Brian and Ann thought they were the lucky ones. After all, they’d survived a barrage of corporate changes; including downsizing and then a takeover; and still had their jobs, their seniority and a generous company-funded benefit package.
But neither Brian nor Ann felt particularly lucky. In fact, both found it increasingly difficult to show up for work. Everything had changed. Decisions that used to be made locally were now decreed from the headquarters in Chicago. Job descriptions had been rewritten, a new department supervisor was appointed and even the cafeteria menu was revamped.
The biggest problem was the change in morale. Like Brian and Ann, most of the surviving employees were tired, overworked and just plain unhappy. Many of them secretly envied their colleagues whose severance packages freed them to take stock of their career and to pursue other opportunities.
At times like this, Brian and Ann need to make a difficult choice. They can continue to exist solely as survivors, and wallow in unhappiness about their work situation and the loss of their friends’ jobs. Or, they can change their perceptions and become “organizational thrivers.”
An organizational thriver is like a free agent. As in sports, free agents must be proficient in their own sport, but also take responsibility for representing their own best interests by staying on top of the game to maximize their potential and value.
Similarly, organizational thrivers take responsibility for their own career, and for their own situation within the workplace. Even in less than desirable situations, organizational thrivers maintain their positive attitude and productivity.
Changing from a survivor to a thriver can be challenging; but it’s definitely worth the effort. Here are ten ways that you, or unhappy employees like Brian or Ann, can become an organizational thriver:
1. Take charge of your situation. Don’t count on anyone but yourself to relieve your psychological load. Learn how to manage the stress you’re under, and take some concrete steps to reduce the overall stress in your job and your life.
2. Accept change. You may not like it, but an organization must change in order to survive and prosper. Rather than fighting these changes, invest your energy in adjusting to them. Remember, you can’t remain effective in a changing organization unless you change yourself.
3. Avoid self pity. Acting like a victim benefits neither you nor the organization. Instead, be resilient and remain productive. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t change things anyway.
4. Become a student of your situation. Figure out what has changed in your office and then adapt your work habits, techniques and behavior to accommodate these changes. Although it’s sometimes difficult to make these adjustments, you’ll have a lot more problems if you refuse to make them.
5. Maximize yourself. Force yourself to get busy, take positive actions, and increase your productivity. Make it obvious to everyone watching that you are energized and you’ll feel energized.
6. Re-engineer your job. No matter what your job is, analyze it and dump the parts that aren’t necessary. Eliminate unnecessary steps, get rid of busywork, and unload activities that don’t have any value.
7. Pick your battles. People undergoing organizational change often end up with a bad case of battle fatigue. Some wear themselves out fighting a war on many fronts; others waste too much emotional energy fighting over trivial issues. Your best bet is to select battles that are important to you; battles that you have a good chance of winning.
8. Fall in love with your job. Don’t let the stress of change drive a wedge between you and your work. Commitment to your job makes you emotionally stronger and happier, and is an excellent antidote to stress.
9. Broaden your experience. Reach out for new assignments that broaden your experience and your value. Not only does this help make your life more interesting, it makes you more employable.
10. Continue to expect change. Don’t expect things to return to the way they were. Instead, recognize that we live in a very fluid time, and struggling to control the change will only defeat you. Instead, accept that there will always be change and confusion in your life. And invest your time in learning how to thrive in these changing environments.