What I’m Watching: The I-Land
What I’m Reading: Prepping for all things baby…magazines, apps, birthing class resources
What I’m listening to: Queen of Country and of my heart: Miranda Lambert’s newly released “Wildcard” album
The only thing constant in life is change. A truism to be sure, but truisms are often true. Growing up, I pictured work as static. Consistent. Never changing. Much to my ten-year-old-self surprise, work life is no different than real life: change is going to happen, and it is often messy.
By the end of this year, my office will have seen an 11-year tenured city manager announce his retirement, and the on-boarding of a stellar interim CM and 20+ year veteran of local government in Eugene. A high level management position staffed with a temporary assignment is getting a permanent hire soon. We’ll have seen four women go on maternity leave with the vacuum of staffing that follows. No matter how May 2020 ensues, we will welcome at least one new City Councilor after the announcement that one of our long-time incumbents will not run for reelection. And this is all just the City Manager’s Office.
Some in the office look to these changes with hope and inspiration. Others look down the barrel of the next year and see fear, anxiety, and dread.There’s ample opportunity for tempers to flare. To assume distrust. To get stuck in the short-sided view of heavier workloads, uncertain paths forward, and the general messiness of assuming new expectations and leadership goals. And while this isn’t siloed to local government, we are also in the unique position of weathering these changes not only as coworkers, but also guides for our community members who look to local government for stability, leadership, and services.
When I sat down to write this blurb I realized I didn’t have any research to cite or books to draw from for inspiration about how to make it better. And I certainly don’t have all the answers to make these transitions as smooth as possible. But I figured I couldn’t be alone in my occasional angst. We could all use a reminder that this part of work is inevitable, and rarely feels good at the start.
So if you’re like me, or the City of Eugene, and undergoing massive transitions it may help to think of things this way: instead of seeing transitions as a cataclysmic bumping of hopes and dreams, perhaps we can look at these transitions as a form of merging.
When I think of merging my blood pressure raises, and I prepare to be offended. I expect that no one will remember how to properly “zip it up” and will instead drive as if no one else is on the road and leisurely assume their place in traffic while I have to adjust my speed or get honked at. Such a cute part of my personality, amirite? In reality, when everyone on the road is aware, paying attention, and seeking to safely yield to other drivers, we all get where we want to go faster and in a much better mood.
While our bosses may not post up a traffic sign warning of a merge ahead, to the watchful eye upcoming transitions can act as the signage we need that we may be about to experience some personal bumps ahead in the workplace. Instead of a) putting on blinders and pretending nothing is happening (see above reference of my “favorite” drivers), or b) assuming all is going to come crashing down and it’s everyone else’s fault (see: me….ugh), maybe we can all do our part to yield to one another and help “zip up” the changes that need to take place to make the transition as smooth as possible.
In my office, this yielding has looked like an epic week of sendoff for an outgoing city manager, and a hearty week of welcome to our incoming interim. It looks like a tradition of baby showers and reassurance to new moms that while they will be missed, the world will indeed still turn in their brief absence. It looks like notes from managers reminding folks to take it easy on the cupcakes ahead of a long council week, and other stress management strategies. It looks like managers creating kindness campaigns to anonymously shower coworkers with words of encouragement and appreciation. It looks like staff finding niches of inspiration and creativity in which to pour themselves during especially challenging moments.
Transition is inevitable to be sure. But if we can learn to “zip it up” together, making it through will feel much less like ripping off a bandaid, and much more like the visceral satisfaction of a line of cars merging without a single brake light.