VUCA victim—how can you cope?
Will you be a VUCA victim? VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It’s how the world is these days, and there’s plenty of VUCA to go around.
In November 2022, for example, VUCA was in full flood with a host of daunting job losses. Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk fired people left, right and centre, aiming to lose around 3,700 jobs. Not to be outdone, his fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook came down to earth from his Meta ambitions to confront VUCA, which is eating away at his business. He announced 11,000 job losses, more than one in eight staff.
A month earlier, the Royal Mail in the UK declared it expected to cut up to 10,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse is weighing up 5,000 job cuts as part of a restructuring plan. The BBC has announced deep cuts to its World Service output that will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs. It says it’s been forced to act by the government’s ongoing licence fee freeze.
Nor are all such sackings always confined to those at the bottom of the organisation. For example, half of Deloitte’s UK leadership fell victim to the impact of VUCA, and in the same week, the firm replaced eight of its most senior partners.
The “C” of VUCA stands for complexity, which, combined with Chaos, leaves many employers struggling to cope. This begs the question, what, if anything, can you do as an employee? Are you totally at the mercy of this job-eater monster called VUCA?
You cannot outrun a tiger chasing you; the same applies to VUCA. While you cannot outrun employment trends, you can learn from VUCA. Its most important message is to use one of your human strengths— adaptability.
Adaptability in the workplace means learning new skills and behaviours due to the changing environment. Employers reeling from VUCA need people able to be flexible. For instance, good team members can rely on their initiative, solve problems, find solutions, and “think outside of the box.”
In the workplace, new problems constantly arise. Changes are inevitable. But how these are dealt with makes all the difference between personal and organisational survival. Adaptability means that such changes can be embraced rather than hinder performance.
A perfect example of unexpected changes in the workplace arose from the global pandemic. Many companies and their employees were forced to adapt and, in many cases, rose magnificently to the challenge.
Such changes may not be welcomed. Yet having a team that can adjust to new working patterns, working locations, and working styles can make or break collaboration and contribute to organisational and individual success.
To survive, employers need people able and willing to collaborate. They must welcome ideas rather than resist them.
There are three primary adaptability skills you can develop. First, understand what adaptability skills are and where they come from.
Cognitive adaptability allows you to think through potential scenarios and plan for various outcomes. Developing mental adaptability won’t guarantee you make the right decision. But it helps you structure your thoughts during the decision-making process.
Emotional adaptability skills help you accept and acknowledge the VUCA situation around you. This can help you connect with people who may be different from your own.
An adaptable personality allows you to see a situation for what it is and can become. When facing a challenge, you’re able to see the whole picture. It’s a combination of realism and optimism—helpful for responding to any situation.
Adaptability is a soft skill that won’t make it onto your LinkedIn profile. Yet it’s often one of the first things your boss looks for when considering whether to retain or promote you.
Adaptable people stand out. Instead of feeling stressed under pressure or getting overwhelmed, they develop new approaches and solutions. When adaptability is fully embraced, VUCA seems just a bit more manageable.
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