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Dealing with organizational change is about getting through the emotion and commotion with minimal damage to your blood pressure, career, relationships, and confidence. In The Change Cycle, Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock help you cope by explaining the six predictable and sequential stages of change-loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration-and offer examples, tools, and success strategies so you can move resourcefully through each stage. Written in an informal and often humorous style, but...
Dealing with organizational change is about getting through the emotion and commotion with minimal damage to your blood pressure, career, relationships, and confidence. In The Change Cycle, Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock help you cope by explaining the six predictable and sequential stages of change-loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration-and offer examples, tools, and success strategies so you can move resourcefully through each stage. Written in an informal and often humorous style, but firmly based in recent discoveries in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, The Change Cycle will give us all better control over how we react and respond in a changing work environment.
About the Author:
Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock are cocreators of The Change Cycle Series, available via CCMC Inc., an international training and development company based in Washington, DC, and Durban, South Africa
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin
Stage 1: Moving from Loss to Safety
Let's say you arrive at work one day and are stunned by an announcement that your boss has abruptly quit for personal reasons. Data shoots from your brain's memory banks to (supposedly) help you deal with this news. After those initial emotional, internal comments (such as Hooray! or Oh no!), you very quickly get to the business of how exactly this is going to affect you. Welcome to Stage 1, Loss (and Loss of Control).
In Stage 1, you are dealing with the knowledge that, for better or worse, to a greater or lesser degree, life at work has changed or will change. You have lost or are going to lose something: even if it is simply the way things were. And chances are, this change will involve a loss of control for some duration—or at least it will create the fear that control will be lost. Faced with this situation (whether the change is big, with bomb-like impact, or minor), most human beings react in the same way on some level. We feel concern about what might come. We start calculating the potential impact on our particular work-life (and life beyond work). And, no matter our sophistication, part of us kicks into "survival mode." The thought of the unfamiliar is the trigger.
Obviously "change-bombs" are going to—and should—engage our survival instincts more deeply than the less dramatic stuff (the difference, say, between getting pink-slipped and learning your division is scheduled for three days of "retraining"), but people being people, word of a change always engages the part of the brain that, in the evolutionary sense, has been around the longest: the more instinctive, less analytic, part.
So know to expect some visceral reactions at the start. There will likely be more emotion than analysis in your initial response. The picture you form of what's to come may not be what's to come. Be patient with yourself. Don't ask too much of yourself. You're at an intersection. Take a breath. Look around. Just as traffic lights go from red to green, you'll get through the change. People do.
Hello Change, Goodbye Control
If you're reading this chapter as an employee, what we present in these pages can help you deal with the newness and the impact of your change by suggesting what to expect in your reactions and by giving you tools to self-assess, self-monitor, self-challenge, and self-teach. Management can do things to properly announce and implement a change; with self-awareness, you can increase the amount of responsibility you take for managing the change at the levels of your duties and work spirit.
If you're reading this as a manager or leader, the overarching point is that during the introduction of a change your employees will find themselves in an emotional place (as you might yourself). And this may or may not be outwardly apparent (often it is apparent: on faces, not to mention the groan from the back of the room). At any rate, it's unlikely the change will be received with the logic of Star Trek's Mr. Spock. We're only human. And you as a manager/leader are at a critical moment, perhaps the critical moment, because what is done during the announcement of a change conditions employee attitudes and immediately gets them assessing (often with feeling) what it means for them professionally and personally. If management hypes the change as "Great!" and "Good for everyone!" while stated concerns and questions get ignored or shrugged off, employees can go negative fast and slide toward inertia. It is much better to be open and realistic about the change, acknowledging ramifications good and bad, listening to objections, and validating concerns (and there will be concerns).
How We Feel in Stage 1: Fearful
Warning—the F-word cometh. No, not that one. Fear. There is some of it in Stage 1. There is more of it in some people than others, obviously. And certain changes create more fear than others. But it is unrealistic—it is inaccurate—to believe that workplace change, at the outset, arrives in a fear-free package. Novelty and the perceived loss of control engage the survival part of the brain, the one where fear (and friend's angst and concern) resides. Its purpose is to get our attention—to tell us a situation is fluid. Things could change for the bad; they could change for the good. But right now, we don't know which. Right now, we're out of our comfort zone. How do we get back there? This chapter has tips to get you started.
According to the great mid-twentieth-century psychologist Abraham Maslow, people's greatest need after those that assure basic survival (water, food, and shelter, not to mention chocolate and ESPN) is safety—not only physical but emotional. When our sense of safety and control is threatened, we go into the "fight or flight" mode. We enter this mode quickly, unconsciously. The twenty-first-century workplace is a long way from the plains and caves of our ancient ancestors, but we share with these forebears some of the same basic needs and some of the same basic responses. It's built-in wiring.
