The Process of Change and Adjustment
Figure 1.6 The process of change and adjustment Source: based on Kubler-Ross (1969)
- relief: ‘At least I now know what’s happening now, I had my suspi- cions, I wasn’t just being paranoid’;
- shock and/or surprise: really a subset of denial but characterized by a sense of disbelief;
- denial: total non-acceptance of the change and maybe ‘proving’ to oneself that it is not happening and hoping that it will go away;
- anger: experiencing anger and frustration but really in an unaware sort of way, that is, taking no responsibility for your emotions;
- bargaining: the attempt to avoid the inevitable;
- depression: hitting the lows and responding (or being unresponsive) with apathy or sadness;
- acceptance: the reality of the situation is accepted;
- experimentation: after having been very inward looking with accep- tance, the idea arrives that perhaps there are things ‘out there’. ‘Perhaps some of these changes might be worth at least thinking about. Perhaps I might just ask to see the job description of that new job’;
- discovery: as you enter this new world that has changed there may be the discovery that things are not as bad as you imagined. Perhaps the company was telling the truth when it said there would be new opportunities and a better way of working.
Figure 1.7 Adams, Hayes and Hopson’s (1976) change curve
The underpinning theory
Virginia Satir model
Virginia Satir, a family therapist, developed her model (Satir et al, 1991) after observing individuals and families experience a wide range of changes. Her model not only has a number of stages but also highlights two key events that disturb or move an individual’s experience along: the foreign element and the transforming idea (Figure 1.8).
She describes the initial state as one of maintaining the status quo. We have all experienced periods within our lives – at home or at work – where day to day events continue today as they have done in previous days, and no doubt will be the same tomorrow. It may be that the organi- zation you are working in is in a mature industry with well established working practices which need little or no alteration. This is a state in which if you carry on doing what you are doing, you will continue to get what you are getting. The situation is one of relative equilibrium where all parts of the system are in relative harmony. That is not to say, of course, that there is no dissatisfaction. It is just that no one is effecting change.
This changes when something new enters the system. Satir calls it a ‘foreign element’ in the sense that a factor previously not present is intro- duced. As with the examples from the two previous models it might be the onset of an illness, or in the world of work, a new chief executive with
Figure 1.8 Satir’s model
ideas about restructuring. Whatever the nature of this foreign element, it has an effect.
A period of chaos ensues. Typically this is internal chaos. The world itself may continue to function but the individual’s own perceived world might be turned upside down, or inside out. He or she may be in a state of disbelief – denial or emotional numbness – at first, not knowing what to think or feel or how to act. Individuals may resist the notion that things are going to be different. Indeed they may actually try to redouble their efforts to ensure that the status quo continues as long as possible, even to the extent of sabotaging the new ideas that are forthcoming. Their support networks, which before had seemed so solid, might now not be trusted to help and support the individual. They may not know who to trust or where to go for help.
During this period of chaos, we see elements of anger and disorganiza- tion permeating the individual’s world. Feelings of dread, panic and despair are followed by periods of apathy and a sense of pointlessness. At moments like this it may well seem like St John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul (2003) when all hope has vanished.
But it is often when things have reached their very worst that from somewhere – usually from within the very depths of the person – the germ of an idea or an insight occurs. In terms of the Kubler-Ross model the individual is coming to terms with the reality of the situation and experiencing acknowledgement and acceptance. He or she has seen the light, or at least a glimmer of hope. An immense amount of work may still need to be done, but the individual has generated this transforming idea, which spreads some light on to the situation, and perhaps shows him or her a way out of the predicament.
Once this transforming idea has taken root, the individual can begin the journey of integration. Thus this period of integration requires the new world order to be assimilated into the individual’s own world.
Imagine a restructuring has taken place at your place of work. You have gone through many a sleepless night worrying what job you may end up in, or whether you will have a role at the end of the change. The jobs on offer do not appeal at all to you at first (‘Why didn’t they ask me for my views when they formulated the new roles?’ ‘If they think I’m applying for that they have another think coming!’). However as the chief execu- tive’s thinking is made clearer through better communications, you grudgingly accept that perhaps he did have a point in addressing the
complacency within the firm. Then perhaps one day you wake up and feel that maybe you might just have a look at that job description for the job in Operations. You have never worked in that area before and you have heard a few good things about the woman in charge.
You begin to accept the idea of a new role and ‘try it on for size’. Perhaps at first you are just playing along, but soon it becomes more experimentation and more of an exploration. As time moves on the restructure is bedded into the organization, roles and responsibilities clar- ified, new objectives and ways of working specified and results achieved. A new status quo is born. The scars are still there perhaps but they are not hurting so much.
Gerald Weinberg (1997), in his masterly book on change, but with a title that might not appeal to everyone (Quality Software Management, Volume 4: Anticipating Change) draws heavily on the Satir model and maps on to it the critical points that can undermine or support the change process. (See Figure 1.9.) Weinberg shows that if the change is not planned well enough, or if the receivers of change consciously or unconsciously decide to resist, the change effort will falter.
Summary of psychodynamic approach
The psychodynamic approach is useful for managers who want to under- stand the reactions of their staff during a change process and deal with them. These models allow managers to gain an understanding of why people react the way they do. It identifies what is going on in the inner world of their staff when they encounter change.
