Recently, the United Auto Workers union approved veteran union negotiator and current Vice President Bob King as their new President. With over 30 years in the UAW, some critics consider King to represent the old school way of thinking — especially as he pushes for fewer worker concessions in a highly competitive, struggling and changing auto industry.
Regardless of whether it’s a union, the corporate office or management on the shop floor, veteran workers and managers can represent a challenge — when workers get comfortable with the way things are run, they meet any change — even when it’s necessary — with vehement opposition.
Even in my own job, I find myself settling into a comfort zone — and with each change I strike the urge to speak up and say things are fine the way they are! But I know keeping the status quo also means losing an opportunity to grow and improve.
But if old school means veterans stick to what they know, does new school mean bringing in newer, younger talent with fresh ideas? Who’s to say that new talent won’t follow the old school way of thinking, when often those are the very people training the new work force?
If your company is in a rut, bringing in new talent is only part of the solution to reviving a struggling organization. Management and workers need to be open-minded to change and willing to bring fresh ideas to the table. There must be a willingness to accept drastic changes and do things completely out of your comfort zone. And if workers can see that management is willing to accept change, perhaps they will eventually follow suit — but that acceptance to change won’t happen overnight.
Back when I was in high school, the class schedules my senior year changed drastically. The administration decided to go from having 8 class periods in a day, to a ‘block’ schedule, in which the 8 classes were spread out over 2 days — 4 classes on ‘A’ day and 4 classes on ‘B’ day. Our time in class went from 50 minutes to an hour-and–a-half.
In order to prepare teachers, students, and parents for this major change, the administration went through a year-long preparation during my junior year. Hours were spent educating students on how to best manage their time with the alternating class periods. Workshops were developed for teachers to adapt their teaching style to the longer class time. Parents were kept informed on how to track their children’s adjustments to the new schedule. And throughout the entire year, the administration delivered a consistent message to students: “Keep an open mind to change.”
This message is one we should all be reminded of whenever we begin to feel too comfortable with our roles. For changing environments to become the “norm”, workers must also feel the positive effects those changes bring.