What does this "early-brain" thinking mean for the workplace? It means, not to put too fine a point on it, that companies and organizations need to anticipate the full range of responses that follow a change announcement, including people feeling removed from all things safe.
For employees, the first challenge is to use awareness to address what you are feeling. From here you can start the process of distinguishing between fears pointing to things that truly require your attention and those fears that are unfounded, distracting, fanciful.
As you consider the change, ask yourself, What's the worst that could happen? Then ask, Could I live with that? In many cases of organizational change, people find they can answer yes to the second question. That puts a box around a Stage 1 fear. Go on to remind yourself that worst-case scenarios usually remain at the level of "scenario."
How We Think in Stage 1: Cautiously
When you experience a change, your brain sends caution signals. This can be positive. Caution helps you assess before you act—it supports you in watching for decision-making traps and decoys. Cautious thoughts are questioning thoughts, and this is a time when information and answers are needed.
When caution hangs around too long, however, it hardens into suspicion (or worse, paranoia). Everyone knows someone in an office or organization with a persecution complex. According to this person, people are always out to get him or her, even the maintenance guy who seemed to take "unusually long" in coming by with his ladder and light bulbs to change the overhead light.
Needless to say, this individual is a manager's delight during a time of change. (Not.)
So understand that in Stage 1 your thoughts will be cautious—no two ways about it—but keep your self-assessment unit running, because caution can shade into something overly fearful and suspicious during the uncertainty of company change. After a certain point, extended caution just means you are in a rut, unable to navigate the change.
How We Act in Stage 1: Paralyzed
There's not a lot of action in Stage 1. In fact, our behavior can become more or less frozen, with all attention going to the change and with apprehension perhaps holding us in place.
A better kind of stillness would be a "pause"—a pause to assess, a reflective balance in that initial phase after a workplace change is announced. But to expect that you will react with considered poise or alternatively to "hit the ground running" right after a change is introduced is usually not realistic.
Better to be temporarily stalled, though, than to strike out rashly or to head for the hills.
To Know More, Notice More
The following behaviors and attitudes indicate someone struggling with Stage 1:
* Withdraws—avoids talking about thoughts and feelings
* Concentrates on old routines, dodging the change
* Speculates about results that have been his or her experience in the past
* Perceives a large or total loss of control over the situation
* Focuses on self, with little or no focus on the organization
* Acts powerless in the face of the change
* Fights the change, freezes, or puts up defenses
One Company, Different Perspectives
Often the difference between what is "said" when a company initiates change versus what is "heard" leaves executives, managers, and workers at an impasse. Consider the varying perspectives. Executives consider issues as they relate to the stakeholders—the customer, employees, management, vendors, stockholders, the market. Managers are responsible for taking tasks to completion and managing productivity and quality regardless of extenuating circumstances. Employees are at the far end of the information chain. They get the bottom-line information, but they are often left without specifics concerning the change, including the why, what, how, and when. This puts them into "The Change Cycle." Presented with the change, it often doesn't take much for employees to feel a loss of control.
Performance expectations are high and morale is low. The "old system"—a cause of much employee frustration in recent history—looks great compared to changing to something new and unproven. The tug of war between the old way and the new way has begun. The implementation plan moves forward nonetheless. Deadlines must be met.
In Stage 1, these concerns must be addressed—by both management and employees. Employees must take responsibility and realize they are employed in an evolving workplace that will continually upgrade systems, policies, and procedures. Management must be committed to providing workers with the best and most timely training and skills-enhancement possible to keep staff successful in the workplace. Stage 1 sometimes makes the change seem as if management is pitted against those they manage. It's hard to believe that a new system will be your light at the end of the tunnel when you are sitting in the dark.
Case in Point: Creativo Plus Inc.
No one is exempt from Stage 1, not employees, managers, or the CEO. Yet the intensity and time spent there can vary greatly depending on the individual. What may seem an insignificant change to one person could have a profound effect on another. Example: Creativo Plus Inc. is adding a second shift to its production schedule. Management has announced that all employees will rotate through the new shift one week per month for six to twelve months as production needs are determined and new hiring can take place.
When the addition of the second shift was announced, employee reaction was by and large positive. The need for the company to add production time was a victory of sorts for everyone. It meant demand for its products was increasing, and the value of the company and the employees' part in it was growing. Yet that growth came with a price that became an intrusion and, in some cases, a real problem in certain people's personal lives. As a peacekeeping strategy, the company added an hourly bonus for these second-shift hours. Unfortunately, that has not fully addressed the situation for some employees.
Sam has been a loyal employee for over nine years. He is well liked and easy to work with. But now the attitude of this once consistently good performer has shifted. His productivity has dropped, his demeanor soured. His manager is at a loss as to what is going on. Sam has been quiet and brooding since the second-shift announcement, and when asked what is wrong, he replies, "Nothing." Sam's story is typical of the ripples caused by changes at work that can affect an employee's personal life as well:
On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I coach youth sports at my church. One night it's my daughter's team and the other for my son. As a divorced dad, this is an important and special time with my kids. We had a long and hard custody and visitation battle. Finally it all seems to be working for us, and now I'm really concerned that the addition of the second shift will cause big problems for me with my ex-wife.
