Strategic Human Capital Insights

4 Employee Transition Phases During Change

8/26/14 12:38 PM

transitionLeadership Landscape: Identifying & Understanding the Subtleties of Transition Leadership

The Internal People Side of Change Management: Transition Leadership and the Change Trajectory

Transition Leadership:  Dealing with how employees transition through the phases of change. 

Transition Leadership focuses on the people side of change management.  Transition Leadership requires the leader to go far beyond the processes used in change management to the gray area dealing with employees’ emotional reaction and response to change.  Here the leader must fully understand the psychology of how change impacts the organization at the individual level.

Transitioning Through the Change Trajectory

As leaders, you are often in the information exchange around the change event early in the process. You have had time to process the change, understand the implications and often arrive at a commitment to change before the rest of the organization may even be aware of the change. You need to appreciate that your journey may not be the same for the people you are leading.  Leaders are known to speed through the change trajectory at a much faster pace than their subordinates.  Leaders must recognize this potential lag time in both speed and acceptance of change, as change descends through the rest of the organization.  


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Identifying the Four Transition Phases of the Change Trajectory at the Employee Level

  1.   Denial Phase and Employee Denying Behaviors
  • Avoid speaking about the change 
  • Appear unconcerned
  • Focus on routine work only
  • Focus on the past to present 
  1.   Resisting Phase and Employee Resistance Behaviors
  • Struggle with the present and show frustration or anger
  • Complain and blame others
  • Become passive
  • Become overwhelmed
  • Over focus on the change 
  1.   Analyzing Phase and Employee Analysis Behaviors
  • Experiment with new ideas
  • Start thinking of future goals
  • Begin to get work done
  • Start to take initiative
  • Take risks
  1.   Accepting Phase and Employee Acceptance Behaviors
  • Have a feeling of control
  • Feel comfortable and relaxed
  • Appreciate the journey
  • Become future focused and proactive
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment

Beware of Change Management Roadblocks

At the individual level is where Change Management can hit some major roadblocks when transition leadership is not incorporated at the same time.   Leaders can wrongly assume that everyone ‘is on the same page’. Often this couldn’t be farther from reality.  Remember, your transition leadership style must synch with where individuals are along the phases of the Change Trajectory.  At the individual employee level, change becomes personal, emotional and highly subjective. Here is where Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy needs to be understood.   This is where transition leadership skills are soft, messy and confusing. There are no easily defined process checklists. 

Leaders must know and understand the psychological and individual responses caused by change.   Leaders must first have a profound understanding of themselves and then be equally dedicated to understanding and accounting for transition management on an individual, group and divisional level within the organization.  

Leaders, It’s Time To Put On Your Psychology Hat!

We know that change can cause many different reactions in an organization.  Change equals uncertainty.  Uncertainty activates the brain to perceive threat (the fight or flight reaction).  As a leader, do whatever you can to reduce the risks associated with this perceived threat caused by the change event.  We often hear that change will only happen if your people are robustly involved in and comfortable with the process.  For change management to be efficient and effective, you must simultaneously lead with both a change management process and transition leadership.  Learn more about leadership, management and organizational assessments to help your employees through this transition process. 

If you're looking to see how can help your employees transition through the phases of change, we invite you to download our
change management case study.

Download the Case Study >>

Topics: Change Management, Leadership

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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