Responses to change
Understanding and anticipating people's reactions to change can help you support them to accept and adapt to new circumstances.
A stressful experience
Organisational change can be very stressful for people. Some may be reluctant to shift from their comfort zone. They may fear that their job is at risk, or that their role or working environment will become unfamiliar. Others may worry that they lack skills or expertise needed for new systems or ways of working.
Coping with change
The Kubler-Ross Coping Cycle suggests that people go through the following stages of dealing with change:
- Shock: initial paralysis on hearing the news
- Denial: trying to avoid the inevitable
- Anger: venting frustration
- Bargaining: seeking to negotiate an alternative outcome
- Depression: realisation of the inevitable
- Testing: seeking realistic solutions
- Acceptance: finding the way forward.
The theory suggests that there is no short-cut but people can be supported through each stage to move to the next one more quickly. The approach argues that only when people have moved to acceptance can you realistically engage them in making the change happen. Learn more about participation.
Kurt Lewin's unfreezing, moving, refreezing model assumes that people need to go through three stages to deal with change:
- Unfreezing: give up old ways of doing things
- Moving: learn new ways of doing things
- Refreezing: adopt and become comfortable with new ways of working.
A range of tactics can be used to help people through this process, such as removing old ways of working and rewarding individuals for embracing new working practices.
Dealing with resistance
To overcome resistance, you can use allies in different parts of the organisation, engage with people to address their objections, and provide third party support. This support could include training to help people learn new skills or ways of working, or opportunities to talk about their feelings and experiences. A stakeholder analysis can help you to identify where resistance might lie, what form it might take, how to deal with it and who might support you to do so.
Communicating change will be an important element of your game plan.
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