To the surprise of her manager, Jan, too, is upset with the second-shift schedule. Jan has always been willing to work a couple of hours overtime, claiming the extra money came in handy. Her boss thought she would be happy with the added financial incentives and was caught off guard when Jan pleaded to be excluded from the rotation. This single mother of three school-age children tells her story:
Having an opportunity to make extra money working overtime is always appealing, but I can only do it when I can get my mom to watch my kids after school. Working the second shift is actually going to cost me money after I pay a babysitter—if I can find someone reliable one week per month who will work nights. They're really good kids, but evenings at home are chaotic with homework and school projects. I'm worried sick about going for a whole school week with very little or no time with my children. They need me.
Neither Sam nor Jan is behaving like a victim of the new schedule—they aren't the types to play the victim, no matter the difficulty—but they're stuck in Stage 1, feelings apprehensive, thoughts cautious, behavior, if not paralyzed, at least limited.
Their colleague Andrew is up against more—much more. Two weeks after the shift-change announcement, he learned he was being terminated. With production quotas rising, his work performance, the least impressive in his unit, came into even sharper relief. The news wasn't a total surprise, as he'd been on a kind of "probation," but still, to let him go at a time of new hiring came as a shock. With child support, a mortgage, and a load of credit-card debt, Andrew has been driving a cab along with his Creativo job to make ends meet. But the moonlighting left him exhausted during his day job—something had to give.
I should have stopped driving the cab. I didn't love my job at Creativo, but at least it had health insurance. And a steady paycheck. The first two nights after getting the termination news, the only thing I was good for was sitting in my house, watching TV or staring into space. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't bring myself to drive the cab. I'm telling What's the Worst That Could Happen? 37 myself that now I have my reason to do the thing I've been wanting to do for a long time, and that's move to Alaska. I have a couple friends up there. But right now it's hard to think about the future. It's weird: even when you've been warned something like this might happen, it's another thing to actually get the news. I need to come up with a new plan.
The Only Way Out Is Through
The magnitude of Andrew's change is obviously far more severe than what Sam and Jan are dealing with. From a financial angle especially, his grounds for fear are substantial. He is facing a great deal of unknown. There is loss, and then there is Loss. That said, the three workers share one thing: they are all in the early stages of The Change Cycle and will need to take similar internal steps to move forward. Sam's and Jan's fears are family fears—a threat to the delicate weaves of parenting and domestic life. They wouldn't want to change places with Andrew, but their fears are also real and need addressing.
How you and those you work with talk about the change, including the way you "talk" to yourself (that internal conversation always running in our heads), is not just "words, words, words," to borrow a line from Shakespeare. What you "say"—aloud or internally—impacts how you interpret the change situation and also gives clues to the way you are dealing with it, in both conscious and nonconscious ways.
Excerpted from The Change Cycle by Ann Salerno Lillie Brock Copyright © 2008 by Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Introduction: Change@Work 1
Chapter 1 What's the Worst That Could Happen? 27
Stage 1 Moving from Loss to Safety
Chapter 2 Facts Over Fiction 53
Stage 2 Shifting from Doubt to Reality
Chapter 3 Taking Charge of Now 77
Stage 3 Going from Discomfort to Motivation
Chapter 4 Decide, Then Take Your Best Step 101
Stage 4 Trekking from Discovery to Perspective
Chapter 5 Making Sense of What Was and What Is 127
Stage 5 Understanding the Benefits
Chapter 6 Change Moves Me 151
Stage 6 Experiencing Integration
Conclusion: Change Beliefs 171
About the Authors 197
Posted February 16, 2009
Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock bring good cheer and great advice to a potentially depressing topic. Millions of people face altered lives and circumstances they never imagined possible. They have to change their lives in unexpected ways without preparation. The authors present their six-step ¿Change Cycle¿ as a simple, practical way to understand how your emotions work during such shifts and what you need to do to get your life back on track after massive change. Each stage of the process helps you determine what you have to do to master change, and to get to the next stage of adaptation as quickly and constructively as possible. By cheerfully emphasizing the present, and by showing you how to take small, effective steps into the future, Salerno and Brock help you realize that success is possible. They use real life stories to illustrate the ideas and principles they want you to try. getAbstract thinks this easy-to-read, breezy manual will help those who are dealing with job loss, involuntary job change, mandatory relocation or other traumatic shifts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2008
This book is comprehensive and well written. The authors really understand the issues and communicated it very well. I would recommend this book to anyone going through a change at work or in their personal life. Bravo to the authors.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.