The Four Stages of the Change Curve
For most people in denial change is not easy to accept, and they react to change with a shock. In the first place most people do not believe that the change is happening for real and try to ignore thinking and talking about it. This denial is mostly on an internal level and to avoid showing off the denial people focus their attention on anything but the change. Since change is interpreted as uncertainty, people shift their attention to the past and familiar feelings that make them feel secure. This shift causes a dip in the morale of the team members. At this stage it is for the leader to help the people to understand what is happening and how it affects them. Keeping them informed and familiarizing them with what is happening helps in building up a sense of security.
Resistance to change begins as people realize that the change is actually taking place and there is no way to avoid it. During this stage of the change curve feelings like anger, self-doubt, fear and anxiety can build up, which can significantly stagger the progress of the change process, besides causing the morale and productivity to take a nosedive. This emotional mayhem is because people are being pushed out of their comfort zone. Arguments, blame game, and non-cooperation are some ways in which the team members may show their resistance to the change. The leader’s role, here, should be to lend an ear to the team member’s concerns, demystify the myths and fads surrounding the change, empathize with them and to encourage them to pass through this stage.
The next stage of the change curve is the exploration phase where the team members leave out their arguments and instead become a part of it. This is where people start acting and learning new ways so as to constructively contribute towards the change. A fresh wave of thinking sets in where people understand the rationality of the change process and the importance of their role in the change process. What’s worth noting here is that even though people may have started contributing towards the change they may still not have completely accepted the change at this stage. It’s mostly an explorative stage where people are experimenting with the change to find out what is in store for them, in the overall change process. This stage can stretch on if the leader doesn’t intervene and help the team members to participate actively and provide them with the knowledge and training that will make them feel comfortable and secure in their new roles.
Commitment is the final stage of the change curve, when productivity and emotional normalcy would have been completely restored. The team members feel more in control as they settle down into their new roles. Work activities return to normal as team members begin to co-operate whole heartedly. It’s important for the leader to acknowledge and reward the team members for their active contributing, so as to keep them motivated and committed.