With the EU referendum outcome, periods of uncertainty for many people around their jobs as a result and entering in a period where there is no prime minister, no substantive plan and no facts on what the future holds I’ve been reflecting on change.
Change is probably one of the hardest things we have to deal with. Maybe because often the journey to getting it can be so full of uncertainty. We tend to be so much more comfortable with black and white answers. I remember interviewing an exceptional athlete a few years ago about a serious injury he had. I expected him to say that if the injury meant no more running he would have been distraught but he said if the doctors told him he can never run again he’d have been fine. He would have accepted it and found a new sport. But they didn’t say that as they didn’t know the answer. They told him he ‘might be able to run again’. This made him feel far worse, putting him in a weird type of limbo.
When we enter a period of change and uncertainty we are looking for pillars to hold onto, usually dates of announcements when we will get more information, or facts or figures on which we can make decisions. What I have noticed from working in communications in many organisations that have gone through cost cutting, mergers, redundancies or office moves, is that those pillars, those facts and figures rarely arrive when we want them to and even if they do rarely give you the reassurance you are looking for. This is incredibly frustrating but there are often good (but hidden) reasons for this. Most of the time I have discovered that people higher up (HR, CEO, Board) simply don’t know the answers yet but sometimes they have to be seen to be following the letter of the law so closely they just can’t risk give you the reassuring information you need. Sometimes they don’t correct the rumours because they just don’t know the rumours may turn out to be true.
So, when entering a period of change and uncertainty the most important thing to remember is that “you cannot control the environment you are in. You can only control how you respond to that environment.” Panicking, stressing and imagining the worst damages no-one except yourself. It makes you anxious. It makes you take rash, poorly thought through decisions.
You can research lots. You can find ways to give yourself the most options. But you can only make a decision on what you feel in your heart and the facts you have at that moment. And sometimes you just have to ride out the change, pour your heart and emotions into something else for a while, and wait until the storm has passed when you will have the information you need and can make your decision from a positive place.
Five things to keep in mind when dealing with change
- Expect the unexpected.
- Don’t imagine that you will get a black and white answer – you rarely do.
- Think about and explore all your options in advance so negative news or directions don’t take you by surprise and cause panic.
- Realise there will be reasons you are not getting all the information you need.
- Find a mentor, someone you trust, to help you through the process and to give you guidance and a sounding board to vent your frustrations on.