5 Steps for Initiating Change in a "We've Always Done it This Way" Office
Many people say that the phrase “This is how we’ve always done it” contains the seven most expensive words in business. And, in many cases, that’s true. We know that past success is no guarantee for the future, especially when the only constant is change.
But, that doesn’t stop many workplaces from being completely resistant to new ideas. And, if you’re currently stuck in this sort of culture, you know how frustrating it can be.
Whether your office is full of people who have worked there for 30 years or you’re managed by a supervisor who firmly believes there’s no better way to do things, your brilliant suggestions for improvement and change are constantly shut down—or worse, completely ignored. It doesn’t matter if you want to restructure an entire department or simply swap out the brand of coffee in the break room. In your company’s eyes, all change is bad.
So, what exactly can you do if your employer immediately scoffs at the idea of tweaking anything—aside from just complaining about it? Well, here are a few steps that can help you effectively present your thoughts and (hopefully) get the gears in motion.
1. Set an Appointment
If you’re working in an office that’s already hesitant about switching things up, you definitely don’t want to spring your ideas on your superiors without warning. Instead, set an appointment with your supervisor or management team to talk over your thoughts.
This gives your boss a heads up that there’s something important you want to discuss and also prevents the likelihood of your idea being dismissed as something unimportant you just said in passing.
Also, remember to give timing some consideration before requesting a sit-down. If your manager’s already swamped, it’s probably not a great time to add more to his or her plate. But, if he or she is currently working on the next annual budget and your proposal involves a need for funding, you’ll probably want to get your idea out on the table before the financial plan is completely finalized.
2. Come Prepared
In order to have even the slightest chance of your idea being considered, you should take extra care to ensure you’ve dotted all of your I’s and crossed your T’s before sitting down to chat with your manager.
Of course, you need to be ready to explain the benefits of your new method, as well as why it’s a better alternative than the process your employer’s currently using. In addition, you should also be armed and ready with all of the nitty-gritty details of your genius idea. What will the implementation of this new approach look like? Will it require additional dollars from the budget? What departments are involved?
Eloquently presenting a plan that’s obviously well thought out and researched will show your boss that this is something you’ve put a lot of time and energy into—not just an off-the-cuff idea that you’re hoping will make your job easier.
3. Be Ready to Be Met With Resistance
You already know how your office feels about change, so you should be mentally prepared to meet some resistance from your superiors.
First, understand that their hesitancy to try something new isn’t necessarily irrational. After all, many people subscribe to the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
So, it’s important to explain that while you’re aware the current method works, there are a few ways in which you think you could improve it. Emphasizing the benefits of your idea—rather than just simply venting about the shortfalls of the existing procedure—will hopefully start to show your superiors the light.
Keep in mind that while you want to highlight the pros of your suggestion, that doesn’t mean you should completely glaze over any potential cons. After all, your audience will likely be more than willing to point them out for you.
4. Follow Up
So, you’ve made it through the tough part of explaining your entire suggestion for improvement. While you’d love to be met with an enthusiastic, “What a great idea! Let’s do it!” response, you know better. If you’re lucky enough to not have your proposal shot down immediately, you’ll likely be asked to let your superiors have some time to think and talk it over.
Yes, you should definitely give upper management a chance to chew on your ideas without you constantly pestering them for an answer. But, don’t hesitate to follow up with your supervisor after a week or two. There’s a big difference between having your idea considered and having it fall completely off the radar.
Even if your idea’s eventually rejected, follow up is still key.
So, if your boss informs you that the team’s decided not to move forward, don’t be afraid to ask for any feedback or an explanation. That valuable input could help you better present your ideas in the future.
5. Stay Positive
Perhaps you did an amazing job outlining your new idea—but, it was still shot down. I know that’s incredibly exasperating and disheartening, and you’re allowed to feel a little glum for a minute. But, if you’re going to attempt to thrive in this stagnate work culture, you need to bounce back and stay positive.
Easier said than done, right? After all, working in an environment where you don’t feel heard or appreciated is a surefire morale deflator. However, make an effort to focus on the parts of your position that you really do like.
If necessary, you can also find alternative outlets where you can channel your innovative energy. Perhaps you can volunteer your time with a local nonprofit or take on a freelance project that challenges and inspires you. No, it won’t change your company’s stubborn attitude. But, it will grant you a place where you can give your inventive muscles some exercise—at least until you can find a new job.
Yes, being a part of a work culture that is intolerant or defiant against change presents some definite challenges. So, it’s important to be adequately prepared when presenting your new ideas—and using these steps should help you do just that! Even if your suggestion is still turned down in the long run, you can rest easy with the knowledge that you tried your absolute hardest to get the green light.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author