Organisational Change Management Volume 2

1. Grief Cycle

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. Be aware of the Grief Cycle (expect and accept the signs of grieving) ie internal situation

i) denial or disbelief - (people deny that the loss has taken place, ie rude collision with harsh reality; "it will be over real soon"; apathy; numbness/fear)

ii) anger - especially if there is no warning, a lack of consultation or information (everything from grumbling to rage; often misdirected or undirected, such as "shoot the messenger of bad news"; this can lead to foot dragging, mistakes and even sabotage)

iii) bargaining - (unrealistic attempts to get out of the situation or to make it go away; questioning the reality and challenging the specific details so that it supports our view of the world; trying to strike a special deal; making big promises that they will "save you a bundle of money" or "double the output" if you'll undo the change)

iv) anxiety - (silent or expressed fear of an unknown and probably difficult future, or simply catastrophic fantasies)

v) sadness - (everything from silence to tears ‐ the heart of the grieving process)

vi) disorientation - (confusion and forgetfulness even by previously organised people; feeling of being lost and insecure)

vii) depression - (feeling of being down, flat, dead; in the pit of despair; feelings of hopelessness and being tired all the time)

viii) acceptance - (changes are accepted and people move forward to new possibilities; learning starts and action becomes possible)

. Not everyone feels all these emotions intensely or follows the above sequence but

"...(s)he that lacks time to mourn, lacks the time to mend..."

William Shakespeare as quoted by William Bridges, 1991

Graph of Grief Cycle

organisational development change management

(source: Heller 1998)

Some typical reactions during different parts of the grief cycle:


"...They cannot be serious..."

"...These will not/cannot last..."

"...This can't be happening..."


"...I refuse too..."

"...After all I've done for this organization/community..."

"...I'm going to the union..."

"...OK If you want it that way, I'll do it exactly to the letter. Then we will see who was right..."

"...How dare you..."


"...If I do.....can I be excused from..."

"...How about we..."

"...What if we..."

"...Do a deal..."


"...It's not worth the effort anymore..."

"...My world's collapsed..."

"...Things will never be the same..."


"...Things have changed..."

"...Let's make the most of it..."

"...Well if it is to be so..."

"...So be it..."


"...How can I get involved...?"

"...What can I do...?"


Some of the areas where loss may occur include

- status, turf, team membership or recognition

- loss of control over the future

- a feeling of competency being eroded

This principle of compensating for losses is vital for effective change management

. Managers need to find how to pull back from an automatic response, to listen differently and to hear not just the words someone is saying, but the message that the person is trying to tell you beneath the words.

. It is important to acknowledge and make allowances for these feelings as it will allow people to vent their feelings and provide an opportunity for honest discussions

In addition to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross grief cycle (shock, anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, etc), there are some alternative frameworks. Example are 
, where
S = shock
A = anger
R = resistance
A = acceptance
H = healing/hope

John Bowlby (1961) talks of 4 phases, ie shock and numbness (1), yearning and searching (2), despair and disorganisation (3), and reorganisation and recovery (4) around grief and bereavement. When loss occurs, grief is a normal adaptive response


(sources: William Bridges, 1991; Robert Heller, 1988; Dennis Hall, 2006a; Kathleen Liebfied, 1996)


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