Have You Experienced Change Blindness?

Joe Weinlick
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Changes at work can be a blessing and curse, as trying something new and different in an office environment can move the business forward or backward. When preparing for change, it is important to watch out for change blindness. Change blindness is when you're so busy focused on other things, you don't notice a change that affects someone or something at the office. Avoid being blindsided to prevent problems in your workplace.

Biological Response to Change

Change blindness starts when your brain reacts to a specific event. Perhaps it's the big report due at the end of the quarter, or maybe you're trying to land the highest-paying contract in your company's history. When that initial change occurs, your brain release cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, into your system. This chemical impacts your basic cognitive functions, such as your emotions, focus and learning.

Next, your brain develops a sharp focus, which might cause you to isolate yourself. Isolation decreases oxytocin. You might feel more disconnected from your co-workers, family and friends. You might even lose your big-picture sense of what's going on around you because you're too busy trying to complete one particular task. To feel safe, individuals dealing with this might constantly check emails, messages and texts so their brain recognizes that their routine is still "normal." Doing this causes the brain to produce excess dopamine. The extra dopamine exacerbates a person's ability to make good decisions and alters their emotional state.

This disconnection and isolation, coupled with excess dopamine, could turn to fear, mistrust, irrational risk-taking and aggression. Your built-up ability to focus caused you to miss some key events going on outside of your immediate sphere, and change blindness made you unaware of your teammate's needs. Your body doesn't need more dopamine, it needs more oxytocin. To get more oxytocin, you must make connections again.

Regain Your Footing

Avoid change blindness by developing and maintaining connections with those around you. Tap into your emotional intelligence and empathy to talk to your employees. Talk to them with compassion, and learn to see things from their perspective. Did a co-worker have a rough day last week because of some issue he tried to bring to your attention? Don't let his frustration turn into a disengaged teammate who quits two weeks later because he didn't have his needs met.

Give your co-workers a sense of belonging and safety by showing he matters. You don't have to go over the top, but a simple acknowledgement of his concerns and attempt to solve the problem can go a long way. You pay attention to your employees, connect with them and mitigate change blindness by pulling back from your single-minded focus and connecting with others. Remember, you rely on your team to get things done. When you make connections, you can take your company to the next level, keep a valued worker and even save your own job.

Turn your change blindness into change presence. Be present in each moment, and pay attention to what's going on around you. You might just gather some insights that can help you make your workforce more efficient.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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