In 1996, $655 billion was
spent on mergers and acquisitions. The year 1998 brought $1.6 trillion in mergers
and the trend continues upward. This is far beyond what experts had predicted
earlier. As mergers in the United States keep increasing every year, more and
more people are affected by significant levels of change. Add to the merger
boom, increasing competition, organizational reorganizations, and changes in
governmental programs, and you will find a rare person NOT affected by change.
How do most people react
to change? I think Alexander Graham Bell's quote applies "When one door closes,
another opens: but we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us." Most people instinctively
resist change. The Resistance Cycle depicts what I typically see happening in
In Phase 1: Ignore the
Pain - people do just that - they ignore the fact that a change is even
occurring. Their focus in on what others are doing to them. They make
comments such as "why are they doing this to me?" or "it will never happen".
They tend to avoid any information that pertains to the change(s).
When people begin Feeling
the Pain, they recognize that this change is going to be worse than they
initially thought. They experience a sense of loss over what used to be and
they mourn the "good old days" of yesterday. People ask, "have we been doing
it wrong all these years?" They feel like they have no choice or control over
decisions which affect them directly.
This is the most difficult
phase to be in because of the painful reactions. I typically find five types
of reactions in this phase:
1. Keep to Yourself and
Lick Your Wounds - You stay to yourself and deal with the pain alone. You
don't allow others to know about the pain you feel. Your internalized stress
skyrockets and it begins to affect your attitude and productivity negatively.
2. Whine and Manipulate
- You are angry about the changes and whine behind the boss's back to other
people. You try to manipulate the system for your own agenda regardless of the
impact on others. Morale in the organization becomes affected negatively.
3. Hiss and Pick Fights
- You become aggressive and say things in anger. You no longer care about others'
feelings and your main goal is to make other people feel as miserable as you
4. Mark Your Territory
- You decide you can't influence the entire team so you'll just stick to
your territory. You cover and protect any mistakes or problems in your department
or area or responsibility.
5. Withhold Warmth
-You don't share information with the rest of the team that could be beneficial.
Since your boss appears to not recognize your contributions to the team, you
are not going to share information with them. Information is power.
Following are some actual
examples of reactions of people in the first two phases of resistance based
on past program participants. The most common reaction is to withhold information;
people may leave the organization; lots of whining and manipulation (one organization
I know gives out "No BMW's" t-shirts - BMW stands for "bitching, moaning, whining").
Some employees concentrate on their product in order to avoid the
process of change. Other employees pick fights with their peers over territory
issues. Many employees are fearful because they don't get much information from
their leaders and the leaders firmly act as if they have the new "right way"
to proceed and therefore need no input from their staff.
In the next issue, we'll
delve into the Healing the Pain and New Growth phases and provide
some specific strategies that will help you begin to understand and accept change.