Act like a duck - Avoiding change agent burnout3Act like a duck - Avoiding change agent burnout

About a month into a project I decided to make a change to a process and was promptly yelled at by a co-worker.

If you’re a changemaker pushing to upset the status quo this probably has or will happen to you at some point. That doesn’t make it easy to deal with. I walked into my mentor’s office, visibly upset, and told her what happened. Her response? “You did the right thing. Act like a duck and let other people’s comments flow right off you.”

Trying to enact change can be emotional draining. Overcoming resistance always requires more work than going with the flow. If you’re trying to change a culture that’s drastically different from your own you may also be constantly questioning your own beliefs. “Am I crazy or does this not seem right/efficient/customer-centric/fill in the blank?”


How to survive

To avoid burnout you need to find a support group. Sometimes in a change initiative it can feel like you are being fired at from all sides. Having someone in the trenches with you watching your back, whom you can commiserate and strategize with is key.

Your non-work life is important too. In school I was always into group activities, soccer, theater, sailing. Once I started working in larger organizations I realized that individual hobbies helped provide balance. While cooking, running, reading, or doing DIY projects, my goals, success and progress were completely within my control. All of you Type-A (Type Awesome) out there working in large organizations will understand. 🙂

Also, act like a duck. Write down your beliefs and goals for the new organization and star the ones that are non-negotiable. Don’t let negative reactions sway you but examine them and see if you could have communicated your decision/thoughts/actions differently or timed them differently. I found John Kotter’s book “Leading Change” to be extremely helpful to understand why an initiative was successful or not and how to keep the momentum going.

It will get better. As change takes hold the people who resisted at first may become your biggest allies.


“Never, never, never give up” – Winston Churchill


Share your thoughts