Top Tips for Coping with and Managing Change

Categories: Articles & Blogs, Change Management, Coping with Change Tagged with: ,

How much change have you experienced in the past year? How much are you likely to experience in the next year?

As Brian (in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian) said, when asked, “How much do you hate the Romans?” during his People’s Front of Judea ‘interview’, your answer is probably “a LOT!” (or perhaps something a bit stronger that we shouldn’t say in this article without it being blocked by your firewall).

So many organisations are going through significant change: restructuring, downsizing, new management, mergers and acquisitions, merging or changing offices and /or teams, growth, new job specs, new performance development plans, compliance with new legislation, applying/reapplying for jobs, redundancies, new IT systems…you name it, it’s probably happening in an office near you, if not to you personally.

And of course, change doesn’t just happen in the workplace. There may be big personal changes like moving house, getting married or divorced, a new baby, kids leaving home, a serious illness, partner getting a new job, etc. And smaller changes like a new phone, a different car, a new home appliance (TV, microwave, lawn mower etc.), road works, daylight saving, etc.

“Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.” Winston Churchill

Change is everywhere. Change is constant. The old saying “the only sure thing in life (other than death and taxes) is change” is very true.

If change isn’t managed well, engagement drops, motivation and productivity declines, sick and stress leave escalate, and the change itself takes so much longer to implement and real results can take a very long time to happen.

The organisation is responsible for implementing change properly, and ideally in accordance with all the great Change Management models and practices that are out there. However, the reality is that ‘The Organisation’ consists of real [imperfect] people, so change is rarely executed in a nice neat world where the models neatly apply and everything moves smoothly forward.

Organisational change is invariably driven from the top down, and although it may not feel like it, often with great motives and ideals – “a better service to our clients” message is common. All the change models talk about “communicating the positives and the virtues of the change throughout the organisation”, or similar. However, the reality is no matter how positive the motives and outcomes of the change people still often struggle to transition through it.

Some people view change positively, and they will see it as an exciting opportunity to learn and grow. Others see change negatively and will see it as something to fear and to avoid, or simply ignore it. Many will be in between.

People react to the change in different ways depending on their personality styles, what’s happening in their lives, their perception of the change and their perceived impact of the change on them personally. No matter how you try to say otherwise, perception is reality.

Our experience, and pretty much all the research shows that the biggest factors are how much certainty/uncertainty people feel, and how much control/lack of control they feel they have over the situation.

A perception of high uncertainty + perceived low level of control = poor outcomes: unhappy, stressed people, lower productivity, reduced performance, poorer outcomes for clients

A perception of low(er) uncertainty + perceived high(er) level of control = much better outcomes: happier, less  stressed people, higher productivity, better performance, better outcomes for clients and the change is transitioned better and achieved sooner.

Not coping well with and managing change can lead to great stress and other negative physical and psychological effects, which can impact personally and professionally.

However, like it or not, in the workplace the reality is that change must generally be accepted and coped with…or you are likely to have to make some serious career decisions one way or another. People who don’t cope well with change will likely find themselves missing out on a new role, overlooked for important projects, passed over for promotions, or left behind entirely.

So whether you’re an executive, a manager or a frontline staff member, the better you can cope with and manage change, the better outcomes you’ll get personally, the happier you’ll be and you’ll likely be more highly valued in your organization. You’ll be seen as a flexible and adaptable team player, and this reputation can open up many opportunities. If, however, you consistently resist change, you’ll be seen as “part of the problem,” and you’ll likely get left behind.

How to Cope with and Manage Change

Change can bring amazing opportunities, or it can bring defeat. It can lift an entire team up, or it can lead people to find other employment

Researchers Mel Fugate, Angelo J. Kinicki, and Gregory E. Prussia argue that there are two major types of coping strategies: “control coping” and “escape coping.”

“Control coping” is positive and proactive. You refuse to feel like a victim of change. Instead, you take charge and do whatever you can to be part of the solution, including managing your feelings.

The key thing here is taking positive action. Do something. Take positive action – no matter how small. It WILL help you feel like there is some choice. It WILL help you feel like you have at least some element of increased certainty and control. Even if it’s not the right positive action, at least you’re doing something…which will give a better feeling of being in control. Remember: 10 words, 2 letters each:

“If it is to be, it is up to me” William H. Johnsen

And even if that action didn’t work, surprisingly often that doesn’t matter – research proves that just doing something helps people feel like they’re more in control of their lives.

And you can learn from that action even if it didn’t work and do something else. It reportedly took Thomas Edison 5000 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked by a journalist how he kept going when he’d failed so many times, he replied, “sir, I did not fail. I just discovered 4999 ways how not to do it”.

 “Vision without Execution is just Hallucination” Thomas Edison

“Escape coping” is based on avoidance, engaging in negative behaviours that make it feel worse, and  ignoring, avoiding, or escalating the difficulties of change. For instance, you might deliberately miss training, take more sick/stress leave, or show up too late to attend a meeting about the upcoming change, start rumours about how bad/how much worse you think it’s going to be, etc. Sticking your head in the sand does not mean the problem will go away. Hope is not a strategy!

People can use both strategies simultaneously when coping with change. However, as you can imagine, control coping is the best option to choose, because it puts you in a position of positive control, with a feeling that you are in command of your future. Here, you proactively search for a way to be a part of the solution, instead of reacting to, and avoiding, or actively fighting the change.

It’s important to avoid common escape coping strategies, like drinking too much alcohol (well, more than usual, anyway!), lashing out emotionally, avoidance, and other negative behaviours. Instead, focus on control coping and taking positive action. Think about how you can take control of this situation and create a positive outcome for yourself and for the people around you. People who have a positive outlook find it much easier to engage in ‘control coping’.

Positive action could be something simple like not hanging around with those negative people who make you feel worse and removing yourself from situations where negative office gossip takes place. It could be updating your CV, getting yourself on a Job Application & Interview Skills course, having a look at what other jobs might be out there, reassessing your career or retirement options, simply jotting down some ideas & options of what options you might have open, even talking to EAPS to get help if you need to. Helping others is often a good way of helping yourself feel better.

Pretty much ALL the research, and certainly in our professional and personal experience here at Southern Cross Coaching and Development, says that doing something, taking some form of positive, proactive action is the key.

When people don’t take or delay action, they feel ‘done to’, disheartened, disengaged, depressed, cornered, disempowered, trapped… Obviously, this causes problems for the people themselves and flows on to the organisation and its frontline service to clients.

And if you are a manager Managing & Leading change, combine this with CONSTANT communication up, down and across the organisation. Even if you as a manager are getting no communication from above, communicate this to your teams. Build trust; enable a positive action orientated environment.

A lack of communication means people don’t know what’s going on. People then find it hard to know what action to take and often end up paralysed. And more often than not, the gossip and rumour mill grinds into the strongest action and people make up their own versions of what’s happening, develop perceptions around that that are very hard to shift even with the truth, and waste their time and energy trying to fight or avoid a change that may not even be the reality.

Talk to your teams, your peers, your boss. Find out how people are feeling, what they’re thinking. And more importantly, remember a massive part of communication is LISTENING to people. It helps people feel understood and that gives them security and more certainty. That one single thing on its own will be a huge positive and will help people cope better.

Help then take at least some positive action. Help them help themselves. Even if you’re not a manager perse, you can take a leadership role in your team and help your peers and team mates by listening and helping them take positive action. And not engaging in the negatives.

 “There are 6 types of people in life: those who hope it won’t happen; those who ignore what happens; those who sit back and watch it happen; those who wait for it to happen; those who wish it would happen…and those who make it happen. The happiest people are nearly always those who make it happen.” Simon Smith

So, whether you’re an executive, a manager or a front-line staff member, your primary job is to constantly communicate what is happening, up and down. And remember a massive part of that communication includes listening!

If nothing is happening, constantly communicate that nothing is happening, and do more listening to what the fears and worries are, and what help is needed. Nip rumour and gossip in the bud and focus on the facts. Manager or staff member, if you don’t know, don’t make it up. Open the lines of communication.

