How to Adapt to Change

April 23, 2024


Adaptability is an essential skill for admins and EAs. Longtime administrative professional Zynetta Canning O’Neill shares how she has navigated organizational change and why EA Ignite motivates her to rise to the challenge. 

Recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at

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Leah Warwick: Hi, everyone. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to "The Admin Edge." This episode was recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 in Austin, Texas, with guest Zynetta Canning O'Neill. Zynetta is a long-time administrative professional who led a panel on the ever-timely subject of organizational change at this event. So, let's get into it.

Change is hard. Change is hard for everyone, not just admins, and you have had a lot of different admin roles, so tell me about how you have navigated change at the organizational level in your various roles. 


Zynetta Canning: Yeah, of course. So organizational change, that can happen in a plethora of ways, right? You can have a new company, new management, new teams, new assignments. You can get laid off. You can have to deal with working remote, hybrid. There's so many different levels of change and organizational change.

For me, I had to adjust my work style and ethic, I think, a lot within my position in my previous roles. I've come from the tech startup industry, so when you're in a startup, things are always changing. When you're in an EA role or an administrative professional role, things are always changing. It's a constant thing. For me, I had to adjust my schedules. I've had to adjust and adapt to new environments. We've had some large renovations where we had to work in a different space, make everyone feel comfortable. 

And I think as an administrative professional your job is to immediately adjust to those changes, adapt to it, and rise to the occasion because you have to make sure everyone else is happy and comfortable as well. 

Leah Warwick: Yes, absolutely. It's core to the role. Do you have a specific example of where you had to adapt very quickly to a change?

Zynetta Canning: Yes. I think we all can relate to the pandemic. I was working full-time, in-office, Monday through Friday. Let's say 8:30 to 10:00 p.m.—just kidding. I would try to get out of there a little earlier than that, but [there'd be] traffic.


I was also the event planner as well, so the office manager and event coordinator for this company. That included the coffee chats in the morning and birthdays and celebrations. Everything that I was doing, in addition to working in the office, was gone. I had to figure out how I could make myself relevant and keep my job, because things were going to happen. There was going to be organizational change within the company. They just have to make business decisions. We can't be upset about that. 


So what I did was, I thought about my role as a culture leader and a brand ambassador, and I said, "Well, we do have to keep the company morale high, and we want to make everyone happy, and it is a very stressful time for everyone." Mental health is very important, and everyone's going through these things. There's a lot of uncomfortability. 

What I did was I started a virtual series of events—on my own. No one asked me to do it. Now, we could have paid an external vendor to do that kind of stuff, but what I did was, I started morning coffee chats virtually, so if you wanted to join in at a specific time in the morning, you could join in and we'd just drink coffee and talk before we started our job. It's kind of what we did when we came into the office and had bagels and coffee in the kitchen. 

We also took a break. Every Wednesday, we had Yoga Wednesdays. It was like, a second to have a mental break, stretch. We're in our houses. We're sitting down. We're not moving around the office. We're not taking those walks around the building anymore. So, it was a way to get people involved in the motion and the movement of how things used to be. 


And also, happy hours. We used to go out after work. I would have the company card, so people were my best friend. We'd go to a local place and maybe have a couple drinks after work on Fridays. So we would do our [virtual] happy hours. And what I would do to kind of spice it up and make it interesting—because after a while, you're on Zoom a lot, especially during that time—I had specific themes. I'm happy to put myself out there and make things fun and interesting. 

For example, I dressed up like an '80s workout person—think of Richard Simmons—and I had the leotard on, the stockings, the socks, the side ponytail, the big scrunchy, the makeup, and I put on disco music and did a little video to promote it and was like, "Hey, everybody. If you're looking for a couple drinks and get a little disco vibe, come on at 5:00 and have your beer," or whatever. It was kind of funny, and it made people laugh and want to engage in these events after hours. 


That was something that I was not doing prior. It wasn't in person, but I had to switch my brain to think: How can I keep my job relevant and also keep everyone happy at the same time? And no one asked me to do that. No one said, "Hey, can you do something to keep everyone happy and keep the culture alive?" It was just my way of thinking about the organization and how we can change it to keep things alive and relevant.

Leah Warwick: I love that. Listening to you talk, I heard a few things. You were proactive. You were adaptable. You were focused on keeping everyone happy. Admins tend to be people-pleasers, so that comes naturally. What I heard was that you weren't really focusing on why the change was happening; it's happening. We're focused on: What are we going to do about it now? I think that is a key mindset shift that some people need to make. What are some tips, or perhaps strategies, that you have to get people to go ahead with the change and not stay stuck in why the change is happening?


