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Change Is Inevitable, How Do You Handle It?


I was coaching a new client last week – readying her for a phone interview – and I decided to ask her a few mock interview questions to get her feet wet and mind ready for the big event. I wanted to learn more about the type of work-situation that was ideal for her so I asked, “Can you tell me a bit about the kind of environment in which you excel?”

She was quick to answer that she thrived in an environment that contained change. She enjoyed thinking through all the possibilities that a change inevitably produces, learning all there was to know about the ramifications of the change, contemplating the future implications, and forging ahead in the best direction. It was a text-book perfect answer and it beautifully captured the talents I knew she had. Before our meeting I’d had her take the StrengthsFinders assessment and among her “Top 5″ were ideation, learner, futuristic, and strategic. Although she had just learned what these terms meant, she had beautifully integrated them into this succinct answer.

I let her know that she nailed the answer. And – regardless of how the upcoming phone interview went – that answer could help her land the job of her dreams. Businesses have learned to embrace the inevitability of change but many business people are still struggling to catch up. What makes change so difficult for some and so easy for others?

There are many reasons for resisting change, below are three issues that are commonly discussed in organizational behavior literature.

1. We have other things to do. Competing commitments and demands make us less welcoming of changes that will certainly take energy and time away from our already long to-do list.

2. We fear the unknown. While some (like my client above) love to dive into learning about the ramifications of the organizational changes that are in store for us, many feel a sense of comfort doing the same thing.

3. It may negatively impact our person-organization fit. In layperson’s terms that means we believe our skills are well-matched to our current job and worry that a change in the workplace will disrupt that balance. For example, if the duties of a sales job change from meeting with customers every day to encouraging customers to place repeat orders on-line, the sales force may negatively react to this change.

The research is clear when it comes to who copes best with change: those who can tolerate a lack of clarity and structure, and who are optimistic, cope best. Learning to accept change as an inevitable part of work and life may allow you to embrace the changes in front of you and, more importantly, to succeed.

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