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ATD Blog

Seize the (Professional) Day During COVID-19

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

“Managing your career—rather than reacting—during times of uncertainty enables you to remain focused on a sustainable future, even while you are handling unforeseen challenges or stepping into new roles,” writes Tom E. Jones in “Don’t Let Disruption Derail Your Career.”

Many of us are facing ambiguous aspects in our professional lives right now, whether it’s changing priorities at work, an altered way of working with team members, or being asked to fill a new role. It’s easy to want to lay low during these times rather than step forward and embrace the switch. Embracing the realities of the current disruption include, according to Jones, defining one’s place within your organization, determining work priorities, honing teamwork skills, and surrounding yourself with people who will support you and give you the advice you need when you need it.

Seek Your Organizational Fit

Most organizations are constructed from three subsystems: professional, that is, people with specific skills and talents; administration, individuals responsible for controlling personnel resources and fiscal allocations; and governance, those who manage the policies and regulations of the organization.

Figuring out where you fit into this structure and how you can build alliances across subsystems is especially important during times of disruption. During times of calm, these subsystems tend to work well together; however, during periods of disruption, individuals within each subsystem likely will follow their self-interests.

Determine Work Priorities

Looking at your current situation, does the organizational climate call for training and development? Are you spending your time on the right projects (as priorities may have shifted given the disruption)? Have new processes been put into place?


Review how and on what tasks you’re working and then check with your manager to see if there are tweaks or more wholescale changes.

Revisit Teamwork Practices

With uncertainty occurring, it’s not just you who is feeling the pressure. So are your colleagues. It’s critical to remember that peers are coming to the workplace with their own understanding and lens of the situation. Jones writes, “Trust-based relationships help you and your colleagues maintain focus on the tasks at hand—not on the individuals involved—even when disparate viewpoints arise over how to achieve goals and objectives.”

To do this, come to the table with a collaborative spirit, feeling of mutual respect, and with the intent of having productive dialogue. Doing so doesn’t mean you have to agree with your colleague, but that you take time to listen and treat the other person fairly. This will advance the team’s efforts to address a common workplace challenge you are facing, learn about its root causes, and come to an agreement on a way forward.


Ensure You Have a Personal Support System

Even as you work to have strong, trust-based relationships with colleagues, you need supportive individuals who are there for you in varying capacities.

A few of the roles you will want to fill in that support system include:

  • Confidence-builder. This person likes you for you. This person can give your spirits a lift and help you get back on track when you’re feeling down.
  • Challenger. In contrast, a “challenger” will say no to you if they sense what you contemplate doing is not in your best interest.
  • Sustainer. This person will help you when your mental health is sagging, offering ways to grab opportunity from what looks like adversity.

Helen Keller famously said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road . . . unless you fail to make the turn.” So, while disruption is affecting the world of work, if we have the proper support network, strive to understand and have healthy relations with colleagues, revisit where we’re spending our efforts and how we fit into our organizations, we can manage during these trying times.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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