Change, the one constant of the corporate rate race, and the ability to thrive are symbiotic processes. Without change there can be no thriving and without thriving there can be no change. The great American Humorist, Will Rogers best illustrated this when he once said,
"Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there."
The corporate rat race is so fraught with change that we apply many metaphors to describe the depth and level of change. From the low level reorganization, to the mid level restructure and on to the high level transformation, change has become the norm for which corporations abandon ideas for conveyance, or changing merely for the sake of change.
Not to say that change is not good or warranted, but more often than not hiding mistakes behind the veil of change has become a convenient method for avoiding accountability. The overriding issue with change, good or bad; like it or not, is that it is a reality of the corporate rat race and as Will Rogers most aptly put it, ‘will run you over’ if you are not prepared for it.
Where the symbiosis of change and thriving exists is in the anticipation of change and being either reactive or proactive to it. Rarely does change jump out of the bushes unexpectedly. There are always signs such as changes in market conditions, industry sectors and even good old rumors that may be the breadcrumbs of a coming change. As we colloquially like to put it, the handwriting is on the wall. Seeing the handwriting is merely a survival reaction of going with the flow. Reading the handwriting is proactively preparing for change and thriving as a result of change.
The problem that most of us have with change is that we are down right afraid of it. We tend to build walls around a comfort zone that we create for ourselves and bristle at the thought of that comfort zone being interfered with.
Men are especially notorious for this. Guys, you know what I’m talking about. What about the old pair of sneakers that quit functioning as a shoe five years ago? Or how about the worn out recliner that looks more like a statuary piece of shredded wheat than a chair? We like them regardless of how ridiculous we may look wearing or sitting in them.
When our wives or girlfriends suggest that it’s time to part with our beloved, we grab onto the objects of our abject affections with a zeal reminiscent of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die.” As silly as this may seem, what is actually happening is a fear and resistance to change. This is a similar reaction that many of us have to change in the workplace.
When change is not anticipated or it is ignored, (we see the handwriting on the wall), there are three basic reactions that workers in the corporate rat race will have towards change:
1. We accept the change and hope for new opportunities, or stay and wait.
2. We do not accept the change and seek opportunities elsewhere or quit and leave.
3. We do not accept the change, do not seek new opportunities, or quit and stay.
All three of these scenarios are survival reactions to change. They require little effort on the part of the individual and can lead to stagnation or infectious apathy. Why? It is the same as the thought of discarding the old pair of sneakers. It threatens to breaks down the walls of comfort that we build around us, and we react with resistance instead of anticipation because we have allowed ourselves to be blind-sided by change. We want things to remain as they are and hope that change will fail so that we can revert back to the way things used to be.
In the corporate rat race, that just does not happen. To revert back to the way things used to be, would be admitting failure in the eyes of those external to the company such as analysts and shareholders, negatively impacting the company. For companies, retreat from reorganization, restructuring or transformation is not an option, even if it turned out to be a mistake. A company simply will institute change again, sometimes over and over until they feel that they have gotten it right.
When we read the handwriting on the wall versus just seeing it, we give ourselves the opportunity to anticipate change and put a preparatory plan into place, thus making acceptance a moot point. Remember, change will always be a constant in the corporate rat race. Reaction or anticipation is the dividing line that separates surviving, going with the flow of change, or thriving, being opportunistic in the anticipation of change.
Reacting to or anticipating change, however, is not compulsory. There are instances or situations where accepting change may not be an option, such as being forced into a “no win” situation or predicament that you know no way out of. Remember, as difficult as it may seem, there is always the option of quitting and leaving if you find yourself in such a situation. Leaving in the face of change can be one of the most difficult decisions that you will ever make, but the converse, quitting and staying is even worse. In the end, it is always better to walk away on your terms, then to be run off on some else’s.
Someone once described ‘walking’ to me as, the continual act of falling being thwarted. That is probably why walking away from a job precipitated by change is even more difficult. It goes against our natural instinct of loyalty for a job or company to make a decision to walk away without the fear of falling flat on our faces. However, consider the alternative. If walking is a continual act of falling being thwarted, then running will be a futile exercise to avoid skinning your knees when you do hit the ground. Let’s face it, you will hit the ground. Walk when you have to, but never run when there is an alternative.
Whether you prepare for change and new opportunities, walk or run away, will require you to make decisions. How you go about making those decisions will ultimately affect the result.
If you base your decisions on emotion versus rational thought, the result, more than likely, is one that you will always be seconding guessing. If, on the other hand, you base your decision on rational thought and keep emotion out of the mix, you will at least be more comfortable with your result.
Basing important decisions on pure emotion, is like passing the freeway exit for a gas station with the needle on your fuel gauge hovering just off of the empty mark because you want to see if you can fill up for a penny a gallon less at the next exit. If you make it, you’ll probably be a nervous wreck by the time you reach the next exit and if you don’t, just think of all the trouble and aggravation you’ll have trying to get you car going again.
Did you ever stop to think of all of the possibilities before passing the first exit that could happen just to save at most a dollar? If on the other hand you have been paying attention to the gas prices along the way and saw the there was little or no difference, would you be less likely to chance running out of gas just save a few pennies.
A few rules of thumb in making decisions based on rational thought versus emotion are this. First, never make split decision as it relates to change. Take your time to think it through and talk about it with someone close to you who has your best interests in mind. Evaluate the facts of a problem and visit some alternatives before settling on a decision.
Second, never make a decision in the dark. There is always a fresher perspective when the day breaks than when the sun sets. At least by putting off your decision to the next morning you will have given yourself some time to let your emotions wane a bit and get a better perspective on the facts.
Last of all; believe in yourself and your ability to carryout whatever decision you have come to. If you are still unsure of yourself, spend some time in meditation, prayer or seek out a person that can provide some spiritual guidance for the tough decisions. Faith to believe in yourself sometimes requires reaffirming your faith in general. If all is at peace when your decision comes, the right decision will be made and you will never have to look back.