The first reaction on the Kubler-Ross Change Curve is Denial.
This piece is characterized by disbelief and evidence the change isn’t true. Comments from people in this phase can include:
- “There must be a mistake.”
- “That’s not possible.”
- “Are you sure you understood correctly, because that doesn’t seem right.”
- “No way. This can’t be happening.”
Oftentimes, the natural response to people in this phase is tell them that yes, it’s happening and they need to suck it up. It can even go as far as “Get on board or get out.”
But what people need during this phase is to Create Alignment.
They need to understand why the decision was made and the idea(s) behind it. They don’t need to know every detail, but enough so they can begin to process their thoughts with the new changes.
Frustration often follows Denial. Frustration is typically a person’s justification for their denial. It’s when they recognize the change is happening and things will be different. Anger is a common reaction during this phase. Comments from people in this phase may include:
- “I knew this wouldn’t work.”
- “I don’t understand.”
- “This is ridiculous!”
- “How can I work when no one is explaining anything?”
- “No one knows what they’re doing.”
- “This is a mess. I knew this would happen.”
It’s human nature to self-justify.
It’s also human nature to react to self-justification with more self-justification. But people in this stage need more information, not less. Ignoring them will only create more frustration.
Instead, Maximize Communication with people in the frustration phase. Pull them in, be patient, and answer their questions. Ignore their tone and empathize with their frustrations. This will make them feel heard and like their part in the change is important.
This is the second 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.