“Change is painful. It can make people feel insecure, confused, and angry. Because it makes life easier, people want things to remain the same as they have always been. (Richard Marcinko.)
This makes it challenging to implement change. One thing is sure today: We will have to implement change within our organizations. These changes could be required by customers, changes in legislation, or simply by us needing to change the way we work. The success of an organization can be directly affected by how our employees respond to change.
Based on the work by Elisabeth Kubler–Ross, The Change Curve is a powerful model that helps people understand how they react to change. It also allows managers to identify which support might be required at various stages of a change. This model describes the four steps that most people experience, along with some common reactions.
Stage 1 – Shock, denial. “Won’t affect me, so I’ll just keep my head down and continue to work.”
Stage 2 – Anger and depression – “How dare you!” Looking for a scapegoat, followed by depression, withdrawal, and possibly an increase in absence.
Stage 3 – Acceptance – Accepting that change is inevitable
Stage 4 – Moving on – “This works really well”, “Don’t know why we were so concerned,” fully integrated and implemented change.
Every person reacts differently depending upon their past experiences and current state of mind. You may experience the stages at different speeds. Some may move through them at different times. Others may do so in a separate order. However, the most common charge is the one listed above.
What you can do to help
Communication is crucial! Information is essential for people to understand and make sense of the changes. They should also know where to find more information if needed. Tell them all about the changes, how they will affect their lives, and take the time to answer any questions. People may appear in denial or not interested when they aren’t. Don’t let them get fooled into believing they know everything.
This stage is the most difficult. Some people may become quite aggressive when expressing their concerns and feelings. As the anger builds up, morale can drop, and people who were previously confident may begin to doubt their abilities to change. Communication is essential. Take into account any objections and take steps to minimize the problems. It’s okay to feel these emotions. To emphasize that these feelings are normal and shared, it might be helpful to use the Change Curve.
This stage is the turning point. Once people accept the change, they will be eager to explore the implications and effects of the changes. As team members adjust to this new way of working, individuals may require training. Productivity might drop. As they adapt to the new way of doing things, people will need support.
When the new ways of working become the norm and people embrace the change. This stage is crucial. If the support level drops too quickly, it’s common for people to return to the earlier stages. It’s equally important that you celebrate your success and enjoy the rewards of taking on the challenge.