The 7 Emotional Phases Employees Go Through During Change

When people within an organization are required to change, it is common for them to emotionally identify with the current state. 

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The idea of change can trigger an emotional response. Even before a change is initiated, employees and leaders may feel personal loss, concerns about what will be required of them and apprehensions over their ability to meet any new expectations.  

Common reactions to change include a desire to keep things the same and little confidence that the change will be successful and solve real problems. These reactions are a reflection of the emotional phases that employees go through during change.  

Once these reactions start to appear among people affected by change, it is the role of leaders to equip them to face the change ahead. 

 

Emotional phases through an organizational change 

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Understanding the emotional phases that people may experience can help you decide what to do in response. 

Kubler Ross Model for Change Management 

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 and adoption. 

Phase

Symptoms

Recommended Actions

Immobilization

  • Difficulty focusing on their job and responsibilities 
  • 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 one time 
  • Know what channels of communication work for your audience 
  • Use different methods and verbiage 
  • Encourage them to get involved and give input 

Denial

  • 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”   
  • Ignore discussions about the change 
  • Avoid 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 

Anger

  • Inability to see anything positive about the change 
  • Time is spent sharing their negative perceptions privately 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 and set rules of engagement 
  • Consider holding one-on-one meetings 

Depression

  • 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 and 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 

Negotiation

  • Try to negotiate on what is expected of them, the scope of the change, the solution or the timeline 

  • Only negotiate the parts of the desired state that are truly negotiable 
  • Make it clear what parts (if any) of the desired state are negotiable 
  • Be open to negotiation where possible 
  • Understand the implications of offering concessions to one group or person versus broadly 

Exploration

  • 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 

Acceptance

  • 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 

 

Get more change management tipsUntitled-1-06 

People affected by change in an organization – including leaders and employees – are often faced with multiple changes at the same time. Change is persistent and necessary, which culminates in complex emotional responses.  

LaMarsh Global relies on data and strategy to manage continuous and complex organizational changes and respond to a spectrum of reactions. Our free change management guide introduces the five most important aspects to drive the acceptance and adoption of a change.

Download the free change management guide. 

Subscribe for exclusive insights for change leaders & practitioners 

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