Very few people thrive on change. Change creates uncertainty, which the human mind is not built to tolerate. When change takes place in a company, organizational and personal stress often follow.
But since change is ever-present and accelerating daily in the banking industry, it is important to deal with it.
The first thing to understand about change is that it is an opportunity to mobilize people and organizations to achieve extraordinary things.
Price Pritchett, author of "A Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change," identified 15 mistakes people make when dealing with change:
Mistake No. 1 - Expect somebody else to reduce your stress. Change is often blamed on senior management. What many often fail to see is that change is often a response to an existing stress within the organization and thus a corrective action, a step forward.
Mistake No. 2 - Decide not to change. People do not have to change just because the organization does; when announcements are made that something new and different is happening, some decide they won't play ball. But by resisting, they set themselves up for a tough emotional struggle.
Mistake No. 3 - Act like a victim. Many people who resist change view themselves as helpless victims. They wallow in self-pity and moan about the untenable situation they have been put in. This is a clever move to remove to others the accountability for one's own behavior.
Mistake No. 4 - Try to play a new game by the old rules. These people realize that change is taking place, but they cope by working the old way only harder. Change requires true modification of behavior, not just more of the same.
Mistake No. 5 - Shoot for a low-stress work setting. Many employees feel that if top management would only cut them some slack, things would get better. True, temporary relief would be achieved - but ultimately the stress level would skyrocket. Slow-to-change organizations are headed for the most trouble, because in the end they require radical surgery rather than mid-course corrections.
Mistake No. 6 - Try to control the uncontrollable. Some people have a strong need to control their environment. Though that need can often be positively channeled, some things we just need to accept.
Mistake No. 7 - Choose your own pace of change. Some people who fully intend to accept change want the luxury of doing so at their own speed. They cooperate, but do not go fast enough or far enough.
Mistake No. 8 - Fail to expand your horizons. You are already working at 100% or more of capacity. Change requires more.
Many bankers did not sign up for the job they are doing today. It's a very hectic environment, and each day they are asked to do more, sell more, produce more with less help. Some people consider it mission impossible. In truth, it is not.
Mistake No. 9 - Slow down. Change is an accelerating process; each wave comes faster than the previous one. Still, many people's first reaction is to slow down and proceed with caution. That is a natural reaction, but not a good one. You need to be faster.
Mistake No. 10 - Be afraid of the future. Uncertainty produces anxiety. In many companies, including my own, many employees believe that tomorrow is going to be more stressful than today, and that the bar will be raised so high that they will be doomed to failure.
Instead of worrying about bad things that might happen, make a difference today.
Mistake No. 11 - Pick the wrong battles. Fighting constantly will set you up to fail. Think about what you're fighting, the issues you are resisting. Do they really matter?
Mistake No. 12 - Psychologically unplug from your job. We are all highly invested in our workplace. After all, we spend most of our life there. Work should be fun, and you should be emotionally invested in it. When you really care about your work, you will find it exciting, rewarding, and challenging.
Mistake No. 13 - Avoid new assignments. As change takes place, some people try to burrow and hide. Doing what they do best seems easier and less stressful. This may work in the short term in reducing stress, but it is just a delaying tactic, buying peace of mind today at tomorrow's expense.
Only by pushing ahead and seeking new processes and challenges do you gain the experience you need.
Mistake No. 14 - Try to eliminate uncertainty and instability. That's unrealistic. Things never settle down; if they did, your company would not stay in business in the long run. In today's financial services, rigidity is a death sentence.
It's O.K. for life to be disorderly and for you not to know all the answers for the future.
Mistake No. 15 - Assume that if management cared about you, it would keep you comfortable. Entitlement in the workplace is obsolete. I am a firm believer in caring. But let's remember that employees are not the only constituents we care for as managers. There are shareholders, customers, and communities, and often their interests are in conflict.
The best way management can demonstrate care is by making the company profitable and a long-term survivor. Survival isn't necessarily a comfortable process, but it sure beats the alternative.
Ms. Bird is chief operating officer of Roosevelt Financial Group, St. Louis.