There is a famous quote stating that only two things are certain in this world: death and taxes. However, it’s obvious there are actually three certain things; the third one is ‘change.’ Everyone has experienced a change in their personal or professional life at some point. Sometimes change is by choice and other times it is not.
When a business is in the process of planning a change that impacts their employees, it’s important to understand and recognize the dynamics of change. Even better, it’s helpful to educate and inform your employees about these dynamics in the beginning.
Here are a few things to share with your employees:
1. No matter how exciting the change is, you may feel a sense of loss.
2. No matter how competent your people are, you can expect a sense of confusion.
3. If change were easy, everyone would be doing it, and there wouldn’t be any competitive advantage.
4. Change is supposed to be hard.
5. Change requires a consistent and concerted effort.
6. Change takes people outside their comfort zones.
John M. Fisher, Charted Psychologist, developed the Personal Transition Through Change Curve. This is a tool that can be used with your employees to help them understand change and the stages associated with it. If employees persist in their old ways, the time and money invested by management to identify and pursue improvement in processes and systems will be wasted. Therefore, it is critical that employees change and adapt.
Supporting employees in the process of making changes can impact your overall rate of success. John Fisher identified 11 emotional stages that people experience during change. It’s important to remember that everyone may react differently; some will readily show their emotions while others will experience theirs more internally. The key to understanding the stages of emotion with change is that you don’t have to go through every phase in a particular order. Some people may skip over the earlier stages, while some may go through many of the stages and then regress to a previous stage. It is essential to consider these stages as guides in the process of change rather than a step-by-step process.
You should try not to judge a person by how they confront change because everyone experiences it differently. Some people are naturals at change, but the majority are not—people move through the stages at different paces, and everyone may need different things depending on the stage they are in currently. Some factors that may impact how people move through the stages may include who they perceive their degree of control, personal temperament, and past life experiences.
Here are the 11 stages of emotion when dealing with change:
1. Anxiety – You think things should be done differently, but don’t necessarily know what to do about it.
2. Happiness – You are feeling positive about the change, and the chance to get rid of things which you know don’t work.
3. Fear – You are fearful that the change will force you into a new way of thinking and working.
4. Threat – You are uncertain about how the change is going to impact your role in the company.
5. Guilt – You feel angry with yourself for not coping as well as you could have.
6. Depression – You may feel confused and apathetic and start to wonder who you are. This point is sometimes referred to as the “swamp of despair.” The shorter the amount of time spent feeling this emotion, the better.
7. Hostility – You show aggression, in general, towards yourself, others, and the change.
8. Gradual Acceptance – You become more emotionally detached from the situation and begin to make sense of the change. You can envision the benefits of change and how things will improve.
9. Moving Forward – You feel more in control and make things happen in a positive sense. You now see the true benefits of the change.
10. Denial – You don’t think there are any problems or that they involve you, so you deny change is occurring and “stick your head in the sand.” You avoid all the other emotions of change.
11. Disillusionment – You determine change does not fit with your value system, or it doesn’t pertain to your role in the company and decide to have nothing more to do with it.
For a visual explanation of these stages, check out the John Fisher Personal Transition Curve here. As a business owner, coaching and empowering people through change is a crucial function of being an effective leader. When announcing a change, making employees aware of the emotional stages they may experience and letting them know you support them through it should help get things started on a positive note. Change can be a valuable and exciting opportunity with the right approach by management and employees.
If a major change is in your future, you should feel confident that your business and employees can make it through with ease. As business owners ourselves, we understand that change can be a difficult process; we use the approach outlined here to help our staff understand and recognize the dynamics of changes. If you are unsure how to navigate through a major change, give us a call. You deserve to succeed through your change!
Jodi Kerr, CPA, is a Tax Partner with over 30 years of experience providing tax and consulting services to business owners and individuals.