Finding Balance After Organizational Change
Position transfers or eliminations occur in today’s volatile higher education organizational structure. During budget cuts and reorganizations, department administrators and unit supervisors may focus so much on the bottom line that they neglect their most valued asset: individual faculty and staff. Unanticipated departmental reorganizations wound employees’ trust and impair productivity, creating a sour work environment. Particularly for highly engaged persons, who find meaning and purpose through their work, the loss destabilized the foundation of their work-life balance.
Individuals undergoing reorganizations may experience an array of emotion, similar to Kuebler-Rosse’s five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is difficult not to take the position change or elimination personally, even if you have been a top performer. Allow yourself time to grieve any perceived negative changes – loss of professional colleagues; loss of status and title; loss of office space; changes in benefits; and the loss of work that engaged and nourished you. Meaningful work is an essential component of well-being, so it may feel like a vital part of you has gone. Resources such as the Change Management Cycle can help navigate the complexity of your emotion (https://changecycle.com/change-cycle/).
To mend, engage in daily practices that make you feel good – exercise, extra time with family and friends, a new hobby. Update your resume or CV and reinvigorate your professional network. Find ways to maintain your interests and skills – volunteer, blog posts, mentoring young professionals, continued education and training. Add new hobbies or recreation. Engaging in these activities will affirm that you are bright, competent, and valuable, and they may lead to new career opportunities.
The re-configuration of your work obligations - both physical and emotional - allow you opportunities to spend your time differently. Give yourself plenty of time to adjust and forge a path into the future. Everyone is different. One person I know still wrestles with sadness over his job restructuring a year ago; another person, who quickly found new employment close to her home after a position elimination, wondered why she had tolerated a 90-minute one-way commute for 10 years! One former colleague seeks therapeutic counseling because the job changes were emotionally and economically devastating; another co-worker at mid-career is undergoing a year-long deep assessment of work and life priorities; and another, whose recently downsized position requires less emotional energy, focuses more on home life during her daughter’s senior year of high school.
Building New Foundations
Your chances of experiencing organizational changes are increasing. Today, Americans who reach the age of 65 can expect on average to live another 19.3 years to age 84.3, compared to age 82.8 in 2000 and 81.5 in 1980. Out of financial necessity or desire for meaningful engagement, we are working longer, with 19% of Americans ages 65 now employed, compared to 13% in 2000. But we are NOT staying at the same job, with the average American worker holding 10 different jobs before age 40. Yet, changes do not get easier, depending on your unique circumstances. Building new foundations for work-life balance should include resources for building resilience (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx).
Each time you face a change, keep in mind that every job change is a journey. Each step along the way builds the foundation for your new place in the world. Allow time for adjustments to new colleagues and office rituals; different activities and responsibilities; discovery of your purpose and meaning, and new configuration of your work-life balance. Giving yourself plenty of time to reset your path for work will strengthen your resilience in life and deepen your empathy for others.
Thinking about your next career move?
Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life and is the former director of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC). Prior to her current position as Faculty Ombudsman at Oregon State University (OSU), Robynn served as the Coordinator of Work-Life at OSU and the Director of Work-Life at the University of Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis in gerontology.
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