At all levels, as much as humanly possible, maintain a positive outlook about the situation where you sensibly should. This will help you cope with the situation, and grow from the experience. Even if a change seems negative at first, there’s often a positive outcome if you take the time to find it. Only you can decide whether you’ll grow from the situation, or let it affect you negatively. Research shows that over 95% of people who were unexpectedly retrenched look back on the experience as a positive one. Many of us here at Southern Cross Coaching and Development also talk from personal experience here.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

Finally, whether you like it or don’t like it, take positive action! It WILL help you cope with the change, overcome your fears, and feel less trapped and dis-empowered. It doesn’t have to be a huge leap – small steps will do. Do whatever’s right for you. Encourage your staff, your peers, all those around you to take positive action. Doing something is nearly always better than doing nothing. 


Featured Training Courses

Southern Cross Coaching & Development delivers very practical courses centred around change which are beneficial to all staff on every level.

Leading, Managing & Resilience to Change

“Provided great tools and support to improve my skills in change management.” Course Participant

Leading, Managing & Resilience to Change empowers managers to lead and understand even extreme change, and gives them practical, on-the-ground skills and models to help them simultaneously lead, manage and cope with it.

It enables managers to build their personal resilience to change, and teaches practical strategies and real world tools to apply in the everyday workplace to enable them to effectively lead teams through even extreme change e.g. restructures, agency/ office/ team mergers, staff transferring/ losing their jobs, etc.

Change is natural and inevitable. However, it can be difficult for staff and team leaders alike. Managers can feel overwhelmed themselves, especially when dealing with often scared, emotional and angry staff. This course equips managers to deal with that.

“Giving some uninterrupted thought/consideration as to how I can assist my team (and me) though the transition of change – not just the upcoming changes (Localisation) but the change we face everyday.” Course Participant

What does this course cover?

  • Understanding various change models
  • Practical strategies and actions to look after themselves through massive change
  • Understanding how people react to change and the reactions to expect
  • Practical strategies and actions to lead and manage staff through massive change
  • The SCARF Model and how to apply it to Leading and Managing Change
  • Practical Coaching and Counselling techniques to use in the change process
  • Practical skills and everyday actions to keep self and staff motivated
What does the course achieve?
  • Practical tools skills they can apply immediately
  • Enable and empower managers to lead teams through times of extreme change
  • Empower staff with tools to cope with that extreme change to the best of their ability
  • Enable the organisation to provide as close to an uninterrupted service to clients as can be reasonably humanly possible

  “Gave me the opportunity to think about how we approach this change and how we communicate this.” Course Participant

“I believe that organisations who are going through change would benefit from all staff attending this course. It can help with information to prepare individuals for change” Course Participant

Coping with & Resilience to Change empowers staff to cope with even extreme change, and gives them skills and models to help them build resilience to it and keep functioning and moving forward: even extreme change for example, restructures, agency/ office/ team mergers, staff losing jobs, etc.

Winston Churchill said: “when you’re going through hell – keep going!” This course does just that – it helps people take responsibility for their futures and more importantly, take action.

We’ve had proven results, delivering the course to nearly 1000 front line and back office staff and managers, maintaining good productivity even in very demanding circumstances.

  “It taught me that I will be able to cope with the change that will inevitably happen with HNSW effectively and positively.” Course Participant

Coping with and Resilience to Change is designed to pre-empt and cushion the destabilizing effect change has upon your workplace and staff. Change is both inevitable and challenging for every business or enterprise and without the skills required to handle this challenge, it is common for communication to break down and confusion to cause ineffectiveness in the workplace.

This course coaches staff to be ready for change and teaches them skills and techniques to cope with it. In delivering this course we have been able to prevent the inefficiency that often curtails the process from reaching its desired outcomes. 

“The tools that I can take with me and apply when these changes are implemented makes me feel more prepared and not worry about it.” Course Participant

 What does this course cover?

  • Understanding change and how it affects you and others
  • Stages of change and emotional factors
  • The grieving process
  • Futility of fighting change
  • The Change Curve – practical applications
  • Fear: What it is and how to overcome/cope with it
  • The SCARF Model – practical applications
  • Locus of Control: perspective and self-empowerment
  • Practical coping strategies
  • Comfort Zones: the impact of getting in/not out of it
  • Importance of taking action and responsibility
  • Being proactive

 What does the course achieve?

