The 7 Emotional Phases Employees Go Through During Change

When people within an organization are required to change, they still value and emotionally identify with the current state.

When people within an organization are required to change, the challenge is that they often still value and emotionally identify with their current state.

The idea of change can trigger an emotional response: feelings of personal loss, concerns about what will be required of them and their ability to meet those expectations, etc.  Once these reactions start to appear among impacted people, what can you do as a leader to help them feel better equipped to face the change ahead?

Understanding the emotional phases that people may experience can help you decide what to do next. Building upon the great work of  Dr. Kubler-Ross, here is our interpretation of the emotional phases people experience during changes and actions you can take to move them toward acceptance:





  • Difficulty focusing on their job duties
  • Information about the change doesn’t seem to sink in
  • Express feelings of disbelief and not knowing what to do next
  • Share the key facts about the change and the reasons for it
  • Say it more than 1 time
  • Know what channels of communication work for your audience
  • Use different methods and verbiage
  • Encourage them to get involved and give input


  • People in denial think things like, “They won’t do it,” “They will start but not finish,” or “We won’t really have to do it anyway”  
  • Ignoring discussions about the change
  • Not participating
  • Describe what is not working well today
  • Divide change into smaller steps and focus on what to expect first
  • Help them understand why each step is necessary and how they can support the change


  • Inability to see anything positive about the change
  • Time is spent sharing their negative perceptions privately and/or publicly


  • Don’t take it personally
  • Acknowledge the anger and defuse it
  • Empathize with the anger
  • Create an opportunity to speak openly about their concerns – set rules of engagement
  • Consider holding one-on-one meetings


  • Try to negotiate on what is expected of them, the scope of the change, the solution and/or timeline
  • Only negotiate those parts of the future state that are truly negotiable. Make it clear what those are and how they relate to a successful future
  • Be open to negotiation where possible
  • Understand the implications of offering concessions to one group or person versus broadly


  • Appears to be uninterested in the change
  • Loss of enthusiasm for their job
  • Believes the organization is unwilling to act upon their suggestions
  • Realizes that their role/responsibilities are changing
  • Encourage employees to share their issues and concerns with their leadership
  • Inform them about resources that will be provided to help them
  • Help them see their place in the future and the value they bring


  • Asking questions about the future state and how they fit
  • Participation and information sharing are improving
  • More positive attitude
  • Acknowledge their progress
  • Emphasize how valuable their cooperation is
  • Encourage them to keep making steps forward
  • Emphasize the positive points of the change
  • Develop opportunities for them to participate in resolving or understanding the less favorable elements of the change
  • Publicize support and learning programs


  • Participate in helping others understand and accept the change
  • Offering support and input
  • Engaging in learning and communication opportunities
  • Demonstrating competency and supportive behaviors
  • Recognize their accomplishment and contribution to the success of the change
  • Understand what drove them to acceptance and share with others
  • Enlist them to help others reach acceptance
  • Share progress toward success metrics

Use our Change Curve Assessment and Plan to understand your team’s level of acceptance and develop strategies to reduce risk.


We have a quick tool to assess your current state. Download yours today!


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