Zynetta Canning: Well, I think, in my field, we don't always have control over the change. We have to adapt to it and figure out: What's the best way that we can be successful within this change? We all knew the office was going to close. I had to shut it down. I also had to, when they wanted to revamp it and open it back up, I had to get the cleaners. This was stuff we'd never gone through before. We all had to learn as we went.

I think having a good attitude and having a positive mindset is what people are looking for. If I had a bad attitude and I came to work and I was like, "Oh, my God. We don't want to do this. This is not going to be fun" ... We are a huge asset to the company. We're the first person you see. We're the last person you see when you leave. We're the ones that smile at you in the morning. We see you. We recognize you. And I think it's great that we're being recognized at EA Ignite, and there's a lot of platforms for that as well. 


I'm empowered. I think we're feeding off of each other. Everyone seems to be involved. People are raising their hands, speaking out loud. Some woman actually sung a song out loud after breakfast and everyone sang along with her. This is a family of administrative professionals. This is no longer just like, "Oh, it's a conference." Like, no. We're having a family reunion for administrative professionals, and I can't wait to see what you guys do next. 

Leah Warwick: That's so great to hear because I see it out there, too. I see people who'll walk into the reception, and they seem like they came together or they're old friends and we'll ask, "Oh, how long have you known each other?" And they say, "Oh, we just met an hour ago."


Zynetta Canning: It's so welcoming. I was at the EA conference in Baltimore, so I've experienced both opportunities, and I was able to walk into the room each time and someone was like, "Do you want to sit with us?" And I'm like, "Yes." And this time I have a few people with me that I know, like now I have a few familiar faces. But when I was completely alone and didn't know anybody, I wasn't shy. I wasn't nervous. I was welcomed in. And not just that, but you guys offer a networking session at the end, which is very empowering because you're already making friends throughout the day at lunch, at breakfast, in the classes. The classes are very interactive as well. They're fun. You're playing little surveys during it. It's not like I'm falling asleep. These are fun, interactive conversations and workshops and masterclasses, so we're all learning.


Then we can go talk about it at lunch. You're sitting at a table of people you don't even know. "So which one did you go to? Which one did you go to?" And because you guys have different classes that people can attend, we're all sharing what we learned from each one. So say you didn't get to go to one at the same time; you're able to share what you learned with a stranger, which is, I think, very powerful. 

Leah Warwick: Yes. To put a little button on this, I do think that change is part of life. Change is part of every admin's role. But to be excited about changes that are happening, too — it's not all bad.

Zynetta Canning: Oh, it's not all bad. That's something we're going to talk about tomorrow, how organizational change affects you, but it's not always a bad thing. You might've been the one to initiate the change, too. There's things that I had to bring into the company, where like, "Okay, listen, we're going to be doing this new thing," and I brought it in because it's going to make my life easier as an executive assistant, or administrative professional, and I had to know my stuff, know what I'm talking about, understand the data, understand why it's going to be successful, and also get ready to promote the heck out of it because I have to be happy and excited about it; otherwise, people aren't going to be enthusiastic about it as well. 


For example, at my previous job, I was managing the front desk. Usually, we just have the talent acquisitions department send me a calendar. We had these people coming in for this job or for an interview. So I had this new tablet at the front desk and I was like, "They could sign in themselves. Once they sign in, you'll get a message. You can come downstairs." Because I was finding myself running around, trying to find the talent acquisitions person. They know the person's there but they're trying to gather a couple of things, so it just became an easier process for me, so I introduced that to the team. They appreciate when you do that, too. If it's going to make everyone's life easier, then it's okay. 


And, yes, it's not always bad. Yes, there are huge organizational changes, but sometimes that can work out for the benefit of yourself or for the company overall, so just see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Leah Warwick: Yes, and how having an overall negative outlook on change can be unproductive. Having a positive outlook about change is more productive. Don't we all want to be more productive and have a personal life?

Zynetta Canning: Absolutely. We definitely want to have a personal life. And I think that's why a lot of us are here [laughs]. We're usually glued to the desk and running around the office and getting the lunches and stuff like that. But right now we are out of office, and we are igniting this conference. I think everyone is having lunch right now, but it's lit. I'm just going to say it's lit [laughs].

Leah Warwick: I can't think of a more perfect way to summarize everything we've talked to. I'll let you get to lunch, but thank you so much.


Zynetta Canning: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. It's been a blast. If you haven't attended the EA Ignite conference, please do register for the next session. Stayed tuned to all of their social media posts, LinkedIn.

Leah Warwick: And I should add: Follow Zynetta on LinkedIn.

Zynetta Canning: Oh, yes. Follow Zynetta Canning on LinkedIn.

Leah Warwick: Thank you for listening to "The Admin Edge," produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals. Original music and audio editing by Warwick Productions. If you liked this podcast, please leave us a five-star review wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe. If you want to send a listener question, you can submit via the form on our website at

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