This post was originally published on July 29, 2011
There are three women in my life who are currently pregnant. For all three women and their families, these pregnancies will be a significant change. Even though each woman is going through the same change event, however, each of their reactions to the news have been very different.
Upon learning the news, one of the women, let’s call her Abigail, mentioned how everyone around her seemed to be so happy and excited, but because there was so much uncertainty surrounding finances at the time, she wasn’t able to share in the excitement. Rather, Abigail was concerned about how her and her family would manage with this new addition. Already under a great deal of pressure to bring in an income, this surprise pregnancy was at first considered a hindrance to Abigail in achieving her financial goals and stability.
For Belinda, while the pregnancy also came as a surprise, once the initial shock subsided, she was thrilled with the news. Sure, the timing wasn’t as she and her husband had planned, and the news required a lot of thought about how this change might impact her job and career, however, she is excited about this turn of events in her life, and for this new experience.
With a new husband and the first real love of her life, Candice was hoping to become pregnant, and could barely contain the news once she learned her hopes and dreams had come true. With two other children, one of whom recently graduated from high school, Candice is looking forward to having a new baby in the house.
Each of these women had a different reaction to the same change, based on their individual situations and perceptions about it. The same can be seen when changes are introduced at work. While some people might be excited and welcoming of the change, others may not be so quick to embrace it. In fact, some might downright resist the change, or find themselves completely overwhelmed by the prospect of it.
Expectation, Timing and level of Alignment with a change all influence how quickly and smoothly we adapt.
As exemplified by Abigail’s, Belinda’s and Candice’s reactions, there are some things that influence how well we receive a particular change:
Expectation. Candice, who was trying to become pregnant, was happy from the start when she got what she wanted. It took a little longer for both Abigail and Belinda to embrace the change because it came as a surprise.
Timing. Where Candice’s preference for becoming pregnant was “as soon as possible”, Belinda’s and Abigail’s, timing was less defined, and may not have even been thought about before. Because of this, the news required time to adjust their thinking and perceptions about the future. Since Candice’s perceptions were already in synch with this change, she automatically adapted to the good news. Belinda, while surprised, was able to adjust after the initial shock subsided because she also welcomed the news. Abigail, however, was both surprised and concerned by the news, and, as a result, her adjustment period took longer.
Alignment. Candice was automatically aligned with the change, and Belinda aligned shortly after hearing the news and was able to work out how this change would impact her life. For Abigail, however, there were perceived barriers that hindered her ability to completely embrace it, which had to be resolved before she could welcome and look forward to this change.
Abigail was hesitant to speak of her reaction to the news of her pregnancy because those around her expected her to embrace it and be happy. In conversations where she was showered with congratulations and excitement, Abigail withdrew and became silent because she couldn’t relate to their sentiments. She decided to carve out some time to really think about her situation and priorities, which resulted in some life-shifting changes that allowed her to embrace her pregnancy. While this took some time, it was necessary for Abigail in order to align with her change.
Many times in business, a change is introduced and people are expected to quickly get on board. Some will embrace the change right away, if it aligns with their interests. Others might need some time to adjust if the change comes as a surprise, and may need even more time if the change isn’t initially welcomed. For those who aren’t aligned, if there is fear in sharing their concerns, they may become isolated and withdraw or disengage, some possibly to the point of resigning.
Reactions to change are personal, and we adjust to changes at different rates of speed.
Recognizing that reactions to change are personal, and that we adjust to changes at different rates of speed, certain measures can be taken to facilitate positive reactions, and smooth transitions to change:
Educate: The more people know about the change before it happens, and the longer they have to prepare for it, the smoother their transition will be. Building time for communication and education into the front-end of a change process whenever possible, will help to minimize resistance once the change occurs.
Support: The more support that is integrated into a change process, the smoother the adaptation process will be. Support can be a combination of formal and informal networks. For example, support could range from leaders, mentors and peer-to-peer groups, to employee resource programs and online resources.
Communicate: Consider communication as the navigation system for the change. Besides showing the destination, the clearer and more detailed the directions for getting there, the smoother the journey. Where communicating about the change and providing regular updates as well as creating opportunities for people to talk openly about the change can facilitate acceptance, also encouraging conversations with those who are hesitant to embrace the change, will help that group to work through their concerns faster.
Abigail, Belinda and Candice all encountered a similar life-changing event, but their paths and speed to acceptance varied based upon their individual situations and perceptions about the change.
What examples do you have where reactions and speed of adaptation differed between the people involved? What happened as a result of these differences? Please share your thoughts in the reply box below.
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