Change in the Workplace

How to protect your career when senior management changes

Organizational change

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Change makes most people uneasy. When that change is in your workplace and threatens your livelihood, that uneasiness can become abject fear and it may, if you let it, tremendously impact your career. Your response can make a significant difference to the long-term effects. Find out how to respond effectively when your employer is undergoing a major transition, such as one to its senior management team.

What Changes May Occur

Changes to organizations' senior management teams happen all the time. They are often the result of entities merging, being spun off, or getting acquired by private equity firms that buy up companies as investments.

Changes to an entity's management team may also occur for reasons that are unrelated to mergers and acquisitions. Boards of directors may decide to bring in new talent to replace underperforming CEOs, or upper-level managers may leave on their own. New chief executives, in turn, could bring in new mid and lower level managers to help them turn things around. Regardless of what precipitated it, a management change will alter your workplace in some way.

The Impact of Management Change on Your Workplace

A new management team may institute new rules and procedures, especially if your small, casually run organization is bought by a larger, more formally operated one. For instance, employees may have to follow processes for calling out and or requesting vacation time that were not in place before. Where limits on taking time off may have been somewhat lax, the folks running your company could stipulate how many sick and personal days they will allow. Your somewhat flexible old boss who didn't care what time you showed up as long as you worked a full day may have been replaced by a strict one who expects everyone to show up at a specific time every day.

The effect new management will have on the company culture—an organization's personality based on its values and underlying philosophies—may be subtle or quite noticeable. A casual workplace may become formal, or vice versa, for example. Your new boss may frown on the big birthday celebrations that used to happen in the break room at least once a week or may encourage parties when your prior boss didn't allow them. A workplace that forced you into wearing business attire every day may now allow casual dress. While going from a strict boss to a more laid-back one may sound good, it can also be disconcerting.

Even though adapting to revamped rules and procedures, and even a new company culture may be a bit unpleasant, you will probably be able to adjust to them with some effort. Other changes, however, are less pleasant, and can significantly affect your career. When one company merges with or is acquired by another, there will be duplication in lines of business and departments. An organization doesn't need two accounting and human resources departments, for instance, and therefore some employees will be excessed. Elimination of lines of business will also result in layoffs.

When new leaders come into a company, there is a trickle-down effect on those members of the organization who report to them including lower-level managers and the rank and file. You may someday find yourself facing challenges due to workplace changes like this. Your reaction to these transitions could have profound consequences on your career. Follow these dos and don'ts to cope with changes in your workplace that come about when new senior management arrives on the scene.

Tips for Facing the Challenges of Workplace Change

  • Become an Expert on the Changes: The more you know about what is happening, the better you will be able to react to it. Do company research to learn about the nature of the merger or acquisition or whatever else is at the root of the management change. If your employer is a publicly-held entity, it is required to make this information available to shareholders. That means it must file documents about it with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It will be more difficult, but not impossible, to find information about a privately-held company. Consult trade publications and other media that publish business news.
  • Get to Know the New Management Team: Attend any events your company may hold to introduce the new team to the staff. When you encounter an unfamiliar face around the office, initiate a conversation. Continue your online research to learn about new personnel. Your professional network can also be instrumental when gathering information about your new bosses.
  • Be Realistic About the Changes: People, in general, bristle at change, but it is important to note that not all changes are bad nor are they all good. Some may lead to improvements that may increase your job satisfaction, but others may make you dislike going to work. Approach this transition with an open mind. Understand some changes may require time to get used to and some may continue to make you feel uncomfortable no matter what you do.
  • Have a Plan In Place: Unfortunately, a workplace change may lead to your having to look for new employment. It may be for reasons beyond your control, for example, an organizational restructuring that results in the company eliminating your position or a manager bringing in his or her own people to replace you. Start preparing for a layoff as soon as whispers of the transition begin and activate your plan when necessary. Better to have it ready and not have to use it than to be blind-sided by a layoff. If your job is secure, but you decide to move on anyway, your plan can also help with that.