Managing Through Change and Disruption

by Bill Swift on May 18, 2020

in Leadership

Protective gloves, sanitizer and face mask on red background

An Old Model Finds New Relevance in a Post-Pandemic World

As consultants to workplaces across the Northwest, Cascade Employers Association has been helping workplaces adjust to change for decades. Recessions, restructurings, renovations, relocations all put a burden on employee connection and productivity. Now we are experiencing what may be the biggest disruption of our lifetime that is both testing and revealing the resilience of our teams.

A model that had proven very effective in helping teams embrace transition is the Bridges’ transition model that gives us some insight into how our people may be experiencing workplace disruption and change and what leaders can do to flatten the disruption curve.

We often push our employees to embrace the new realities and new identities that come with change. This push may neglect other important transition dynamics. The Bridges’ model encourages us to not only define New Beginnings for our teams, but also to acknowledge and process the things we are losing (the Endings) and, most important, support our employees as they navigate through the Neutral Zone.

Transition Model Illustration

During the last couple of months that have brought enormous disruption to our workplaces, our members have been sharing stories of how they are helping their employees cope and thrive in an ever-changing work world.

The process looks something like this:

  • Endings: Identify and discuss what is really ending? Decide and clarify what we have lost? Develop suggestions for a ritual or process for grieving these losses.
  • Neutral Zone: Acknowledge the anxiety and uncertainty that employees may be experiencing. The neutral zone may also bring about Creative and Resilient Responses? Look for them.
  • Beginnings: Define with clarity what the new way of doing things is. Are there Personal Mission Statements or a Temporary Rallying Cry that the team can circle around?

This development of a temporary rallying cry for our team can be both fun and rewarding. This may center around your organization’s mission, but may also be very time-targeted, as in “Let’s get through the week safely and with dignity”.

As with all models, the Bridges’ approach has some limitations. The processing and discussions that go with walking through these three stages implies linearity. And we all know that everyone processes change and transition differently. We find that other formal and concrete change models can help ground us as we work through transitions with our teams.

How is your work group coping with all the disruption? Please let us know your challenges and success stories.

You may also find some of our upcoming training of interest, currently presented live online:

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