Nurturing Change at Work

26 Nov 2019 | by Peter Neale

What scares you?  Spiders?  Shower curtains?  Wide open spaces?  

For me it’s heights.  Imagine the scene: it’s January, minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. We’re on the observation deck of a New York skyscraper. My wife is sitting over the glass floor, legs dangling, pointing out the yellow taxis more than a hundred storeys below and remarking about how tiny the Statue of Liberty looks in the freezing harbour. I’m standing at the back clinging onto the wall.

We all have fears: one that many of us have in common is the fear of change.  

A change at work can be especially daunting for some people because it can affect security, prospects and status.  Maybe you have been presented with an opportunity to make a change but didn’t take it. There might have been several plausible reasons why you didn’t take that chance, even though it was something you were looking for.  

So try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You have identified a new way of doing things that has been proven successful elsewhere, and you’re keen to introduce it at your school. You know that your team could be so much more effective, but you are aware that, for some key people it feels better to continue as they are, where they know how everything works, even if it isn’t perfect. It's safe there. If they’re good at their job, even though their heart may no longer be in what they do, it’s easier for them to put up with things and just continue on their treadmill.

The fear of change says: ‘I don’t want anything bad to happen.’ We are naturally afraid of being rejected, feeling hurt and looking foolish but, by avoiding change, we’re also avoiding the possibility of something good happening.  

So how do we start helping someone overcome the fear of change? Take time to develop your emotional intelligence by building an understanding of emotions in yourself and others and use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships. Identify the source of any resistance to change and help your colleagues look for little ways to be brave. The best way is to start small and make it a habit to try new things. Involve them every step of the way and try to be patient.

 Real growth is about daily, measured and disciplined action. It’s about pursuing new opportunities that stretch you and your colleagues to step beyond comfort zones. Help them focus on the excitement of possibilities, of a better work life, of being happier.  

Have enough courage to trust yourself and tell them that, no matter what happens, together you’ll figure out a way to make the new method work. Fear only has as much power over us as we choose to give it.  

So, take a big breath, and jump! Although that may not necessarily be the best cure for a fear of heights.