Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

In workplace, approach institutional change with care

Q: I just landed a new job as a database developer, for which I'm grateful. I'm finding, though, that security policies here verge on being pathologically paranoid. I'm not a cowboy, and I do believe in Internet and software security; however, some policies are so restrictive that it will be hard to do my job efficiently. Any thoughts on challenging the more ridiculous ones?

A: No matter how good your points are, if you go in with words like "ridiculous," you'll ensure a reputation as a cowboy. Instead, tread lightly at first, understand the background on existing policies, create your case for change and look for allies.

The inner game

Starting a new job requires a lot of tolerance. As a new employee, you need to manage change in general, along with any insecurity you may feel about your competence. Let's face it, when you walk in new, there's a lot you can't possibly know. Taking time before forming judgments is essential to successful integration. Likewise, your new team needs to show tolerance of your learning curve, and needs to be open to ideas from outside.

To help everyone, try to be in observer mode at first. You'll end up with more influence later, and will be able to make a difference more quickly because you won't be doing damage control after a rough start.

How do you do this? It's simple. Approach each new aspect with the question, "What's good about this way of doing things?" You'll have plenty of time to explore the followup question of "how could we do things better?"

The outer game

As a new person, you have the opportunity to ask obvious questions. Take advantage of this to get to know people and learn about the past experiences that have led to current security policies. Some type of crisis may have occurred, or there may have been a pattern of malfeasance. By understanding this, you can pose solutions that give others confidence that the same problems won't recur.

Talking to others will also help you understand if a policy really is a problem or if it's just a different way of doing business. If your peers who have been around awhile don't see a problem, you might reconsider your resistance. However, if there is general agreement that there's an issue, even if people are resigned to it, it becomes a better candidate for action.

Don't try to take on everything at once. Take an honest look at the impact of these policies, and select one place to focus. Choose one that might be less scary to modify (from a management perspective), and that will have a good effect for you.

Develop a case for the realistic risks and costs of the current restrictive policies. Document the effect on your productivity, along with the impact of less stringent standards. Do research on standards in similar companies to help build confidence. Determine who may be willing to be a champion for changes, and lay out your point of view.

The last word

As you advocate for changes, help your cause by remaining positive and focused on solutions.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

In workplace, approach institutional change with care 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa's Homeowners Choice seeks to offer flood insurance in other states


    Tampa-based insurance company HCI Group Inc.'s subsidiaries are trying to expand their flood insurance offerings beyond Florida. HCI has filed with regulators to offer flood coverage in Arkansas, California, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

    Tampa-based HCI Group is trying to expand its flood insurance offerings to other states. Pictured is Paresh Patel, CEO of HCI Group. | [Courtesy of HCI Group]
  2. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  3. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where condominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  5. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy


    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]