How to Adapt to Change in the Workplace in 4 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 11, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether internal or external, forces of change represent a constant feature in most modern industries. Adaptability strategies can help businesses respond flexibly to these forces and continue to thrive. Learning how to adapt to change in the workplace can help you to continue working effectively while these adjustments occur. In this article, we define workplace change, present some potential benefits of change, discuss how to adapt to it by following a sequence of steps, and outline the important conceptual difference between change and transition.

Related: Culture Change in the Workplace and Tips for Managing It

What is workplace change?

Workplace change refers to any kind of change in a workplace that can affect your normal daily working routine. Examples of this can be changes in management, company structure, department personnel, or the work environment. If you're accustomed to working in a certain way, you may find it challenging to continue performing your work effectively while adapting to these differences. Fortunately, there are many strategies that you can apply to help you thrive throughout a workplace transition.

Related: Guide to Leadership Change (Uses and Key Elements)

How to adapt to change in the workplace

If you're wondering how to adapt to change in the workplace, here's a sequence of basic steps that you can complete to help frame your thinking regarding the transition and reassess your role at work:

1. Accept the change

The first thing you can do in this process is to mentally accept the change. Acceptance can reduce stress and help you concentrate on adjusting to the new circumstances. Rather than comparing the new situation to the old, you can reflect on the reasons for the change and consider what kinds of new opportunities might arise as a result.

Related: Change Phases: How to Prepare a Team for Change in 4 Steps

2. Maintain open communication

Clear and open communication, both among colleagues and with management, can be a key factor in ensuring a successful workplace transition. You can support this process by keeping yourself informed and sharing your knowledge with other staff members. You can ask questions about any aspects you're unsure of, as this can reduce the anxiety of uncertainty and help you be better prepared. If you're in a management role, being transparent when discussing future adjustments can help foster trust and unity across the whole team.

Related: What Is a Change Management Process and How Does It Work?

3. Identify your sphere of control

This step involves reflecting on your position in the workplace to identify the aspects you have control over. You can make a list to help you determine which areas you have the power to personally influence. This can help give you a greater sense of agency in your work, particularly in situations of uncertainty or transition. Understanding this can also be very useful in knowing where to direct your resources during times when daily routines may experience some disruption.

Focusing on the parts of your work life that you can control can help you conserve mental energy and avoid excessive worry about aspects that you can't influence. By taking the initiative to assess your role within the workplace, you may achieve a greater sense of stability and security in your position. When you commit to performing your duties to the best of your ability, you may also be indirectly supporting your colleagues and the entire transition process, as they can feel assured that you're fulfilling your responsibilities.

Related: 40 Change Management Quotes to Inspire the Entire Team

4. Reassess your goals

You may find that the workplace changes you're facing make it necessary to redefine your work goals. Any transition can be an excellent opportunity to reflect on what you've already achieved and check whether you can make any amendments to keep your career trajectory. You can use the SMART method to help you set new goals that align with the organization's new structure or approach and are realistically achievable and well-defined. Here's a summary of what the SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific: A goal that is specific and limited in scope can be much easier to work toward than one which is vague or tries to address too much at once. Using precise language to frame your goal can help establish a realistic plan for achieving it.

  • Measurable: Establishing how you plan to assess your progress is essential. Identifying a suitable parameter that you can use to measure your advancement in a quantifiable way can make it much easier to assess your progress and stay committed to your goal.

  • Achievable: Setting goals that are realistically achievable in a certain time frame can make you more likely to accomplish them, increasing your level of motivation as you complete each milestone. This process involves considering the level of dedication, time, and resources you have available to you when you begin.

  • Relevant: Setting relevant goals, particularly those that pertain to your working life, involves thinking about the goal you want to achieve within its broader context. This can mean reflecting on how your personal goals align with the goals of the team, department, or company where you work.

  • Timely: Setting time limits for each of your goals can help you stay motivated by establishing a sense of urgency while reducing the possibility of distractions. It can also help you create a detailed and realistic action plan by allowing you to look ahead and allocate the necessary time and resources for each stage of your objectives.

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Benefits of workplace change

While change of any kind has the potential to cause disruption, uncertainty, or anxiety in the workplace, change can often be beneficial for employees and companies alike. Many management teams implement changes to address inefficiencies in work processes, improve productivity by upgrading company infrastructure or technology, or create a more inclusive and participatory workplace culture. By maintaining a positive outlook regarding anticipated changes in your workplace, you can build greater personal resilience, flexibility, and problem-solving skills.

You may also find that these changes can often present new opportunities. You can look for ways to translate change into positive outcomes by thinking about what you can learn from the process. For example, a restructuring of your department and reallocation of responsibilities may represent an opportunity to learn a new skill or a better process for a task you perform regularly. Another example may be the chance to form new relationships with colleagues you may not have known previously or to build a network of professional contacts.

Related: 54 Quotes about Change That Can Inspire You into Action

Change vs. transition

Understanding the difference between change and transition can also be a significant part of how you think about workplace changes, affecting how you choose to respond to them. A change typically represents an external factor that you may not have control over. For example, a supervisor you've worked with for a long time decides to move out of the province, and your workplace replaces them with someone you don't know from another branch. Transition refers to the internal process of adaptation you or your team go through while the external change is occurring.

The difference between these two terms is important because it can help you better understand your role within the change process. Considering how you can adjust your own behaviour, routines, and procedures to support others in the organization can help ensure a successful transition, regardless of the type of change you face. Focusing on your personal transition process, rather than external changes you can't control, can help you direct your energy to perform at your best and find new opportunities while also providing stability and support to your team.

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