surprise pregnancy was at first considered a hindrance to Abigail in achieving her financial goals and stability.
For Belinda, while the pregnancy also came as a surprise, once the initial shock subsided, she was thrilled with the news. Sure, the timing wasn’t as she and her husband had planned, and the news required a lot of thought about how this change might impact her job and career, however, she is excited about this turn of events in her life, and for this new experience.
With a new husband and the first real love of her life, Candice was hoping to become pregnant, and could barely contain the news once she learned her hopes and dreams had come true. With two other children, one of whom recently graduated from high school, Candice is looking forward to having a new baby in the house.
Each of these women had a different reaction to the same change, based on their individual situations and perceptions about it. The same can be seen when changes are introduced at work. While some people might be excited and welcoming of the change, others may not be so quick to embrace it. In fact, some might downright resist the change, or find themselves completely overwhelmed by the prospect of it.
Expectation, Timing and level of Alignment with a change all influence how quickly and smoothly we adapt.
As exemplified by Abigail’s, Belinda’s and Candice’s reactions, there are some things that influence how well we receive a particular change:
Expectation. Candice, who was trying to become pregnant, was happy from the start when she got what she wanted. It took a little longer for both Abigail and Belinda to embrace the change because it came as a surprise.
Timing. Where Candice’s preference for becoming pregnant was “as soon as possible”, Belinda’s and Abigail’s, timing was less defined, and may not have even been thought about before. Because of this, the news required time to adjust their thinking and perceptions about the future. Since Candice’s perceptions were already in synch with this change, she automatically adapted to the good news. Belinda, while surprised, was able to adjust after the initial shock subsided because she also welcomed the news. Abigail, however, was both surprised and concerned by the news, and, as a result, her adjustment period took longer.
Alignment. Candice was automatically aligned with the change, and Belinda aligned shortly after hearing the news and was able to work out how this change would impact her life. For Abigail, however, there were perceived barriers that hindered her ability to completely embrace it, which had to be resolved before she could welcome and look forward to this change.
Abigail was hesitant to speak of her reaction to the news of her pregnancy because those around her expected her to embrace it and be happy. In conversations where she was showered with congratulations and excitement, Abigail withdrew and became silent because she couldn’t relate to their sentiments. She decided to carve out some time to really think about her situation and priorities, which resulted in some life-shifting changes that allowed her to embrace her pregnancy. While this took some time, it was necessary for Abigail in order to align with her change.
Many times in business, a change is introduced and people are expected to quickly get on board. Some will embrace the change right away, if it aligns with their interests. Others might need some time to adjust if the change comes as a surprise, and may need even more time if the change isn’t initially welcomed. For those who aren’t aligned, if there is fear in sharing their concerns, they may become isolated and withdraw or disengage, some possibly to the point of resigning.
Reactions to change are personal, and we adjust to changes at different rates of speed.
Recognizing that reactions to change are personal, and that we adjust to changes at different rates of speed, certain measures can be taken to facilitate positive reactions, and smooth transitions to change:
Educate: The more people know about the change before it happens, and the longer they have to prepare for it, the smoother their transition will be. Building time for communication and education into the front-end of a change process whenever possible, will help to minimize resistance once the change occurs.
Support: The more support that is integrated into a change process, the smoother the adaptation process will be. Support can be a combination of formal and informal networks. For example, support could range from leaders, mentors and peer-to-peer groups, to employee resource programs and online resources.
Communicate: Consider communication as the navigation system for the change. Besides showing the destination, the clearer and more detailed the directions for getting there, the smoother the journey. Where communicating about the change and providing regular updates as well as creating opportunities for people to talk openly about the change can facilitate acceptance, also encouraging conversations with those who are hesitant to embrace the change, will help that group to work through their concerns faster.
Abigail, Belinda and Candice all encountered a similar life-changing event, but their paths and speed to acceptance varied based upon their individual situations and perceptions about the change.
What examples do you have where reactions and speed of adaptation differed between the people involved? What happened as a result of these differences? Please share your thoughts in the reply box below.
This post was originally published on July 22, 2011.
Recently I have had to face the potential death of one, and possibly two beloved family members. Both are still alive; however, both are also nearing the end of their life cycles, which, I am happy to say, have lasted nearly a century.
While all involved are well aware that the time for this couple is near, the knowledge that they have lived long and fruitful lives has not eased the pain that they will soon be parting from this world.
The end of something we know and love is usually not welcomed news, even when we understand the reasons why it must come to an end. Of course, we recognize that such changes are a natural part of life, since, as they say, “change is constant”, but that doesn’t make it any easier when the time comes to part with what we love. When change requires saying goodbye to what we hold dear, whether it’s people, a job, a relationship, certain responsibilities or routines, grieving will almost always appear. When we take time to let ourselves grieve, to feel the loss and the associated emotions, rather than to ignore them and hope they go away, our ability to appreciate what we had, yet to also move on with a positive outlook, is much more likely.
When we take time to let ourselves grieve, to feel the loss and the associated emotions, rather than to ignore them and hope they go away, our ability to appreciate what we had, yet to also move on with a positive outlook, is much more likely.
It is during these times of unwanted loss that we tend to block the intense feelings and emotions that accompany such experiences. They’re often quite painful, and they’re not very fun to go through. That being said, time and again I’ve witnessed the eruption of those who refuse to allow the grieving process to progress.
What the people I’ve observed don’t seem to realize is how their emotions show themselves in unexpected ways, which are usually counter productive. Sudden eruptions of anger, blame, fear, panic, depression are just a few examples. Some times people isolate themselves from others; other times, they feel so overwhelmed that they are unable to think clearly, or perform routine tasks that once came easily.
These individuals may become upset with themselves, wondering why they can’t adjust, why they can’t just get over it and move on. It can be a very difficult period for people going through this level of adjustment, and it takes time and a lot of introspection.
Take a look at this animated depiction of the grieving process (it’s presented in a humorous light - from Robot Chicken): http://www.boreme.com/posting.php?id=9089
It is my belief that this process can be accelerated and smoother the more open and aware we are to what we’re going through, and it can be hindered the more we resist and try to prevent the process from following its natural course, or when we try to push ourselves through it too quickly.
Author Mitch Albom wrote, “All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.” Sometimes it’s hard to see the sun beyond the fog, but once the fog burns away we find ourselves in a different light; the birth of a new day, a new chapter in our lives. If we stop our car when driving through the fog, it will likely take longer to see the light than it would if we consciously moved ahead at a cautious pace. If we move too quickly, without paying attention to our inner voice telling us to “slow down!”, we might lose our direction or crash.
While it might not seem like it, change offers new opportunities for learning and growth. It might not be easy, but taking the time to grieve what you have loved and lost, and to truly appreciate the impact those people or experiences have had on your life, helps to burn away the fog created by living in the past, allowing a new sunny day to emerge.