On Reactions to Change (and the Election)

I often work with organizations on leading and managing change — sometimes major change in very large companies affecting hundreds or thousands of employees.  In response to change, people tend to follow fairly predictable stages, depending on whether it is change they want or change they don’t want, and whether the change is gradual or sudden.

The protests, demonstrations, and occasional violence of those who do not like the election result are an order of magnitude greater than I would expect, except that the election results signal a change from a deeply ingrained mindset, reinforced by the media, and by the tendency of us humans to seek information that confirms our thoughts and biases.  [Here, I make no judgment on that mindset; only the observation that the election result was not what was expected by nearly anyone, and that it was an especially unpleasant shock to those who supported the status quo.]

This is true in organizations as well.  Downsizings and mergers, for example, can be a devastating shock for individuals and groups.  How they deal with it matters both to the organization and to themselves.  Those who are in denial and angry may well act out, or seethe internally.  Those who are resilient will resolve to make things better.

William Bridges has written about the need to avoid obsessing about the things that are changing, but rather to focus on the path forward through the change.  He suggests coming to grips with the inner connections one has to the way things were before the change, and asking the question, “What is it time for me to let go of?”  He points out that the loss one may feel can be in many ways a timely one.  The answer will often provide guidance about the path forward.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

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