Responses to change
Responses to Change
Responses to change
Every time an organization goes through the process of change, there are a number of responses or reaction to change depicted by organizational members. The reactions to change can be illustrated and explained using the Kubler-Ross Change Curve. This curve is based on an approach that was originally developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s, that describes the process of grieving, which represents the behavioural responses to change that are experienced within organizations. Since that period, the model has been broadly used as a method of assisting individuals to comprehend their reactions or responses to considerable upheaval or change. Initially, Kubler-Ross had proposed that a terminally sick person would progress through a number of phases of grief when they are informed of their ailment (Fernandez & Rainey, 2006). In addition, she suggested that the approach could be applied to any remarkable life changing event. Therefore, by the 1980s, the curve became widely recognized in circles of change management. The curve with its related emotions can be applied in predicting how performance can be influenced by the announcement and implementation of a change that is considered significant. The HR has a significant role to play in order to support individuals during the change process (Orridge, 2010).
The initial five phases of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although there are multiple versions of the curve that exist, most of them are consistence in their application of the basic emotions that will be discussed and which are classified into three different transitional phases. The first stage is shock and denial. The first behavioural response to change is normally shock. This reaction can lead to temporary loss or slow down of production. Organizational performance tends to slow sharply, people who are usually decisive and clear seek more reassurance and guidance, and the set deadlines may not be met. In most cases, the shock is because of fear of the unknown, lack of information, and fear of doing something wrong or looking stupid (Fernandez & Rainey, 2006). After the passing of the initial phase of shock, it becomes common for people to experience denial. At this stage, focus tends to remain in the past. In this case, there is a possibility to be a feeling that as all was well before change, then why is change necessary. Common feelings in this stage are feeling threatened, feeling comfortable with the status quo, and fear of failure. People who have not experiences major change in the past can be especially affected in this first phase (Waddington, 2010). It becomes common for individuals to encourage themselves that change will not actually occur, or if it occurs, it will not affect them. Often, performance goes back to the levels that have been seen before the fall experienced at the first shock of change. Individuals carry on as usual and may refuse having received any information or communication about change. In this case, people may as well make excuses in order to avoid being part of planning for the next move. During this stage, the HR has a significant role to play as communication is extremely vital (Waddington, 2010). Restating what the actual change is, the result it may have, and offering as much support as possible, will assist people who experience such kinds of feelings.
The next stage involves anger and depression. When the feelings of shock and denial are over, what follow is feelings of anger. There is an established scapegoat in this stage in the form of individual, group, or organization. Putting the blame something or someone lets for a continuation of the denial process by allowing another focus for the anxieties and fears that the potential effect is causing. There are common feelings of frustration, suspicion, and scepticism that are frequently experiences. The curve’s lowest point is when the anger starts to wear off. What follows is the realization that change is real. It is common for levels of anxiety and self-doubt to peak and for morale to be low (Waddington, 2010). The stage’s feelings can be difficult to express. This means that depression is likely to occur as the effect of what is lost is recognized or approved. The stage can be related to isolation, remoteness, and apathy. In this stage, performance in the organization is at its lowest. There tends to be preoccupation of small problems or issues, frequently to the damage or loss of daily tasks and responsibilities. People may carry on with their roles as before even when this is not a proper behaviour. Individuals become reassured by knowing that other people in the organization also experience similar feelings (Orridge, 2009). Giving teams, individuals, and managers information on the Change Curve highlights that emotions are shared and usual, and this can assist in developing a steadier basis from which to carry on to the final stage.
The last stage involves acceptance and integration. This is a more enthusiastic and optimistic mood. People now accept that change is unavoidable and start to work with the organizational changes instead of working against them. New thoughts are experienced and these include relief that the change has been survived, exciting new opportunities, and impatience for the change to be complete. The final steps entail integration. In this case, focus is strongly on the organization’s future. Furthermore, there is a sense that genuine progress can be made (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2011). The changed circumstance has powerfully replaced the initial and becomes the new truth by the time everyone gets to this stage. Basic or common feelings in this stage involve acceptance, trust, and hope. In the early part of the phase, productivity and energy are low, but gradually start to reveal recovery signs. At this point, everyone has a lot of questions and is curious of opportunities and possibilities. The usual subjects of conversation recommence (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2011). In fact, ironic humour is at most times used to refer to earlier behaviour during the change process. People will react well to being allocated certain responsibilities or tasks. Communication, however, remains crucial. Frequent reports of progress and praise assist in cementing the jauntier mood. In this stage, it is not unusual for there to be a go back to the previous stage if the support level falls.
Everyone in organization responds individually to change. This means that not all people will experience each stage. Some individuals may spend a significant amount of time in the first and second stages, whereas others are more used to change move fast to the third stage. Although it is proposed that going through the three phases is most common, there is no wrong or right sequence. There is a likelihood of various individuals going through a similar change at the same time to go at their own pace and reach the rest of the stages at distinct times.
There are different leadership behaviours that are required in order to guide and support through change. The HR has, therefore, a significant role to play in order to guide people through the change process. To manage shock and denial, HR should explain the rationale of change and deal with individual need. They should have the ability to listen and comprehend the needs of people (Stanley, Meyer, & Topolnytsky, 2005). In order to support people experiencing anger and depression, the HR should ensure that people are involved early enough in how the change process will happen. They should remove obstacles whenever possible and hold regular meetings to discuss concerns and issues. On the other hand, to manage acceptance and integration, people should be reassured of progress, benefits should be clear and understood, there should be provision of new skills and way of working (Stanley et al., 2005). Meetings should be held regularly to discuss progress and ensure that there is recognition of success through reports.
The Change Curve is a useful model in managing team or individual change in the organization. Understanding where a person is on the curve will assist in deciding on when and how to communicate information, what support level a person requires, and when it is appropriate or best to implement final changes. Providing people with the knowledge that other people experience and comprehend the same emotions is the appropriate manner to go back to optimal performance of the organization.
Fernandez, S., & Rainey, H. G. (2006). Managing Successful Organizational Change In The Public Sector. Public Administration Review, 66(2), 168-176.
Melnyk, B. M., & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2011). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare: A guide to best practice. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Orridge, M. (2009). Change leadership: Developing a change-adept organization. Farnham, England: Gower.
Stanley, D. J., Meyer, J. P., & Topolnytsky, L. (2005). Employee Cynicism and Resistance To Organizational Change. Journal of Business and Psychology, 19(4), 429-459.
Waddington, J. (2010). Response to Change. Organization, 1(2), 453-455.