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3 types of reaction to change

How do people transition through change? Here, we'll introduce a transition curve and start to consider where people might sit along with it.
© Durham University

People show their emotions change in different ways. In this article, we’re going to think about the types of responses you may experience/observe and the possible reasons for them.

Typically, organisational change brings uncertainty and is not a single event with neat and tidy beginnings and endings. Instead, it often comes from two or more directions at the same time, which may add to the uncertainty experienced by some individuals.

Organisational change brings uncertainty

There can be a lack of information about what is being proposed, such as what will change, when and how it will change and what the impact will be on jobs. Uncertainty can also relate to whether or not employees perceive that the organisation is capable of implementing the change successfully.

Clearly, reducing uncertainty can result in more positive employee perceptions and behaviours and improve employee reactions and change-related outcomes.

Change can also bring anxiety. Perhaps past experiences, fears or worries might surface which an individual relates to previous change processes. It may also bring cynicism if there is a lack of confidence in management and/or a history of changes that have not been successful.

Three types of reaction to change

People may go through three phases as they transition through change as this diagram illustrates.

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  1. Reconciliation – the letting go of current ways of working and behaving, which can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
  2. Reorientation – exploring new ways of working and behaving aligned to what is changing.
  3. Recommitment – a time of acceptance and commitment to what is changing.

Clearly, it’s important to try and understand, the stakeholders you identify at the start of the change process, what their reactions to the change may be.

If you’d like to learn more about managing people-centred change, check out the full online course from Durham University, below.

© Durham University
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Leading and Managing People-Centred Change

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