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spike bullet  July 2015 – Coping with Sudden Changes

What is the world coming to?    
5 stages of coping with change
Keep Calm and Carry On
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bulletJuly 2015 – Coping with Sudden Changes

In the past 2 weeks, we’ve seen horrific violence in Charleston, South Carolina, seen forgiveness and outpouring of support forKeep Calm and Carry On the families, seen two historic US Supreme Court decisions, and heard our president sing live on TV.

We’ve seen Facebook and the Internet turn into a sea of rainbows and spontaneous parades filled with rainbows.  

We’ve seen flags go up and flags go down.

We’ve seen shock, dismay and anger at the Supreme Court decisions, and virulent outpouring of messages declaring that our country has been destroyed.

We’ve also seen some mature and emotional discussions about how to deal with very beloved historic symbols that have been used to justify hatred and violence.

What is the world coming to?

It is true that many things have shifted in ways that may have been unexpected or may not have been expected this soon.    

How do we deal with those changes for ourselves and in our workplace?  

How do we set a good example for others to follow if we are not sure what we believe or what we feel ourselves about the changes?

As good managers, executives and leaders, our job is to set an example.  To do that, we have to recognize that people deal with change in different ways:

  • Some people embrace anything new, are comfortable with changes and adapt quickly.
  • Others hold back a while until the dust settles and they have a chance to figure out what the change means to them.
  • Others hang on to the status quo until their dying breath or until they are grudgingly forced to go along with something new.

As leaders, we need to have compassion for where each person is in their ability to deal with change and help them adjust in a way that allows them to deal with it in their own way.  We need to recognize where we are ourselves in the change process.

As with any sudden or major corporate change, societal changes can cause havoc in the workplace.  People don’t know what is expected of them or how to deal with new events.  They seek guidance in many ways – from leaders, from co-workers, from family and from friends.  They often seek to express their thoughts and feelings.

With the Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality last week, many business and government workplaces will be re-evaluating how those decisions affect how they do business.  Rules may have to change.  Policies and Procedures may have to change.  Computer systems may have to change.  Attitudes may have to change.

Those things don’t happen overnight.  Thoughtful discussions between affected parties will facilitate the process of change and help people adapt to the new realities.

Some people will be unable to concentrate on their work due to their anxiety about the changes.  As leaders, our challenge is to provide ways for staff to feel comfortable that they will be heard and their needs can be accommodated.

Some people will want to cheer at the changes and use their feelings of superiority or as "winners" to berate others.  As leaders, we need to recognize and stop that type of behavior.  Beating others over the head with biased views does not help anyone.

There may be more gossip and water-cooler activity as people try to make sense of the changes and how the changes will affect their job or their life.  Sensitive managers may want to provide an open forum for people in small groups to discuss their concerns just as they would with any corporate change.

Staff need to be reminded that the world has not come to an end because of a major change or even a couple major changes.  Life will go on, albeit with changes.  The business will go on, albeit with changes.

The 5 Steps of Coping with Change

Leaders can help by recognizing that many people will go through the well-known 5 stages of grief developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

The 5 steps have been adapted to fit major changes rather than death:

1. Denial — One of the first reactions is denial, wherein the person imagines a false, preferable reality or simply refuses to recognize that a change has happened.

2. Anger — When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated, especially at people nearby.  Some psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: "Why me?  It’s not fair!" "How can this happen to me?" "Who is to blame?" "Why would God let this happen?"

3. Bargaining — The third stage involves the hope that the person can avoid the change.  People may bargain to keep things the same so they don’t have to deal with changes, or they may try to compromise on how the change will be implemented or their role in a major change.

4. Depression — "I’m so sad, why bother with anything?" "It’s never going to work, so why try?"  "I miss the way it used to be, so why go on?"  During the fourth stage, the individual becomes saddened by the certainty of the loss of the old reality.  In this stage, the individual may become silent, refuse to connect with others and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.

5. Acceptance — "It’s going to be okay." "I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it."  In this last stage, individuals embrace a new inevitable future, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual and a stable condition of emotions.

In the case of corporate or major societal changes, the stages of grief relate to the death of the "old way" and adjustment to the "new way" rather than a physical illness.

Look around your workplace.  Can you recognize where people are in their reactions to recent changes?  Do you know where you are? 

Keep Calm and Carry On

The English motto Keep Calm and Carry On may help some people.  By recognizing that a great many things in life have NOT changed, we can help people see that there is security in knowing they still have a job, still work in the same place, still have the same co-workers and that many other things around them have not changed.  

As leaders, recognizing that people go through a variety of emotions as they cope with sudden changes, we can better help ourselves and our staff to recognize that this new change is not the end of the world.  It is one more step in our evolution as a country, as a business and as a human race.  We have survived a lot of things.  We will survive this also.  

  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Who Moved My Cheese?  An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.  Spencer Johnson.  Putnam, 2002.  ISBN-10: 0399144463  ISBN-13: 978-0399144462.  
  • Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change.  William Bridges.  Da Capo Lifelong Books (3rd edition), 2009.  ISBN: 978-0738213804
  • Excuses Begone! How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits. Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Hay House, 2011.  ISBN: 978-1401922948
  • Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Hay House, 2009. ISBN: 978-1401917500
  • Awaken the Inner Shaman: A Guide to the Power Path of the Heart.  José Stevens, Ph.D.  Sounds True, 2014.  ISBN 978-1622030934
  • Transforming Your Dragons: Turning Personality Fear Patterns into Personal Power. Jose Stevens. Bear & Co; (July 1994) ISBN: 1879181177
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor., 2008  ISBN-13: 978-0-557-00377-8.  Website:  Tap into your own creativity and use  your full potential.  Learn how to see opportunities that others miss.   

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
    May 1997 - Coping with Change
    August 2011 - Changes, Changes and More Changes
    September 2014 - Change is in the Air
    March 2009 - The Seven Steps to Change
    March 2011 - Dealing with Change: Life's Natural Transition Points
    October 1998 - Leading Change
    September 2012 - Dealing With Changes in the World"

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

  • Dilbert by Scott Adams
  • Keep Calm and Carry On - one of the slogans used by the British during World War II to help people stay calm.  


About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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Page updated: October 16, 2023      

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