A Real Life Change Curve Example

Now that we’ve looked at each phase of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve in detail, let’s apply it to a real life situation.

It’s 8:20 AM and you’re already late for work, but it’s your turn to bring the Friday bagels for your team. They’re expecting it. So you turn left instead of right, calculating in your head how much more time you’ll need to get to the office.

You pull into the parking lot of Bagels & Breads and put on your gloves and hat, because of course it has to be negative four degrees this morning. Could this day get any worse?

You shiver as you run into the bakery and quickly make your selections. After paying for your purchase, and noticing it’s now 8:46 AM, you run back out into the cold and get into your car. You set the box of bagels in the passenger seat, buckle your seatbelt, and put your key into the ignition.

Only, the car doesn’t start. The engine doesn’t even turn over.

Your first reaction is Shock and Denial. How is this happening? And today of all the days. Calmly, you lean back against the seat and take a deep breath. Maybe this is a fluke. It’s freezing cold after all. The engine just needs a second, right? You try again. Nothing.

You try again, and again, and again.


Now, reality sinks in. The car won’t start, and you’ve entered the next phase, Frustration/Anger. You piece of crap car! Why won’t you start?! You hit the steering wheel and pound on the dashboard.

You try to bargain with your car. “If you start just this once, I promise I’ll take you in for an oil change and buy a new battery ASAP. Do a full interior and exterior cleaning. Anything. Just staaaaaart.”

It doesn’t.

Of course it doesn’t. Why would it?

You let out a guttural growl and slump into your seat. It’s 9AM, and you’re officially an hour late for work. There’s a staff meeting at 9:30, and there’s no way you’re going to make it now. You glance at the bagels you just bought and think about how they’ll go to waste, because you’re never going to make it to work today. You might as well not even have gotten out of bed this morning. Depression has set in.

You realize you have two choices: 1) give up, call in sick, and spend the rest of the day vegging out on the sofa watching Netflix, or 2) call a cab to come pick you up and take you to work. You’ll deal with the car later. This is your Moment of Resignation. You can’t sit and freeze in the car all day.

Once you make up your mind, you’ve moved into the Experiment phase. You grab your phone and make the call. You don’t like this idea, but it’s all you have right now. Good thing you added towing to your car insurance policy last month. Hopefully the mechanic can have it fixed by the end of the day.

You see the cab pull into the parking lot and you gather your things. Hey, at least the cab will be warm. You take the bagels too. Your team will probably be hungry after the staff meeting and will appreciate them.

The car won’t start and you’re going to be two hours late for work. You have now reached the point of Decision.

Once you arrive at the office, you get the information you missed from the meeting and enjoy a bagel with cream cheese with your coworkers. You even laugh about your rough morning.

You’ve now accepted the change.

This is the fifth post in an 11-part series discussing what leaders can do to effectively navigate through times of change. Follow along as we explore the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, differences in DiSC personalities, and the roles of symbolism during change.

Post 1: Leaders Help Others Navigate Change
Post 2: Leaders Recognize Denial & Frustration in Others
Post 3: Leaders Recognize the Moment of Resignation in Others
Post 4: Leaders Encourage Through the Final Stages

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