Experiencing redundancy can be energising for some, especially if it’s viewed as an opportunity to try out new opportunities.

For others it can be traumatic.  Sensing a loss of identity, status, routine, social support structure can send people spiraling into an emotional roller coaster, not dissimilar to one experienced during the bereavement of a loved one.

Introducing the Change Curve

The Change Curve model was developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the emotional journey involved in grieving. It has been used extensively since then as a way of helping people understand their reactions to significant change.

While opinions vary as to the precise components of the curve, there has been general consensus about the emotional stages involved in navigating it.

Stage 1 – shock & denial

Shock hits, shortly followed by denial in which people convince themselves that the status quo will remain, or that their lives won’t change. Performance can be erratic, plummeting on initial shock and then recovering temporarily while in denial.

Regular, specific and consistent communication are vital during this stage to set expectations about what is happening, why and the implications of the change to the individual.  A clear direction should be set by senior leaders.  Where possible employees should be fully consulted and have the chance to contribute their views. Providing suitable outplacement support can help smooth this stage by helping people to come to terms with the situation.

Stage 2 – frustration, anger, blame, depression

Fears and anxieties turn to frustration and anger.  A scapegoat may be found (in the form of the organisation, leaders, peers) to focus these negative emotions and extend denial.

When anger wears off depression may set in with the realisation that the change is real.  Performance is typically at its lowest point. Individuals may feel isolated, in a state of chaos and helpless.

Empathy is important here along with an opportunity for people to air their fears and build resilience.   Once these have been addressed coaching can also help people at this stage begin to explore their strengths, skills, career options and aspirations.

Stage 3 – acceptance, experimentation, decision-making

More positive emotions emerge with acceptance that the change is inevitable.  Discussion and experimentation with career options can help lead people to decisions about how to move forward as well as relief that the lowest dip of the change curve has been survived.

Equipping staff with practical job hunting tools and tips on maintaining momentum can help to reinforce positive movement in this stage.

Stage 4 – integration & sustainment

With a new future-focus energy levels continue to climb. Hope, optimism and performance improve.

Celebration of small successes (eg invitations to interviews) are essential to ensure this stage is secured.

Although the change curve looks like a smooth journey through negative to positive emotions, in reality everyone’s journey differs both in terms of speed and direction.  Even in the late stages, it’s not uncommon for people to experience negative emotions (eg if knocked back after an interview), and to slide back down the curve.  However, with appropriate support the overall direction of travel should be from stages 1 through to 4, enabling minimal disruption to both individual and organisational wellbeing through redundancy.

Get in touch to find out how I can help your staff navigate through the change curve.