• Jim Toth

Navigating Change

Why change is scary...

  • People are hardwired to be loss-averse. Our "ape brains" prioritize retaining what we already have over trying to gain something new. The loss-averse mentality has its benefits when it comes to protecting assets, but it can be highly detrimental when it comes to navigating change. Change is commonly associated with uncertainty, fear, ambiguity, and skepticism. It breeds many negative thoughts and emotions which causes people to instinctively turn inward and death grip what they already have. The knee-jerk reaction to take selfish actions impedes taking advantage of growth opportunities. The purpose of this article is to help you capitalize on moments when a chapter in your life ends to make the next one the best one yet!

Have a "Yogi Bear" Mentality: Prevent fires, rather than putting them out. Stress levels have a direct correlation with proactive and reactive behavior.

  • Reactive Behavior: There are companies that operate by only putting out fires. It is a highly stressful environment that leads to increased burnout rates and poor performances. When problems arise, employees scramble to find a band-aid to slap on the issue only to wait for the next dilemma to arise. It never really solves the root problem and can lead to a whole host of new challenges. In most cases, the clearest decisions are never made in times of extreme pressure.

  • Proactive Behavior: A much more relaxed environment that gives employees the ability to get ahead rather than constantly catching up. It goes without saying that not all problems can be prevented or foreseen; however, there are strategies you could implement to mitigate unnecessary complications in the workplace in order to reduce chaos.

Guidelines to Get Through Change Proactively:

  • Support fellow employees: Company culture must be oriented in a way that everyone has each other's back. If people feel pitted up against one another in a hostile environment, the whole foundation of the organization will crack. Remind employees during times of change that everyone is on the same team, and that the new venture will require complete cooperation. Like a musk ox defending its young in a circular formation, as long as everyone is working together, threats to the group will be impenetrable. As soon as one member of the team runs off and puts their self-interests ahead of others', the group will be picked apart one by one.

  • Give authority to employees closest to the information: The majority of large-scale operations tend to affect base-level employees and middle management roles the most. Too often, executives let their egos get in the way of choosing the best decision by making their outcome the only outcome. Knowledgeable employees are by far the most significant asset a company can have. Giving authority to the most knowledgeable people in the organization will ensure that the correct decision is made. It is due to the fact that these employees understand the ins and outs of the business better than anyone. It is a proactive strategy in that giving the right people the power to make decisions will prevent avoidable problems from sprouting in the future. On top of that, it shows that the executive team trusts and values their employees' efforts.

  • Think like an agile tactician: Like a chess player thinking of future moves on a board, companies must also consider the reaction of every action. With every reaction, analyses should be conducted to gather the pros and cons of each move, and a way to handle negative outcomes should they arise. Preparation in these analyses' stages may save a great deal of time and money in the future. However, note that not all strategies are final. In a world of change, companies must be able to pivot and adapt quickly to new information. Sticking to the original plan for the sake of it being the original plan does not justify failure to adaptation.

  • Establish a line of communication: Strategies are useless if there is no way to effectively communicate it with others quickly. When communicating, messages must: state the situation, who it pertains to, what the next move is, how it will get accomplished, and when it will get accomplished. These messages should only be sent when necessary to avoid flooding communication lines, which would lead to important information being missed. Use a communication medium that cannot easily be mistaken as spam (email with consistent subject, central update location on a website, etc.) All employees must be aware of where they can find updates. Not everyone in the organization should receive the same information/instructions. It is the executive management's responsibility to ensure that everyone understands the grand objective. After that, they must relay information to their middle management staff who will lead their teams in the most effective way that they see fit. Middle management must be given the flexibility to lead their people their way, because it is likely that they are closer to the information.


  • Change does not have to be seen as negative. When prepared, change brings growth that could not possibly be achieved in times of stability. Remember to always put your employees first and that nothing can hold you back.

Article Written by: Jim Toth

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