During times of change, there are inherently some endings taking place. When endings happen, people can get angry, sad, frightened, depressed and confused. William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Changes (1991), suggests that in the workplace, these emotional states can be mistaken for bad morale, but they aren’t. Rather, they are signs of grieving, the natural sequence of emotions people go through when they lose something that matters to them (a job, a colleague, an office, a certain way of doing things, etc.). You find these emotions among families who have lost a member, and you find them in an organization where an ending has taken place. These emotions may not be evident at first, since people might deny the loss that has taken place. Denial is the natural first step of the grieving process, a way in which people who are hurting protect themselves from the impact of the loss.
Bridges advises, as a manager and leader, the question to ask yourself is: what can I give back to balance what’s been taken away? Is it status, belonging, team membership, or recognition? If people feel that the change has impacted their sense of control over something, perhaps even their futures, is there some way as a manager that you can help give them back a feeling of control? If the feeling of competence has been taken away when their job has disappeared, can you give them new feelings of competence in other roles or functions? Get creative here. Imagine how that person might be feeling and respond empathetically.
Acknowledge the grief that is produced by change and you are able to help others deal with these difficult times with more ease and optimism, helping your staff to successfully move forward.