Many of us face serious problems when we have to start doing things in a different way. We humans attach ourselves easily to various practices and systems, and consequently inconvenience ourselves if we have to forcefully break out of them. This happens when we get comfortable with existing things, and can’t imagine working without them. Bidding farewell to old habits can be very tough, but learning new ones is also vital to success in the modern world, so we must learn to accept what the future brings to us.
Allow me to better illustrate the problem.
Miranda and Her New Office Equipment
(This is not a true story, and the character names are fictitious.)
Let’s imagine it is the year 2000. And let’s also create in our mind a middle-aged person, Miranda, who has just been employed by a mail order company that sells clothes. She has to learn an array of tasks that relate to serving their customers. She has to deal with customers on the phone, receive and respond to emails, process orders on paper, and use the company’s database on a Windows NT computer for storing and retrieving information. Learning all of this might take the person some two weeks, depending on how tech savvy she is. But let’s assume that she isn’t interested in computers, and doesn’t have any former experience with mail order companies and computer databases. So it will take some time for her to fully master the job.
Now let’s say that after 10 years, Miranda is a master with her work. And as a senior, she has also showed the ropes to new employees. But suddenly the company undergoes some big changes. Their computers start to malfunction due to old age. Their IT executives also consider moving their decades-old databases to a more modern platform sometime in the near future. So they decide to replace all their IT equipment with brand-new gear. But, to cut down the costs, they also decide to make use of Linux instead of buying corporate licenses for the newly released Windows 7.
So after things have been set up, the office staff return to work. Miranda is delighted to see her workspace equipped with a shiny flat-screen display and a slick new keyboard, and a spiky cactus. But as she loads up her system on the computer, she notices that things aren’t working as they used to. Where’s Outlook? Dammit, I can’t find the terminal application! She feels almost as if she were in this office 10 years back in time. Moments later a young man in jeans and a casual hoodie walks in and introduces himself as their new IT trainer, “Hi everyone, I’m Dave. They’ve given me two weeks to teach you guys how to go about your job with your new gadgets.” This horribly upsets Miranda. Her mind is now racing with negative thoughts directed at her boss. I was comfortable with what I had before! This new stuff is going to take me forever to get used to… I could complete my tasks so effortlessly with the old system. Why did you have to change things?
Miranda’s feelings are understandable. But we can also see the company’s standpoint. Miranda could work faster with the old system, because had mastered it, but the company also had to get new machines because their old ones were falling to bits, literally. The change was inevitable. Complaining about changes happens naturally, and it is justifiable as a defensive reaction in many instances. But we don’t always have to think negatively of the changes we face. In Miranda’s case, the change was a step forward. Although the short-term effect was more of a nuisance than an advancement, the company’s long-term goal was to enhance the system, and make things better.
Letting bitter feelings dwell inside us hinders advancement, so we must learn how quickly to let go of our first (bad) impressions and think about the long-term benefits. Whenever we are facing changes similar to the ones in Miranda’s case, we aren’t really loosing anything. We can’t think of them as losses, especially when the company tries to renew things for the good of the company—including their office employees. It’s normal to be skeptical about changes made by others, especially those hierarchically superior to us, because we strongly believe that we can do things better than they. But this kind of negative thinking will only slow things down.
So whenever these negative emotions flare up, let’s try to kill them as fast as possible, and direct our focus on the long-term effects that the changes can lead to. If the long-term effects seem unhelpful, I won’t stop you from verbally smacking the crap out of your boss. But if the sincere intention behind the changes is positive, let’s try to practice compassion and understanding.