Change and disruption can offer your employees opportunities for personal and professional growth and development—or they can cause an employee to find the workplace unbearably stressful.
In a May blog posting, American Family Insurance Chairman, CEO and President Jack Salzwedel relates the vastly different experiences of two long-term employees when faced with a changing company culture.
The company had experienced a bunch of recent changes—new divisions, leadership, technology, business models, mergers and acquisitions, startups, changes to mission and vision, a new strategic plan—all of which created a new cultural environment.
The first employee embraced these changes, using the opportunity for personal and professional growth and development, and even had words of thanks for his current and former bosses. He noted: “It doesn’t feel like I’ve worked for this company that long, because this isn’t the same company as when I started”—and he clearly viewed these changes in a positive light.
Salzwedel contrasts this with the experience of another long-term employee who emailed him complaining about the changes, saying “it’s time for me to go.” This employee explained that after basically working in the same area for an entire career, the energy and excitement of coming to work was not the same and her supervisor was “ineffective and uncaring.” Over the years she had been given more work but with fewer people to help, and the resulting stress was unbearable at times.
Why the different reactions to change?
One employee moved around the company, actively learning and reinventing himself, using the job as an “extension of self.” For the other employee, the job was a good place to earn a living but easily set aside at the end of the day. When the job got to be too much, this employee’s work/life balance suffered, Salzwedel says.
He believes leaders need to find ways to reach both types of employees and teach them to embrace the opportunities offered by change and disruption, challenging his blog readers to think through how they deal with change, disruption and opportunities.
For more from Salzwedel, see the full blog posting: “Change, Disruption and Opportunities.”