How to Adapt to Workplace Change

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, July 2020

Jennifer was having difficulty working with her new manager, Jonathan. Her original boss of 4 years had left to work for another company. Once Jonathan arrived, each employee in the department was assigned some new duties. Jennifer’s role would now include communication with other departments, via email and telephone.

The thought of interacting with colleagues outside of her department filled Jennifer with dread – especially speaking to people on the telephone. She thought that it was unfair to be assigned tasks that she did not like.

Tensions rose between Jennifer and Jonathan almost from the start. When learning new procedures Jennifer commented about why the previous processes were better. She rushed through tasks even though this led to errors. She felt “persecuted” when Jonathan asked her to be more careful. She procrastinated on making the necessary telephone calls.

After reporting to Jonathan for six weeks, she was placed on a performance improvement plan. She had one month to make specific improvements, or she would lose her job.

“Ellen, my former supervisor, gave me positive performance reviews,” Jennifer said. “Jonathan doesn’t like me and wants me fired.”

As we reviewed the situation in detail, it became clear that Jennifer was resisting change rather than adapting to it. She admitted feeling angry about all of the adjustments and said that she had “basically given up” on the job.

My first suggestion was that Jennifer alter her thinking about the situation. “Change happens in organizations,” I explained, “reporting to a new supervisor and getting new duties are common occurrences. By resisting something that you cannot change, you are prolonging your discomfort and jeopardizing your job.”

We discussed her anger, which Jennifer realized was misplaced. After some brainstorming, she shifted her perspective and decided to view the changes as opportunities to learn.

I also challenged her to find something positive about each change. Jennifer said that some of the new procedures made her work more efficient. She realized that overcoming her anxiety about speaking on the telephone would be valuable throughout her career (so we began working on scripts for the calls).

Jennifer had an important insight about her interactions with Jonathan. She had taken his actions very personally, considering him to be mean and unfair. She now saw that he was simply doing his job. “I shouldn’t have been mad at him for pointing out the errors in my work,” she said.

Although Jennifer still experienced some anxiety, she made adapting to the changes her top priority. At the end of the 30 days Jennifer had not only made the necessary performance improvements, she enjoyed her job more. Jonathan’s encouragement and positive feedback improved her self-confidence, and she looked forward to growing with the company.

Copyright 2020, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching