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Personal Perspectives Play a Part in Our Ability to Adapt to Change

Our current work environments are in a serious state of flux. On one hand, leaders are trying to respond to their organizations’ demand for productivity while also balancing their employees’ desire for flexibility and remote work arrangements.

And at the same time, technological advancements are calling into question the role Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital innovation could play in altering the nature of work and workplace environments.

To navigate the day to day challenges, teams have to remain agile and be ready to adapt to what feels like constant and inevitable change.

Because team leaders are responsible for communicating changes and preparing their employees to react to it, they need to remember that personalities and perceptions influence how individuals respond.

Personal preferences for structure, competition, and routine can all lead employees to either embrace new things or resist what feels risky. But perception cannot be an excuse for team members not to adapt, so it’s up to leaders to help guide the way. 


Set on Structure

Some team members are set on structure. Perhaps it’s a project manager who keeps an Excel spreadsheet that outlines the next two quarters — or maybe it's an engineer who doesn’t take kindly to last minute change orders.

These employees prefer a defined plan with detailed steps, established deadlines, and clear expectations all neatly laid out before them. They want to have clarity about what success and their personal development looks like and what they need to do to achieve it.

For these personality types, uncertainty equates to risk. They have a hard time taking things in stride when plans change – especially if those changes come quickly with little advance notice. Sudden shifts make them feel uneasy, lose their sense of security, or struggle to adapt.

On the other end of the spectrum are workers who are more flexible. With what can look like feline reflexes, these cool cats seem almost pliable under pressure, easily adapting to reassignments and new challenges. 

Of course, team leaders must manage across the spectrum — from employees who crave structure to those who thrive with volatility. So when changes are in the works, the best course of action is to communicate early and often. By being open and sharing as much information as possible, leaders can help increase psychological safety, minimize speculation, and reduce the degree of risk some feel.


Craving Competition

We all know the type — the coworker who can turn anything into a competition, whether it’s hitting a sales target or hitting a trash can with a crumpled piece of paper. Those who crave a more competitive work environment welcome opportunities for praise and individual recognition. Viewing change as a potential opportunity to showcase their unique skills, they can roll with the punches if it gives them the ability to shine. Despite the countless unknowns, they are willing to endure the risks and readily adapt.

Employees who don’t seek competition may have a different perspective. They may be thinking about how the change will negatively affect the team overall, and focus on potential pitfalls more than the possibility for rewards. Adaptive leaders can help team members, regardless of their appetite for competition, by minimizing the unknowns as much as possible and recognizing all employees’ contributions equally.


Respecting Routine 

For some, a consistent routine is mind-numbingly dull. They prefer variety in tasks and projects — for them, change can be invigorating because it promises something new and novel. Those who don’t mind shaking things up on occasion will easily adapt to change.

Others value the repetition of routine. They enjoy the comfort of knowing what a day, week, or month holds in store for them. They don’t want to adjust to new people, different spaces, or altered schedules. They often view change as an irritating disruption that threatens to knock them off a known course.

When possible, leaders should try to articulate a motive behind the madness. Employees who prefer routine will adapt more readily and align themselves on a new path if they understand how it helps achieve their team’s purpose.


Change with No Excuses

In today’s workplace, the ability to adapt to change can be the difference between an organization that thrives and one that stagnates and gets left behind. Team members may try to lean into their preferences as reasons to stick with the status quo, but personalities aren’t a justification to resist needed change. 

Leaders will find it easier to align their teams behind a new strategy when they consider employees’ unique perspectives and needs. The Birkman Signature Report helps leaders identify individual’s preferences for structure, competition, and routine, all of which factor into how your employees might adapt to change.

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