Changes in the workplace

One of the only constants in life is change. As we grow older, we tend to find change more and more disruptive. However, life is a journey and to make the most of it will involve many changes over the years.

Getting your first job after graduating is great, but the transition from student to working professional should not be underestimated. We offer some advice on how to deal with change and conflict in the workplace, the transition to working remotely and share some useful UP resources and further reading.

Dealing with change at work

A study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found changes at work like restructuring or new bosses can increase the stress of employees, cause them to lose trust in their employers and even look for a new job. Learning how to deal with change will make things much easier in both your career and general life.

Here are five tips for dealing with change:

Help others

Taking the focus away from yourself and showing concern for others will help you cope. Chatting about the changes with your co-workers will also make it easier for you to understand the challenges others are having and will remind you that you are not alone.

Embrace new opportunities

Change often brings opportunities. This could be the chance to learn new skills or take on new roles that will offer you valuable experience to further your career.

Maintain relationships

If you change jobs, it is a good idea to stay connected to previous co-workers and expand your network whenever you have the opportunity. Keeping in touch with the people you’ve already had the chance to work with can help you learn of opportunities within your field in the future. Here is a good article with tips on how to maintain a good LinkedIn profile.

Accept rather than resist

When faced with unavoidable change, it is far better to accept it than to resist it. By taking an active approach rather than an escaping approach, you can tackle the problem head-on.


Change can bring uncertainty. During times of change, it is useful to effectively communicate your concerns or questions with your coworkers. Chances are that if you are struggling with something, someone else is as well. Open communication will help clarify any uncertainty.

Working remotely

Working remotely was already a growing trend before Covid arrived on the scene. Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. Thanks to lockdowns and social distancing, that number has greatly increased and many more people are working as remote workers.

For some, working from home is easy and far better than having to commute. However, it isn’t unusual for some people to struggle to deal with the drastic change. Working remotely brings its own challenges, from a lack of a structured routine to fewer opportunities for social interaction with coworkers. This can leave one feeling quite cut off.

If you struggle with working remotely, here are some articles with advice to help you cope:

Stress in the workplace

Try as you may to avoid it, you’re likely to experience stress in your job. This stress can come from a number of areas, with some common causes of stress in the workplace being conflict with colleagues or clients, criticism, deadline pressures and other work-related issues

Nobody likes criticism, but unfortunately, it is pretty much unavoidable in the workplace. It is important that you learn how to deal with it as an overly negative reaction to criticism will make your working life unnecessarily difficult. Do not take criticism personally – use it as a tool to get better at what you do.

There are a number of ways to handle stress. We’ve previously written about how to reduce stress, as well as the importance of maintaining good mental and physical health, both of which can be negatively affected by ongoing stress.

Conflict in the workplace

Much like with work stress, you are very unlikely to entirely avoid conflict in your working life. There are many causes of conflict in the workplace and being able to confidently manage conflict is an important skill to have. It is also useful to view conflict in a more positive way. Handled well, conflict management in the workplace can provide an opportunity for learning and growth.

Here are 10 steps to consider to help you deal with conflict situations:

Stay calm

Before approaching conflict resolution, it can be helpful to take several deep breaths. Conflict can put us into an agitated state of mind so it is important to calm ourselves and not let our emotions get the better of us.

Discuss the conflict in private

Conflict situations can be distracting to others. If you are resolving the conflict face to face, then it is best to find a place where you can work on the problem in private. Telephone calls and emails should also rather be carried out privately. (Although CCing a superior on an email may at times be appropriate.)

Acknowledge that a problem exists

Before you can solve a conflict, both parties need to acknowledge that it exists. Explain your situation from your perspective and avoid blaming the conflict on a particular individual.

Agree to find a resolution

Once the problem has been acknowledged, everyone needs to agree that a resolution should be reached. If you are mediating a situation and one party does not readily agree to find a resolution, you may want to take them aside separately to understand why and how you can convince them to participate.

Work to understand the perspective of everyone involved

Most workplace conflict arises from misunderstandings rather than malice. Try to listen to the other party and understand things from their perspective.

Take note of what triggered the conflict

People may be under numerous unknown stressors which led to conflict. Factors such as deadlines, tiredness, family, health, hunger, burnout and others can all lead to heightened emotions that ignite conflict. Learning the triggers and stressors of the other involved parties can help you navigate or avoid a potential conflict in the future.

Find opportunities for compromise

Compromise is almost always necessary to resolve conflict. In a good compromise, both parties get what is most important to them, while conceding on certain points that are more important to the other party. Look for areas where compromise is possible so that you can reach a mutually amicable solution.

Agree on a plan for resolution

Create a plan for a resolution that sets out what will be done by each person involved in the conflict. This might include apologies and changes in behaviour to prevent the same conflict from arising again.

Check to make sure the agreement lasts

It is important to follow up to ensure that the plan is actively being followed. Schedule a follow-up meeting within a few days or weeks to ensure that the plan is being followed and that there are no further unresolved grievances..

Involve HR or another third party if the conflict continues

In some cases, you may need to seek a third party to resolve your conflict. This will be the case when the other party refuses to meet their end of an agreement or is actively provoking conflict.

University resources and further reading

The University of Pretoria has put together many resources to help graduates adjust to the working world and cope with issues that may arise in their careers. Feel free to browse through the following links for additional advice and tips: