Dealing with Common Change in the Workplace
Change is a frequent occurrence in the workplace. Being able to handle change is imperative, but it can be challenging. What makes it more complicated is that change also doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. Quite frequently, change has curves, and it flow through a series of phases as people come to terms with it.
Change moves through the “Change Curve.” There are four change phases:
- Phase 1 – Denial. When people heart about the change they may be in denial that it is happening and avoid addressing it.
- Phase 2 – Resistance. People may resist the change at first because it is an unknown and they would prefer things to stay the same.
- Phase 3 – Exploration. Exploration happens when they acknowledge their feelings and accept that the change is in fact important.
- Phase 4 – Commitment. Once the person accepts the change, they then commit to it
When the change begins, there is usually a turn downward into an area of heightened stress, uncertainty, upheaval, and diminished productivity. As acceptance of the change takes place there is a climb up the other side of the curve as they regain their sense of direction, learn new skills and roles, and begin to work in a new way. Finally, they commit to the change.
The Change Curve Model is based on the following principles:
- Change is an ongoing process rather than just one event
- There is a progressive sequence of change behaviors that needs to be experienced and mastered in order to be effective in handling change
- Negative behaviors like denial, apprehension, anger, and resistance are normal and part of the change process
- There are specific strategies available that employees can utilize to increase change mastery
- The progression through the phases of change represents an opportunity for growth
Employees may move either slowly or quickly through change. The complete mastery of the change involves transition through each of the four phases, but it can be at various paces. Sometimes the process doesn’t happen in order – people may move back to a previous phase or remain stuck in one phase. But they need to reach the commitment phase to be able to master the change curve and perform effectively within the changed organization.
To learn more about how to deal with change, “Mastering the Change Curve” is a tool that is appropriate for any individual in the midst of organizational change. It can be used as a change management assessment resource, as the centerpiece of a more comprehensive curriculum, or as a tool to provide support at the early stages of a new change effort. It helps individuals adapt to changes they did not initiate, gauge and interpret individual or team reactions to change, and bring issues and concerns to the surface.
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