Changing of the Guard at Work: Responding to New Professional Circumstances

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You may know the London tradition, Changing of the Guard? Each day around noon, the soldiers responsible for protecting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II change shift and another team takes responsibility. It’s an orderly procedure marked by centuries old traditions. Unfortunately, changes in our workplaces seldom happen with the same predictable, organized and precise elements. Some examples include offices moving locations. The executive team hardly resembles what you knew a few months ago with the former CEO. Your team leader implements new policies to drive staggering numbers forward. We all recognize these kinds of professional situations from our own experience or that of someone close to us.

Everyone should know three options when change engulfs their professional circumstances. First, the ‘get out of dodge’ plan completely evades the unknown and allows you to define your future. Second, the ‘adapt and survey’ plan allows you to prudently lay low while you determine your next move. Last, ‘the road less traveled’ leads you in the thick of things where you contribute and shape your organization’s future. Each features certain pros and cons and I want to explore them with a current event, personal anecdote and a few best practices.

‘Get out of dodge’ comes easy when you anticipate change, line another opportunity up or can support yourself during a potentially lengthy process. If you choose this tactic, remember to communicate your intensions clearly, finish your work while helping your colleagues prepare for the transition and never speak ill of anyone. Communicating your intensions means meeting your manager face-to-face and telling him, “I resign my position in [your timeframe e.g. 2 weeks] to pursue another opportunity.” Within your designated timeframe, ensure that your colleagues remember how you helped prepare them for your departure. It’s both courteous and professional. Last, you may be asked about this opportunity and your experience at the soon-to-be former employer. Regardless of your feelings towards any aspect of your work, maintain your professionalism. Bad mouthing someone solves nothing and helps no one. End on a positive note and leave people a positive, lasting impression of you. Look no further than this week’s headlines for a model example.

This week, the Boston Red Sox hired a new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski brought a very different management style to the club that many associate with a strong development system for young players and analytically driven free agent talent evaluation. Although the club’s General Manager, Ben Cherington, knew the team intended to create this new position for him to report to, he did not anticipate this kind of philosophical change. He decided to resign his position presumably because of these irreconcilable differences with his newfound boss.

Cherington impressed me most with his public statements following the announcement and his subsequent notice of resignation. He agreed to remain with the team as long as he can help the new President become acclimated in his role. His statements expressed gratitude for the nearly 15 years in the Red Sox organization and well wishes for the club’s future success.

‘Adapt and survey’ challenges your ability to multitask. You need to complete work for your current employer while strategically scavenging for new opportunities. Without achieving the correct balance, you run the risk of compromising your professional reputation or not identifying cool future opportunities. One critical guideline in this situation:

  • Do not use your employer’s resources to complete any part of your new job search, including: their computers and time they employ you to work. Nothing frustrates managers more than a lack of respect for the task at hand.

Personally, I was in a role that found itself amid tremendous change. Senior leadership changes far beyond my control forced people to jockey for position and justify their existence. As the low man in the company, fear of the unknown forced me to continue my work while seeking out a new opportunity. Our new Chief Marketing Office brought a new agenda that neither I nor my bosses fit into. Thankfully (and by stroke of luck as with most good things), sensing the first rumblings of a professional earthquake, I searched and found a new opportunity. Others in that company struggled to find opportunities for various reasons because they did not anticipate well.

Awareness and luck enabled me to transition smoothly. First, I could adapt and survey after sensing change. Second, friends helped me along the way to find a new opportunity. Nothing about my background or professional pedigree won me the next job. I was in the right place at the right time. BUT, in addition to luck, I made friends before I needed them.

Treating people with universal respect makes the difference in challenging times like a job search. People remember you and want to help you. Above all else, make friends before you need them.

Last, in times of difficult change, you can work to affect change in the organization and recommit to its mission. One of the things I think people forget is the mission. Missions fuel our work. Here, at Marchon Partners, we believe that people make the difference in business and we believe that by simplifying the talent management process our clients can focus more on driving success. This belief guides everything we do. Your organization must work to achieve a mission according to a shared vision; however, sometimes managers change the vision.

Someone very close to me (I need to safeguard their identity and the organization) worked in the President’s Office of a large public institution. Recently, the organization appointed a new president. My friend worked with four previous presidents (nearly unprecedented) in a constituent affairs role. Why does he continue while others leave the organization? He recognizes each boss’ unique vision to carry forward the institution’s mission and aligns his work accordingly. He enjoyed great success with each president for this reason.

Should you find yourself in a challenging transition, consider these three options. Should you want a new opportunity, reach out to us at Marchon Partners and we can work together to find your next great role.

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