Deal With It! Change Can Be Tough – Part I

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. When someone decides to make a change on their terms, the possibilities are endless!” ~ Jamie Ramsden

In order to facilitate or drive change in any way requires saying goodbye to the old. There is a sense of grief associated with the events and mind-shifts that lead us through change. We cannot embrace the new without clearly acknowledging that the old is gone. Otherwise, we try to hang onto portions of the current systems that support our competence, connection, choices, and the control we value.

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.” ~ Managing Transitions by William Bridges

Tanya Boyd, in her Insights® article How resilient are you? describes the 4c’s losses impacting people during transitions. The more aware we are of these factors in ourselves and others, the more we can guide our words and actions to improve the situation.

1. Loss of Competence (for ourself and others) – For some people, change is stressful because of the possible loss of competence. Will my skills be enough to help me succeed under the new conditions? Will this new manager hold the same standards as I do? Is our company losing its focus on quality or customer service? Will I be given too many responsibilities, so I won’t be able to do as good a job as I used to? The lack of information that commonly surrounds a change can feed this concern about competence (at least at first), as many questions are not able to be answered right away, and that contributes to the stress for some people.

2. Loss of Connection – For some people change is stressful because of the loss of connection. Relationships are disrupted, and it will take time to build up the trust I had in those established connections. Will my need for time be respected to build new connections and trust? Will I be pushed to perform right away before I have solid relationships formed? How will people be treated in this change? If people are being let go, is that being done respectfully? Will the new direction be in alignment with my values so that I can continue to feel connected to the mission of this organization/team?

3. Loss of Choice – For some people change is stressful because of a concern over possible restriction of their behaviors. Will I be involved in the change; will I have a say? Will this new direction still allow for the possibilities that we had in the past, or is it closing some doors? Where is my place in this new scenario; is my expertise and perspective valued? Will this change be over-engineered so that it takes months or years?

4. Loss of Control – For some people change is stressful because they aren’t in control. They like to be in control of their roles, their projects, and their direction and change messes this up. Even if, on the other side of the change, they’ll regain control, if they can’t keep that control through the change, it becomes stressful. Why aren’t we there already? If that’s the direction we are going, let’s go, darn it! Is the person leading this change competent? Will they get it right? Will the organization be able to maintain focus and output through the change or will we lose ground?

Change can mean growth and adventure, or loss and fear. Both are valid, depending on the situation and people involved.

The more we approach change with an awareness of the upsides and downsides for ourselves, the more effectively we can listen, be patient, and help others.


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