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Adjusting to Change

Author: Michael Thomas

Published: July 27, 2020

Winston Churchill once said “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  While I do not believe in human perfection, I do believe striving to understand change, an inevitably and constantly occurring force is what drives the world we live in today.  Without change and understanding the adaptation of change, we will continue to fail evolving and thus fail to succeed.  While change is difficult and frightening sometimes, we must be courageous enough to look it in the eyes, accept its intent and move with it. In the professional realm, when we do this we send a broader message to our peers, leaders, and partners that we are open for new ideas and ready to move forward, enabling ourselves for better success.

I remember earlier in my career an example of resistance to change at one of my former employers.  An industry that specialized in repair and overhauls where the majority of the work force were union laborers.  It had come time for their regular contract negotiations.  For those that are unfamiliar with these events, it can become a very stressful time, especially if alignment of the negotiations are not promising.  During this particular time, the atmosphere had become more stressful.  One day, I was walking through the facility, as I normally do, looking for issues with the computer equipment failing to have been reported.  I found myself in the shipping/receiving area, where the union president normally resided.  He was having a conversation with someone I was not familiar with.  Most of the wording I overheard were difficult to understand, but what I did hear resonated with me.  “This business has been here for 50 years, and it will be here for another 50 years.  They need us [labor force] more than we need them [leadership].” I thought to myself, what an arrogant perspective to have.  Shortly later, the union negotiations were over and the atmosphere started to settle.

However, within the next two years, that facility had shutdown and moved their operations to another location.  I remember asking the leadership why there were transitioning and the specific response was, no union.  Is it possible that due to the perspective of the union, the organization believed they could establish a better working relationship between the leadership and workforce elsewhere?  The leadership felt so.  Could the union had approached the negotiations differently, possibly creating a better long-term outcome for the workforce and community? Possibly. Unions were established to fight for the workforce, receiving better pay and benefits, among other things.

Obviously there were numerous factors oblivious to myself that influenced the decisions on both sides, but one can not help but to presume, based upon comments from the union leadership, that the union was against change on many levels.  If we have learned anything from history is that change will occur and those who are not prepared for change will have difficulty with success.

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