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22 Jun 2016

How can I cope with overwhelming change at work?

by Melanie Franklin

I am currently overwhelmed by the amount of change I am dealing with at work and I think my experiences are so typical we can probably learn some lessons from them.

A new Board of Directors have been appointed for the global organisation I am working for. They are impressively professional and want to put the organisation onto a solid foundation so they are creating lots of new policies and processes for all of the countries in which they operate to follow.

I manage one of these countries so my job is to ensure all of my teams become aware of the new policies, understand them and follow them.

The problem is the volume of work involved balanced alongside my day job. I already have so many projects underway and yet every day I have new emails from at least one Board member with more tasks for me. There has been no consideration of my existing workload, and no-one has asked me how busy I am right now. So I feel disrespected and my resentment is building. In other words I am typical of how everyone feels when they encounter organisational change!

So if we are managing change well we already know the things that the Board should have done to stop me ever getting to this level of resentment:

  • Notified me (and my fellow country managers) about the work that they would be doing and what I could expect to receive from them over the coming months. Building my awareness gives me time to think through how I can contribute and what impact this will have on my current ways of working.
  • Ask me about my current workload and make it clear they are interested in what I perceive to be the impact of their new policies.
  • Ask me how I think they can best be implemented and crucially, over what time frame so that I can balance the current workload with these new activities

But as none of this happened, what should I do next to get things back on track?

Well the first thing to do when a situation is starting to feel out of control is to stop reacting. So I have stopped replying to every email. Instead I have taken back control by putting together a plan of my time needed to review the new processes and the schedule of meetings I can fit in with my teams to discuss them and understand their impact.

The time frame might not be what the Directors want to hear, but it is a good way of diplomatically explaining how much additional work they are generating for me and how demonstrating that I am taking it seriously and I am planning for its completion.

Wish me luck!

Melanie Franklin
22nd June 2016