  • Staff are ready for change and have the knowledge to handle its sometimes adverse effects
  • Fear of change is combated before it compromises the effectiveness of the workforce
  • An understanding of the importance of emotional factors upon yourself and others
  • Practical coping skills are taught and employed
  • Positive action in staff

 “Awesome course.. I no longer feel suicidal! Thanks” Course Participant


Update: AIM Excellence Awards 2014

State Finalist (NSW & ACT) Owner Manager of the Year Award – Simon Smith

We recently shared with you that Simon Smith (SCC&D’s CEO) was 1 of 5 State Finalists (NSW & ACT) for the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) Excellence Awards as Owner Manager of the Year 2014. The objective of the Awards program is to recognise the achievements of Australia’s best and most inspiring managers and leaders. 

Simon had the deciding interview with the selection panel consisting of some of the Australian Institute of Management’s most senior business leaders, investors and industry executives on the 17th October. The winner was announced later that evening at the awards night held at AIM. We waited with nerves and excitement to hear the outcome, but unfortunately Simon was pipped at the post by a very worthy winner who had recently sold his internationally established business.

Still, we hope you’ll congratulate Simon on being one of only 5 State Finalists, a great achievement. We’re very proud of Simon for making it to the finals, it’s well deserved and also great recognition of his leadership, hard work, knowledge and vision. And of course, congratulations to the winner Michael Snare, Managing Director, Point Project Management who will go through to the national finals later this year. 


About Southern Cross Coaching & Development

Southern Cross Coaching & Development delivers a very wide range of practical, results-focused, down to earth, reality-based training, coaching, facilitation, and team development services that translate into real life action and real world results.

We put our money where our mouths are & offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee.

A 100% money-back guarantee^ applies to each individual’s facilitation, coaching and training program.

The cost of an individual’s coaching program will be refunded in full if the sponsoring key stakeholder or the individual coachee  does not feel the coach has made a positive impact^. Regarding facilitation and training programs, the pro rata cost of an individual’s training or facilitation program (excluding travel expenses) will be refunded if the organisation deems it has not got the required outcomes for that particular individual^.

^All we ask is that the coaching, facilitation or training was undertaken voluntarily (we can lead the horse to water but can’t make it drink!), SCC&D’s invoice was paid within the agreed terms on the invoice, and that the participant and organisation’s key stakeholder(s) invoking the money-back guarantee agree to give SCC&D in-depth constructive feedback as to why they each felt the respective program was not successful and how things might be constructively changed in the future.

Please give us a call on 02 7901 5618, email getresults@southerncrosscoaching.com.au, or go to www.southerncrosscoaching.com.au 

We have a highly experienced and expert team of 25 Coaches, Consultants and Trainers working with us including; former Public and Private Sector Human Resources/ Organisational Development/ Learning and Development Directors/General Managers/Managers; a former Reserve Bank of Australia member; the International Coach Federation Australia Coach of the Year 2013; Six Sigma Black Belt & LEAN Qualified Consultants and industry leaders etc. Hence we can cover a very wide range of services and can design whatever is required. 

We work with all levels from experienced executives to new managers to frontline staff, and operate all over NSW as well as inter-State. We take time to listen and find out what objectives you want to achieve, and then recommend the best solution to achieve the required outcomes.

We also design courses from scratch to suit an exact purpose. In any case, we always prefer to customise each training program to what you need in-house and ideally will customise each individual training course to the participants. Although we don’t currently run public courses we are happy to discuss with you the option of private courses and the costs involved.

The Team at Southern Cross Coaching & Development

Southern Cross Coaching & Development has a wide range of practical experience across many different industries in the Private Sector, as well as extensive Public Sector experience. 

SCC&D has Full Qualification Status (and EARL approval) under the NSW Government Prequalification Scheme: Performance & Management Services, Capabilities 4a & 4b.

Call: +61 (0)2 7901 5618 or Email: getresults@southerncrosscoaching.com.au