No matter your profession or walk of life, it’s inevitable that you are going to experience a life-altering event at some point during the course of your career. Changes may cause you stress and effect your mental health. Our health is our greatest asset. Whether that’s through the loss of a loved one, or losing a job you’ve held for 15 years, it can be difficult to come to terms with the upheaval associated with a change of such magnitude.
In a workplace setting, it can be difficult to instigate largescale changes that involve a great deal of disruption and personal adaption. Thanks to work by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her colleagues, models such as the change curve can help employees and business leaders understand the processes associated with these events and learn how to speed up that process of adaption.
What is the Change Curve?
The curve was a model originally developed to describe the process that terminally ill patients and their close relatives go through after receiving the news that the prognosis is premature death.
It has since been developed to apply to a wider set of scenarios that elicit huge changes in someone’s personal or professional life. One of its widest-known uses is to determine employees’ reactions to wide-reaching changes within a company, such as the aftermath of a merger or takeover.
Stages of the Change Curve
It’s worth briefly running through the separate stages of the change curve, so that you can better understand where measures can be put in place to speed up the process of adapting to an individual or company-wide crisis point.
Stage One – Denial
Once information has been received as to the nature of the change, the natural reaction is to deny that there is a need for change and in fact it’s not happening. In a workplace setting, typical responses used at this stage are: it won’t work here, we have tried it before, why is this happening to me?
Stage Two – Anger and Frustration
After learning that this change is not going away, the next step towards change is to go through the anger or frustration phase. At this point, people affected often can’t see a way out of the situation, often resorting to anger and bitterness.
These feelings are usually focused at line managers and senior members of staff. But if the crisis is at an individual level, close colleagues can also be on the receiving end. If left unchecked these emotions can create a toxic working environment.
Stage Three – Doubt, Exploration, Bargaining
Depending on who you listen to, this stage has many different descriptions. However, the general essence of this stage is that the individual realises that the change is here to stay. It isn’t a fad and big adaptations in their lives may need to happen.
Some become doubtful they can make those changes; others start to explore their feelings of whether they even want to make those changes. Eventually, they start to try and suggest compromises and bargain with employers with phrases such as, “what if we do this?”, or “can I fit here?” or “can we just do this?”.
Stage Four – Acceptance
The individual eventually makes peace with the change and begins the necessary adaption, after which the individual has successfully come through the change curve. At this point, the change is understood and the individual now starts to live with the change, actively involving themselves and meeting it head on.
How to Improve Adaptation and Become Less Resistant to Change?
By using the change curve model, employees and managers alike can start to identify with each stage and therefore progress along the curve much quicker. Resistance to change is a completely natural position, so leaders need to ease employees through the process, rather than provide further obstacles through poor management.
For the first stage, it’s important to address issues relating to “what’s in it for me?”. If employees can’t understand why a change is taking place they are far less inclined to get on board with it. The second stage is critical. Managers need to let their employees vent their frustrations and give them opportunities to justify their anger. Often just by providing a platform to air their grievances employees can instantly feel better about it.
For both the third and final stage, the methodology for speeding up a positive response to change is much the same. Clearly communicate timelines for the change, encourage involvement in the process, and reward early adopters who demonstrate the behaviour you are looking for. Build team buy-in, build confidence in the new mechanisms, and celebrate successes achieved within whatever the new framework may be.
By implementing these little tips, you can coach employees through a period of huge changes and upheaval, much quicker than if you just made a unilateral decision and left employees to their own devices. On the other hand, adopting an “adapt or be sacked” approach is never the right solution, and will lead to all kinds of workplace wellness issues further down the line.
Get Help with Change Counselling from the Experts
Whether you are experiencing a personal change of circumstance, or you need to manage several people through a transitional period, using the change curve is useful to understand the process and therefore speed it up. The key is to keep open channels of communication flowing in both directions to engage staff, failure to do so can make the process of adapting to the change twice as long as it needs to take.
Here at DocHQ we are experts at providing counselling support for employees who have experienced a life-changing event, and for organisations currently experiencing largescale changes. With our support, you can make sure you reduce sickness by arranging the help they need, whenever they need it. Whether that’s through mental health support, or occupational therapy, we’ve got you covered. Let us help you support wellness and improve employee performance.
To find out more about how we can support the health and wellbeing of your employees, contact a member of our team today.
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