Change is all around us, but mostly in us

by Bob Grace, Ph.D.

I was recently listening to a presentation on leadership that focused on the changing reality of work.  While listening, I was struck by the idea that people are feeling a loss of community at work.  The premise was that the pace of work has eroded the sense of connectedness and community at work.  Immediately, I wondered how my parents, or grandparents, would have responded to the idea of community at work.  Very shortly, I heard my dad’s voice in my head saying, “Community?  You go to work to work.”

I believe a large part of the change we experience is actually beta and gamma change.  For those who do research on change measurement, alpha change is the real change in the thing being measured.  Beta change is the recalibration of what good or bad is.  Gamma change is the redefining of the concept being measured.  The latter two of these types of change occur within the person assessing the scope of the change they are seeing.  They are not based on the objective reality of how much change has occurred. 

In this case, gamma change is the shift to the belief that work should, or must, provide us with a community, a sense of connectedness, and an engaging environment.  Beta change is the rising expectation we have of our work places.  In the past, research showed that fair wage, safety, and freedom from unpleasant conditions was enough to create engagement.  Now those factors are simply table stakes, baseline expectations. 

I have no doubt that there is some alpha change, or a real increase in the amount and complexity of work being done.  However, there is a large component of change that comes from within us.  This creates a challenge, as we focus on the external change that we can’t control, and ignore the changes in our expectations that we create for ourselves.  By identifying and understanding our own role in creating change, we can gain some control of our world and reduce the stress we feel.