Sometimes dealing with uncertainty during workplace change can be worse than the change event itself. Actually, most times. And it can be really surprising who in your team or immediate colleagues copes with the uncertainty and who doesn’t.  Those that appear to be coping are probably doing so for four reasons:

 

 

 

1)      They have a high tolerance for uncertainty
2)      They are in denial – It’s not happening, there’s no point worrying about it
3)      They have a high level of self-efficacy  – doesn’t matter what happens next, I’ve got the skill set and attitude to get me through
4)      They are very skilled at impression management during work hours – don’t ask what happens when they leave work!

This post though is aimed more at those who are struggling with uncertainty during change.  There’s a lot of theory out there and research on coping with uncertainty. The following list provides a more practical focus on what you can do personally to cope with uncertainty in the workplace.

  1. Recognise the stages and emotions you are going through – shock, acceptance. When you acknowledge the state, you start to gain control of the effects of the emotion.
  2. Communicate with others – don’t internalize. Let people know how you are feeling.
  3. Ask for help if you are struggling – trusted peers, your social network, if you are uncomfortable with that try an independent support like Lifeline (13 11 14) – Australia only.
  4. Be proactive – update your CV, scan the market, network, do a SWOT analysis of yourself, renew contacts.
  5. Look at what you do have control of at the moment – eg the quality of your work, and focus on that
  6. Look at what is not changing in your life and focus some energy there (your anchors) (eg your family, your exercise)
  7. Maintain routines outside the workplace
  8. Turn to your favourite relaxation method – morning and evening
  9. Be positive in attitude – when you are positive in attitude in uncertain times opportunities arise. When you are negative in attitude, it spirals out of control
  10. Go do something for community, volunteer and shift the energy.
  11. Prepare for various scenarios – play out the “what if”. When you can fill in the sentence around “what if” you remove the potency of the anxiety.

Fear about job loss and or staying in the organization is dramatically different role is valid and can be really confronting. Pretty much all of the people I have known to go through a significant restructure or job loss experience do go on to something better though.
For many people it is really tempting to numb the anxiety with alcohol, drugs and comfort food.  Rarely does this contribute to a better outcome. Be kind to yourself and go easy.
What’s your tried and true method of coping with uncertainty at work? Leave it in the comments and I will add it to the post!

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Dr Jen Frahm – Author of Conversations of Change: A guide to implementing workplace change.

2 Comments

  1. Jo Tracey says:

    Having been through this, I can’t stress the importance of exercise and routine enough. As preachy as it sounds, feeling stronger in the body does help you feel that you are stronger full stop. It also encourages positivity.
    Good post, thanks Jen.

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