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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Workplace Doctor: change is unavoidable but your attitude isn’t

A performance management system at work has me worried. Debbie Nicol's prescription: change can sometimes be out of your hands, yet your performance and attitude is not.
Debbie Nicol says the natural reaction to changes in the workplace is resistance. Sarah Dea / The National
Debbie Nicol says the natural reaction to changes in the workplace is resistance. Sarah Dea / The National
I'm getting really worried. I know I do the best I can, yet there's a change brewing in our office with an official performance management system being introduced. What do you suggest I do to survive the change? WS, Ajman

Hi WS,

The natural reaction to change is resistance, so please don't feel bad as it proves you are human after all. Yet how many people would you hear speaking of positive outcomes from resistance – I'm sure not many. Here's one example for you. The mere act of walking is a resistance against gravity, and it stops us from being pulled down at all times. It's only when the resistance results in us being stuck, frozen in time and out of touch that it will yield negative outcomes. Not moving with the new performance system may just have this effect. Do you really want that and does your career really need that?

Change has us all moving from a current state to a future state through a period of transition or chaos, and the emotions we all feel are linked to the current state. Currently it sounds like you are happy where you are regarding your workplace performance and the way it is measured, and therefore see no reason to change.

You may even be feeling threatened that a new system may discover something not seen before, or work in a way that you are not familiar with. Here is the question you need an answer for – how do those who have imported or created this new performance system into your organisation view the future state? Are they prioritising mutual benefit or one-way control during the transition?

Admittedly, performance management has an unfortunate legacy from the days when it was a monitoring and pure measurement system, yet in some organisational cultures, it has evolved from one being a pawn in a one-way chess game to both parties being active participants in developing a plan for your future growth.

To realise any benefits from this new system, why not try to understand the “what” and later the “how” of the system. Here's what I suggest you do to proactively manage your situation and discover this information:

1 Request your leader provide information about the change including why it is happening.

2 Find examples of how the benefits will impact and preferably assist you, in order to heighten possibility of personal buy-in.

3 Ask for help if you find barriers that stop you see benefits.

4 Explore the mechanics of the system.

Performance management is a system that identifies a current state of performance and a desired future state along with a gap between both if indeed one exists. Does your existing system achieve that WS?

Effective performance management systems should be based on a dialogue that is transparent, fair and with equitable input. Does your existing system ensure that?

The success of any performance dialogue will depend on facts and evidence, and without this, discussions can become misconstrued. Has that ever happened to you before?

Here's what I suggest you do to prepare to trial this new system:

Identify what goals you have in relation to your career.

Doctor's prescription

Change can sometimes be out of your hands, yet your performance and attitude is not.

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague