Understanding Change

Whilst change is around us all every day, the change curve explains what can happen a) with a group when significant change impacts them, and b) with an individual when something happens that affects them personally. People go from feeling stable, content and secure through a range of emotional states and stages. Individual pace will differ, with those who are most in favour of the change, and/or naturally more ready to accept change, getting there first. The stages are as follows:

1. Shock and/or denial:
Indicators: upset and emotional, negative, refusing to accept what’s happening, ignoring the consequences, looking for someone to blame, confusion, fear.

Coping mechanisms: talking about how you feel, asking for help, working together, suggesting alternatives, relaxation techniques, letting off steam.

Support actions: explaining the rationale (why, what, how and what if), thinking about the individual, reassurance, good planning, clear communication and consultation, listening, empathy, providing good tools.

2. Anger and/or frustration:
Indicators: criticism of self/company/others, negativity, resistance, withdrawal, sabotage.

Coping mechanisms: looking for the positives, being open to options, asking questions, seeking help if wellbeing is compromised.

Support actions: frequent conversation, enabling people to freely give their feedback, challenging negativity in a compassionate way, painting a vison of the future, explaining how options and risks have been carefully considered.

3. Depression and/or despair:
Indicators: acceptance without enthusiasm, absence, sickness, withdrawal, lethargy, fatigue, inertia, confusion, doubt.

Coping mechanisms: asking questions, seeking help informally or from a professional, talking about feelings, doing things you enjoy, working on being open-minded.

Support actions: ensuring people are supported in whatever way they need, stressing the benefits and positives, helping people to find alternatives.

4. Bargaining and/or coping:
Indicators: clarity, understanding, acceptance, rationalisation, enthusiasm, excitement, creativity, solutions, implementation.

Coping mechanisms: moving form focusing on what’s lost to what’s gained, collaboration, sharing ideas, being proactive, exploring.

Support actions: review and keeping communication and momentum going.

5. Achieve and/or move ahead:
Indicators: confidence, feeling in control, competence, contribution, positivity, routine.

Coping mechanisms: supporting others, leading the way, taking responsibility, celebrating successes.

Support actions: clear leadership and guidelines, enabling and empowering people to get on with things, review and learn from the change.

Leaders and colleagues will need to support people through the change curve. If they remain in the first two stages, or hover between them, the change will not succeed, at least for those who haven’t moved on to further stages. People can also reach stage three and then slide back, so that’s something to be on the lookout for. By stage six, the change is well on the way to becoming the norm.