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Change is inevitable in today’s economy. When we are facing, or in the middle of, a big change, the road to acceptance can seem very long; the destination may even seem unreal. This is due to a number of factors such as fear of the unknown, fear of failure, not feeling in control or sometimes a daunting feeling of moving outside your comfort zone. Specialists in Change Management have long recognised that the emotions we go through in the face of change are very similar to those we experience with grief. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stage model helps us to define those stages and understand where we are in our journey towards accepting the situation and moving towards career success.
It may seem melodramatic to compare a change in your workplace situation with the grief of losing a loved one, but the range of emotions experienced is very relevant. Being made redundant, a change of management, mergers and acquisitions, even a new financial or reporting system can trigger these responses in all of us. If you can recognise your own response to change in any of these stages or even identify the stage you are currently in there are steps you can take to make the process a bit less painful.
The typical response at this stage is usually along the lines of “this won’t work”, “we’ve tried it before”, “I can’t believe it!” or “not again!” etc. It is completely normal to deny the need for change or stick your head in the sand. If you find yourself thinking or saying these things, talk to the people instigating the change face to face and ask them what is in it for you.
Anger is a normal reaction when you realise that the change thing is not going to go away. You may find yourself getting quite bitter and twisted, blaming anyone you can, taking it out on lots of people, feeling a strong sense of “this is not fair”. Be aware of your anger and keep talking to the people who are in charge. Remember that your anger will subside.
This can be a turning point for many people. You may start to feel more engaged with the process, come up with ideas as to how it could work for you or start to look for compromises. At this stage ask for more visibility, find out what needs to be done and what the timelines are.
It is also known as the bargaining phase because some people may respond to the threat of redeployment or redundancy by offering to do things to put off the inevitable such as working longer hours. Find out first if and how you can affect the outcome at all with your actions.
This stage may only affect a few who were previously perhaps in a bargaining rather than exploratory mind-set, whereby you realise that your efforts have come to nothing or ideas have not worked. You may feel demotivated and uncertain. If you feel you are at this stage you may need some time off or some professional or friendly counselling.
Close on the heels of that depressed state, however, and certainly following a stage of exploration comes acceptance. For some this will be a resigned attitude towards the change; for others it will be an understanding and willingness to get directly involved with the change. For both it is a chance to explore new opportunities, be hopeful and find meaning in the experience.
Don’t judge yourself or others too harshly when you are going through change. If you can acknowledge the stage you are in, face your fears and embrace the process with flexibility and a positive outlook, you have a good chance of getting through it more comfortably and calmly and identify brighter opportunities throughout the transition.
Renovo is one of the UK’s leading providers of outplacement and career transition support. We work with both organisations and individuals to support all their career transition requirements. If you would like to understand how Renovo can help you please call 0800 612 2011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org