Adjusting to Change

Q. I am getting some lousy feedback at work about my attitude, my ability to adapt to change and my willingness to be accountable. I have been here 15 years reporting to the head of the company. Our company was smaller when I started and I worked closely with my boss. Now, I need to report to someone else, when I really don’t need anyone telling me what to do. I know my job.

A. Chances are you do know your job, but what you don’t know is how to deal with change. That is often the largest challenge to doing a job well, while remaining a good colleague and employee.

The good news is your company is growing, and you have played a part in that success. With that growth, peoples’ roles change and your boss most likely has taken on new responsibilities which prevent him from working as closely with you as he had in the past. A new layer of management has been added, and that manager is now being held accountable for managing you, and your work.

The mistake most companies make when introducing these kinds of changes is not communicating the changes and potential reactions as thoroughly to the people impacted as they should. People leading these changes have given the issues a great deal of thought over a period of time, and assume the people impacted can adjust quickly; most people do not. People need time to discuss, process and deal with what they lose and what they gain before they commit to moving ahead. Not everyone does make the adjustment, and many people choose to leave an organization in times of significant change.
To deal with these changes in a more positive way, you need to understand first what has happened; then develop a plan to commit to the new organizational structure. You may feel you have lost a relationship to a senior person, where you had a certain level of power and authority. After 15 years of working closely, you and your boss need to redefine your relationship. Though you won’t report directly to him, your knowledge of the company and the culture are assets he will continue to appreciate. He will also appreciate your willingness to support your new manager, and the changes any new manager brings to how things are done.
If the feedback you are getting is from your former boss, clear the air. Let him know that you remain committed to his success and that of the company. You both need to understand that working with one manager for many years and making the shift to a new manager may not be easy, but that you’ll demonstrate a positive and supportive attitude. Have a similar conversation with your new manager. All three of you need to know that new behaviors take time to work out and will commit to communicating and making the new situation work.
Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners

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