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Commentary Search

August Chief's Perspective

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hartzog
  • Joint Forces Headquarters

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow SNCO about some major career field changes and how to deal with them. The fear I heard in his voice about all the unknowns made me think about how change can and does affect our Airmen. H.P. Lovecraft said almost 100 years ago, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Those words are as true today as they were then. Most of us have had conversations with our fellow Airmen about how things should be different, yet when things do ultimately change you sometimes see those very same people react in a negative or angry manner towards the instrument of the change. I believe this anticipated conflict can prevent people from making changes that are necessary or long overdue. With all the changes in the military coming in the near future, we need to have a better understanding of our fear of change and some strategies to mitigate them.

So why do we resist change? I believe most people resist change for reasons such as fear of failure or rejection, fear of criticism and generally, fear of the unknown. People like certainties. Certainty is comfortable. I can tell you I’ve heard many times in my career the phrase “we’ve never done it like that before” or “the way we used to do it was good enough.” Past studies have shown that change or uncertainty can trigger the fight or flight instinct in some, for those people it can be debilitating. This reaction can create lots of negativity or animosity in the workplace. So what are some things we can do to minimize our fear of change?  

Communicate the change. The most important thing to do when change is happening in the workplace is to communicate it. We must communicate the “5-W’s” (Who, What, When, Where & Why). Everyone wants to be included and know what the organizational goals are.  It always helps to know where we are going even if you’re in the back seat sometimes!

Face your fears. What’s the worst thing that can happen? When you fear a change, let’s talk about it, get it out in the open so you don’t dwell on it. Knowing you’re not alone or hearing another person’s perspective can ease the anxiety.

Be flexible and embrace change. Instead of denial or creating defenses to keep it away from you, be open and flexible to taking on new challenges and tasks. Every change is an opportunity to do great things or make a good impression.

Communication, communication and communication. I think we already covered this but it’s so important it gets a second round. Part of the fear of change is the unknown, if you have questions ask! Be aware that rumors or second hand information can be distorted and create a problem that’s not truly there. Talk to the source of the change, understand the reason for the change. Offense shouldn’t be taken if you are asking legitimate questions to promote the end goals.

Continue to move forward and see the big picture. You are applying for your next job every day at work, always remember that! Always move forward and be positive. It is easy during times of change to sit back and see what will happen down the road or hope it will change back. Just remember, until you have a new direction you need to focus on achieving your designated goals and tasks.


In closing, change is inevitable, and absolutely necessary for the SCANG to be the best in the Air National Guard. Change is a good thing. We must push for perfection. We must strive to be the best, and never accept the status quo. When you leave this place for the last time, do you really want to say we never did anything to change it? So we must learn to overcome our fear of change and embrace the challenges ahead. Fly-Fight-Win!