Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. You can view his bestselling books by going to the Bacal book listings here. In this article Robert outlines some of the basic elements and principles needed by managers, executives, and supervisors, in understanding how people react to change, and managing the workplace change process.
Managers often make the mistake of assuming that once a change is started, that employees will see that it is going to take place, and get on side. This is rarely the case. Because change causes fear, a sense of loss of the familiar, etc., it takes some time for employees to a) understand the meaning of the change and b) commit to the change in a meaningful way. It is important to understand that people tend to go through stages in their attempts to cope with change. Understanding that there are normal progressions helps change leaders avoid under-managing change or over-reacting to resistance.
As we go through the stages, you will probably find many similarities with the process a person goes through with the loss of a loved one.
Stage I: Denial
An early strategy that people use to cope with change is to deny that it is happening, or to deny that it will continue or last. Common responses during this stage are:
"I've heard these things before. Remember last year they announced the new customer initiative? Nothing ever happened, and this will pass."
"It's just another hair-brained idea from the top."
"I bet this will be like everything else. The head honcho will be real gung-ho but in about six months everything will be back to normal. You'll see."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
People in the denial stage are trying to avoid dealing with the fear and uncertainty of prospective change. They are hoping they won't have to adapt.
The denial stage is difficult because it is hard to involve people in planning for the...