Quality Blog

Jim's Gems: Thriving During Change

December 16, 2013

Change requires learning throughout life but change also means letting go of the past to move forward.  The trick is learning how to thrive during the time of change.  To thrive means to find value and opportunity in events outside your control.  I related the following story recently to my quality management students.


Mike Schultz (not his real name) had worked for his employer for twenty years when a new director was named.  At a manager’s meeting, the director announced a reorganization plan that would ruin years of good work done by the management team.  Mike spoke up and asked a question about implementing the plan.  The director glared at Mike, got angry, and said, “Mike, your problem is you aren’t a team player.”


Within a month, Mike was reassigned to a different position.  A short while later he was transferred to a different department.  A few months later, Mike was assigned to another office.  A year after that, he was transferred to a new position, then to another section, and so it went for quite a while.


What was Mike’s reaction to each transfer? Mike liked people and the challenges of each new challenge.  Each morning he would say to himself, “This is a fresh chance to do something for people.” Plus he had interests outside his job.  He didn’t depend on his work to provide things of importance to him and others close to him.


Mike learned each new position quickly and made himself useful. He enjoyed each new challenge and liked having a chance to learn about different offices and departments.  Mike said that after seven years of being bounced from position to position, another director confided in him that his former director had tried to get department managers to reduce him in pay grade or force him to quit or retire early; however, he was always too capable and useful in getting the job done.


As time went on, Mike’s status with his company began to increase significantly. Because of the knowledge about the inner workings of the many departments, he became a special troubleshooter handling customer complaints and effectively resolving customer complaints.


Two years before Mike retired, Mike got an unexpected surprise.  When job analysis was conducting a study of all positions, including Mike’s, they jumped him three pay grades.  He retired at a much higher grade which resulted in a much more comfortable retirement.


Mike’s ability to effectively handle a situation at work would have stressed out most people. Instead of reacting like a victim, Mike thrived during the turmoil of change.  He made the most of a bad situation, moved forward positively, and came out a winner.    


In relating the above story I am reminded about something Thomas L. Holdcroft, the 18th century English dramatist and writer, said “Life is a grindstone.  But whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.”


Think about it.

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