“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus
Change is ever-present in our lives. We are always growing and evolving, and our situations and circumstances change, sometimes in an instant. Change can be frustrating, hard to understand, and difficult to embrace – especially at work.
When processes, systems, or team structures change, how do you react? Do you openly support change the instant you learn of it, or do you resist in some way? Most people are at least somewhat resistant to changes at work, at least initially. Change often evokes an emotional response. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always serve us well, especially in the workplace.
Being aware and in control of our emotions serves us greatly. Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions to facilitate high levels of collaboration and productivity. I’ve observed that those who are emotionally intelligent generally are more successful in their careers, and they seem to handle change better than others who are less emotionally intelligent and aware.
How can you improve and harness your emotional intelligence in the face of change at work? It’s easier than you might think!
Increase your self-awareness. This is an important first step, so that you can recognize when you are having a negative response or an emotional reaction. Self-awareness is the ability to identify and understand our moods and emotions, as well as their effects on others. To increase your self-awareness, try taking yourself outside your comfort zone a bit and observing your feelings. What did you feel while you were out of your comfort zone? How did those feelings manifest in your actions?
You can also conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself. Ask peers for feedback, but make sure to shift your thinking so you don’t view their honest feedback as negativity or criticism. Be mindful of your self-talk as well, as this directs our behavior. Try to make your internal dialogue encouraging, and remember that arrogance detracts from self-awareness. Great leaders are very self-aware and understand their impact on others.
Employ self-regulation. This is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, as well as the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting. When you are more self-aware, you can more easily recognize when you’re having a negative emotional reaction, and realize how that directs your behavior.
To self-regulate, take a pause! Think before you speak. Breathe, and try to respond instead of simply reacting. Think things through. Is the change that’s taking place really all that bad? In what ways could it be beneficial to you, your team, or the company? Focus on the positive aspects and opportunities, and be a “change champion!” Not only will this help to alleviate some stress and negative emotions, but it will help you to become a better team player and asset to management.