Getting Emotional

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said “change is the only constant in life”, but regardless of how true this statement is, change remains one of those things that people generally have difficulty coping with.  This is the same in personal situations and within the working environment.  In business, when people have to deal with changes to the status quo they will often experience an array of different emotions from denial and resistance through to understanding and integration.

Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified this and developed the Emotional Change Curve model in the 1960s.  This sets out to identify the key stages of change.  This model is very useful in helping people understand what they are likely to be feeling and why.  Obviously, no two people will deal with change in quite the same way, but if you understand the model you will be better equipped to help people face the change.

1.       Denial – often when faced with change people often won’t believe it will actually happen.  By repeating the key facts of the change and the underlying reasons for it, you will help to break through this phase

2.       Resistance – it is not uncommon for employees to feel anger about a change, particularly if they feel they have no control over the outcome.  It is important that these people have the opportunity to speak openly about how they are feeling, without this causing wider issues.  One-on-one meetings allows them the opportunity to explain how they feel and gives you the opportunity to actively listen and where appropriate, respond.

3.       Self-doubt – when employees realise that although they will be listened to, the outcome of the change remains the same then they can potentially suffer from self-doubt and depression.  Encouraging employees to talk things through with their colleagues, managers, sponsors and you can help.

4.       Exploration – eventually employees will begin to explore the realities of the change and what the business now looks like.  By acknowledging their more positive approach and highlighting the positives of the change, you will reinforce this approach.

5.       Acceptance – this follows when employees start to build confidence in the ‘new way’.  As confidence grows, then so too will employees’ acceptance of it.

6.       Understanding – when employees can see the benefits of the change, they will then understand why the change was implemented.  Reinforcing the benefits through regular, clear communication will help with this.

7.       Integration – eventually the change will no longer be something different, but will become business as usual.  Until the next time…