If you look up the word “change” in the dictionary, it has several different meanings. Merriam-Webster’s definition of CHANGE includes:
- to make radically different
- to give a different position, course or direction to
- to replace with another
Change can be exciting and scary at any age—whether you’re graduating from high school, accepting your first “official” job out of college, moving to a new home, taking your child to their first day of daycare or kindergarten, or any number of “firsts.”
Along with the excitement, change can also bring anxiety. Over 42 million adults in the United States age 18 and older experience some form of anxiety, so when it comes to change in the workplace it can be hard for employees to cope and look beyond the fear and uncertainty.
When rapid change leads to overwhelm
I spent 14 years working at my previous place of employment. I was employee number 76 for a software company, and during that time we went through tremendous growth. Not only was the company growing, but as an individual, it allowed for new career growth.
As an organization, we had five name changes (most of that due to acquisitions). We moved four times (twice as an entire company and twice it was just a department or two). We added new team members, realigned teams, leadership and departments. We changed from having all of our employees based out of our corporate office to having offices around the world and remote, home-based team members.
As an employee in modern businesses, change and growth are just a part of the wild ride. But I can honestly say that although there was excitement and new career opportunities, there was also fear, uncertainty and a lot of questions: “Would my job be secure?” “How would our corporate culture change?” “Would our benefits change?” “Where do we go from here?”
Using levity to keep employees grounded
I see this same anxiety play out in hospitals dealing with the growing pains of integrated health systems, changing industry regulations and adopting new technology and processes. And much like my previous employer, those organizations that move through times of change most successfully keep steady focus on one key aspect of the business—corporate culture.
Even though our company was growing, we still held tight to fun, humor and a sense of community you usually find in smaller companies. Our CEO’s motto was that we ‘play hard and work harder’—and through all the transitions, we worked hard to preserve the good humor and camaraderie that had helped us succeed in the first place.
We continued our Friday morning all-company team meetings, monthly happy hours, fiercely competitive Corporate Challenge participation, team-building and community volunteering, and even an annual company-wide dodgeball tournament. Leadership called it “mandatory fun,” but the funny thing is, it didn’t feel mandatory, it just felt like “normal.” And I’ll argue that maintaining some sense of normalcy, is what keeps individuals and teams together during times that might otherwise feel like chaos.
When it comes to workplace change, nothing is “guaranteed.” There will always be the unknowns. But actively embracing a corporate culture that makes a point to include openness, humor and employee engagement can help keep spirits up and stress levels down—and prove to your employees that while the only thing constant may be change, they have an employer and a team worth changing for.