Director's Message: Dealing with Change at Work

Here are five strategies to help you remain flexible, resilient, and serene in the face of change at work.

The world of oral health is changing at an extraordinary pace. The old rules no longer apply, and new rules are being written and rewritten all the time.

These changes can be unsettling, whether they're potential or actual, positive or negative. For example, you may be gearing up for a new periodontal or remineralization program, or offering new products and services.

How We Respond to Change

As soon as something nudges you out of your regular routine, or challenges your understanding of how the world works and where you fit into it, it will likely trigger a deluge of feelings, including fear, anxiety, overwhelm, excitement, distraction, or denial.

In turn, these feelings can manifest in your behavior. You may, unconsciously, act out with aggressive or passive-aggressive communication, both at work and home. Or you might feel compelled to procrastinate, avoiding implementing the new product or service that's right in front of you.

On a personal level, your self-care may suffer. You may reach for unhealthy substances or behaviors, get less sleep, skip meals, or overindulge. You might cut yourself off from friends and family and spend more time alone or with other people who have unhealthy habits.

The Impact

Both positive and negative stress can have immediate and long-term detrimental effects. Stress inhibits proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients, impairs your body's ability to ward off germs and illness, can cause insomnia, and is guaranteed to worsen any pre-existing health conditions. If you're also engaging in unhealthy behaviors and poor self-care, you're at an even higher risk for serious illness and injury.

Dealing with change requires flexibility, resilience, and an ability to think on your feet. Unfortunately, when you're caught up in your reaction to change, these mental abilities are affected as well. When you're preoccupied, worried, and focused on the future instead of the present, it's much harder to concentrate and apply your brainpower to what's in front of you.

Great leaders are admired for their serenity and confidence even in the face of uncertainty and upheaval. For many of us, though, when change is afoot, serenity is far from our reach. Instead, emotions are much closer to the surface and can flare up at the most inopportune times. Whether you lash out, cry, or pound on your desk behind closed doors, it's incredibly uncomfortable to feel so out of control.

Consider, also, the impact on the people around you. Emotional outbursts, whether at work or home, can irrevocably damage your effectiveness, your reputation, and your relationships.

Strategies for Success

Here are five strategies to help you remain flexible, resilient, and serene in the face of change:

1. Take care of your body. Eat well, sleep well and refrain from harmful habits like smoking, excessive drinking, recreational drugs, or other risky behavior.

2. Take care of your mind. Stay in the present moment by practicing deep breathing and/or meditation. Challenge your negative thinking and keep things in perspective; when the doom and gloom sets in, ask, "How important is this, really?"

3. Keep your emotions in check. Find reasons to smile and laugh, even when you don't feel like it — especially when you don't feel like it! Funny movies, blogs, or videos can help. Vent your negative feelings by exercising, banging on a drum, or pounding on a pillow.

4. Treat others well. Strengthen your good relationships so you can draw on their support and work at your challenging relationships so they don't add to your stress.

5. Take charge. Be proactive and prepare the best you can for the changes that might come, but then accept the reality of the moment. Think back to other challenges that you've come through and remind yourself that everything will work out okay this time, too.

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage

More in Practice Management Tips