The Simplest Way to Navigate Through Unanticipated Change

Posted on: October 4, 2019, by :

Most people rely on the comfort of routine more than they appreciate the benefits associated with unanticipated change. In my experience, as both a manager and a coach, that’s been the reality.


A few years ago, for example, one of my friends experienced a setback in his career progression. He had achieved the milestones his manager had set for him only to be told he would need to wait another year for the updated title and salary increase.

Initially, he tried to focus on the big picture—if this is what he was being told then it must be the truth and be grounded in an important rationale. He couldn’t stop the nagging feeling he had that was telling him something was amiss.

The more he thought about it, the more he convinced himself that either he wasn’t being told the complete truth about his performance or the need to wait for the promotion.

At that point, he reached out to me. I asked him, “What is the basis for the delay?” “Have you discussed your concerns with your manager?” He said he was unclear on the reason for the delay and they he’d been told been told repeatedly that his work exceeded expectations.

He knew what he needed to do—he needed to have a conversation with his manager and ask questions to help alleviate his anxiety.

For most major changes I’ve experienced, I find it’s better to focus on the facts, the reality surrounding the change. And if you don’t have all the facts or if you need more clarity, don’t hesitate to get it. This approach is generally easier than considering numerous factors that may or may not be relevant.

Here are three steps you can use to help you navigate change:

  1. Gather the facts. Regardless of the circumstance, you need the truth before determining the best actions for you.
  2. Accept the reality. This may take time; everyone processes through major change differently.
  3. Understand that one of the only things you can control is how you react. Think through this prior to taking action.

To circle back about my friend’s situation. He was relieved to have a conversation with his manager. He discovered that everyone in the unit that was to be promoted was waiting until the next fiscal year due to budget constraints. His conversation spurred additional conversation within the leadership team and it was decided to move forward with updating the titles that were pending. He also discussed his performance with his manager and was glad to have gathered more information on which he could base his opinions and actions.

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