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Progress comes from the intelligent use of experience. Elbert Hubbard

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Adapting to unsolicited change

Adapting to unsolicited change

We are subjected to change more often than we trigger it, which can cause a significant psychological burden. What process can we adopt to handle the feeling of loss that inevitably accompanies change?

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Grieving is a concept that we imagine to be rather reserved to the private sphere. Yet, business life is full of situations in which staff members can experience a feeling of loss. It is obviously the case in specific situations: a reorganization that entails job cuts, the interruption of a project in which we were really invested, etc. But it is also true for changes that we rightly consider as positive, which however generate disturbances that we tend to underestimate.

For example, a promotion can be a source of joy and pride. Yet, it also involves the loss of relationships developed with former colleagues, and the entry into a zone of discomfort. Similarly, teleworking has enabled many employees to save on commute times. But some of them also admit to missing this time to themselves on public transport, during which they were not preoccupied with business matters nor by children’s requests. Others miss a more comfortable set-up at work, a more waterproof frontier between private and professional life, or yet the camaraderie with certain colleagues that brightens up the day.

When change must happen, reason tells us to appreciate the benefit/risk ratio and to put on a brave face. Yet, even when we experience it as really beneficial, a change is rarely exclusively positive on all fronts and the whole time. American psychologist Harry Levinson clearly formulated it in the fifties: “All change is loss, and loss must be mourned.”

If we do not take the steps to accept this loss, however minor, we risk seeing the “it was better before” feeling emerge—more or less intensely depending on tiredness and the difficulty of the situation—which in turn generates demoralization and disengagement. Yet, the business world gives little space to this grieving process, during which we regret the past before progressively getting used to the new situation. How can we restore the space necessary to this natural process, through which every human must go to accept change?


In this synopsis:
– Becoming aware of the psychological cost of change
– Five steps towards accepting unwanted change
– Being positive when faced with uncertainty

Synopsis n.295a


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