One of the primary constants in our work environment is the oh-so dreaded change. Whether it’s dealing with yet another reorg, a shift in strategy, or getting a new boss maybe for the fourth time in two years, change is never easy. Let’s talk a bit about what makes it so hard, and what we can do to reduce the anxiety and stress it brings.

What makes change so hard anyway?

As I look back through my career and all the changes I endured, I have come to find that there are a handful of reasons that change is so hard. The first is that we fear losing control, responsibility, or our status in some way.

Some Examples

  • A change that means you’ll no longer be leading a team you loved
  • A change that means you’ll no longer be the Project Manager on a critical company initiative
  • A change that means you’ll be moving to a smaller division.

These changes can make you feel like you’ve lost something, are giving up something or that your status in the organization has been diminished.


Another reason change is not a well-liked aspect of our lives is that we are often uncertain about what’s going to happen due to that change. This uncertainty causes a lot of anxiety and stress, so we try to protect ourselves by avoiding change.

Having What It Takes

At the point of uncertainty, we end up telling ourselves, “It’s better to stick with the devil we know versus the devil we don’t know.” One unpopular but common trait of change is that it is thrown upon us without preparation. Naturally, when we don’t have time to prepare for something, it causes stress and anxiety.

I had to dig a little deeper for this next reason why change can be so hard for us. We may be concerned about whether or not we’ll have what it takes to succeed in the new, changed environment. Honestly, everything happens so fast, and just when we feel like we are starting to understand what we are doing and rocking and rolling, something changes! It can be unsettling, frustrating, and leave us feeling like we can’t deliver.

Past Disasters

Finally, my favorite reason why change is so hard is that similar past changes have been disasters. When I worked for a major consumer packaged goods company, a decision was made to change the packaging. Not only did that change create an enormous amount of work for people, but it also caused sales to decline by 20-25%, it was a colossal disaster.

From that point forward, each time the idea of a packaging change came up, I immediately remembered that disaster.  I had to work hard to tell myself “that was the past – and just because it was a disaster then doesn’t mean every packaging change will be a disaster”.  I had to remember to focus on what I learned from that experience and use it to help me inform future packaging decisions.

Change happens. How do we deal with it?

There are three ways to embrace change and avoid the anxiety and stress of it. The first is to start to recognize and accept that change is going to happen. Not because your boss or companies are determined to make our lives miserable, but because there’s an enormous amount of pressure being put on today’s businesses to innovate and grow.  The more we can train our brains to prepare and expect change the easer it will be for us when it happens.

The second way to deal with change is to acknowledge it IS hard. I just shared a variety of reasons why change is hard. Recognize it, ask why it’s hard, and allow yourself to experience a little of that anxiety and concern, but don’t focus on it. Don’t let it control and drive you because that’s when the wheels start to come off the bus.

The third thing you can do is carve out some time and think about the benefits of the change. This is sort of counterintuitive because we never take that step back and think, what’s one big thing about this change that excites or inspires me.

Think about what new skills, strengths, or competencies this change will allow you or your team to develop. How might you better yourself personally and professionally by living through this change?

Change is inevitable but absolutely manageable.

  1. Recognize and accept that change is going to happen.
  2. Acknowledge it’s going to cause some anxiety and concern, but don’t let it control you.
  3. Then spend some time thinking about the benefits of the change and how you and the team can benefit.

I know these are tricky things, but if you start putting these into place, change will be a little bit easier for you each time going forward.

And of course, and as always, if you’re working through a significant change now and want some help or a sounding board to work through it, definitely send me an email to