As with all models, the ones we have described simplify what can be quite a complex process. Individuals do not necessarily know that they are going through different phases. What they may experience is a range of different emotions (or lack of emotion), which may cluster together into different groupings which could be labelled one thing or another. Any observer, at the time, might see manifestations of these different emotions played out in the individual’s behaviour.
Research suggests that these different phases may well overlap, with the predominant emotion of one stage gradually diminishing over time as a predominant emotion of the next stage takes hold. For example, the deep sense of loss and associated despondency, while subsiding over time, might well swell up again and engulf the individual with grief, either for
The underpinning theory
no apparent reason, or because of a particular anniversary, contact with a particular individual or an external event reported on the news.
Individuals will go through a process which, either in hindsight or from an observer ’s point of view, will have a number of different phases which themselves are delineated in time and by different characteristics. However the stages themselves will not necessarily have clear begin- nings or endings, and characteristics from one stage may appear in other stages.
Satir ’s model incorporates the idea of a defining event – the trans- forming idea – that can be seen to change, or be the beginning of the change for, an individual. It may well be an insight, or waking up one morning and sensing that a cloud had been lifted. From that point on there is a qualitative difference in the person undergoing change. He or
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Figure 1.9 Critical points in the change process Source: Weinberg (1997)
Reprinted by permission of Dorset House Publishing. All rights reserved.
she can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or have a sense that there is a future direction.
Key learnings here are that everyone to some extent goes through the highs and lows of the transitions curve, although perhaps in different times and in different ways. It is not only perfectly natural and normal but actually an essential part of being human.
STOP AND THINK! Q 1.8 Think of a current or recent change in your organization.
- Can you map the progress of the change on to Satir’s or Weinberg’s model?
- At what points did the change falter?
- At what points did it accelerate?
- What factors contributed in each case?
THE HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY APPROACH TO CHANGE
The humanistic psychological approach to change combines some of the insights from the previous three approaches while at the same time devel- oping its own. It emerged as a movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. The American Association of Humanistic Psychology describes it as ‘concerned with topics having little place in existing theories and systems: e.g. love, creativity, self, growth… self-actualization, higher values, being, becoming, responsibility, meaning… transcendental experi- ence, peak experience, courage and related concepts’.
In this section we look at how the humanistic approach differs from the behavioural and cognitive approaches, list some of the key assump- tions of this approach, and look at three important models within humanistic psychology.
Table 1.4 charts some of the similarities and differences between the psychoanalytic, behavioural, cognitive and humanistic approaches. Although taken from a book more concerned with counselling and psychotherapy, it illustrates where humanistic psychology stands in rela- tion to the other approaches.
The underpinning theory
Table 1.4 The psychoanalytic, behaviourist, cognitive and humanistic approaches
Theme Psychoanalytic Behaviourism Cognitive Humanistic
Psychodynamic Yes No Yes Yes approach – looking for what is behind surface behaviour
Action approach – No Yes Yes Yes looking at actual conduct of person, trying new things
Acknowledgement of Yes No No Yes importance of sense- making, resistance, etc
Use of imagery, No Yes Yes Yes creativity
Use in groups as Yes No No Yes well as individual
Emphasis on whole No No No Yes person
Emphasis on No No No Yes gratification, joy, individuation
Adoption of medical Yes Yes Yes No model of mental illness
Felt experience of the Yes No No Yes practitioner important as a tool for change
Mechanistic No Yes Yes No approach to client
Open to new No No Yes Yes paradigm research methods
Source: adapted from Rowan (1983) Note: Although the humanistic and psychoanalytic approaches are both psychodynamic, we have differentiated between them in order to focus on the maximizing potential aspect of the humanistic school.
The underpinning theory
Humanistic psychology has a number of key areas of focus:
- the importance of subjective awareness as experienced by the indi- vidual;
- the importance of taking responsibility for one’s situations – or at least the assumption that whatever the situation there will be an element of choice in how you think, how you feel and how you act;
- the significance of the person as a whole entity (a holistic approach) in the sense that as humans we are not just what we think or what we feel, we are not just our behaviours. We exist within a social and cultural context.
In juxtaposition with Freud’s view of the aim of therapy as moving the individual from a state of neurotic anxiety to ordinary unhappiness, humanistic psychology has ‘unlimited aims… our prime aim is to enable the person to get in touch with their real self ’ (Rowan, 1983).
Maslow and the hierarchy of needs
Maslow did not follow the path of earlier psychologists by looking for signs of ill health and disease. He researched what makes men and women creative, compassionate, spontaneous and able to live their lives to the full. He therefore studied the lives of men and women who had exhibited these traits during their lives, and in so doing came to his theory of motivation, calling it a hierarchy of needs. (See Figure 1.10.)
Maslow believed that human beings have an inbuilt desire to grow and develop and move towards something he called self-actualization. However, in order to develop self-actualization an individual has to over- come or satisfy a number of other needs first.
One of Maslow’s insights was that until the lower level needs were met an individual would not progress or be interested in the needs higher up the pyramid. He saw the first four levels of needs as ‘deficiency ’ needs. By that he meant that it was the absence of satisfaction that led to the individual being motivated to achieve something.
Physiological needs are requirements such as food, water, shelter and sexual release. Clearly when they are lacking the individual will experience physiological symptoms such as hunger, thirst, discomfort and frustration.
Safety needs are those that are concerned with the level of threat and desire for a sense of security. Although safety needs for some might be concerned with actual physical safety, Maslow saw that for many in the western world the need was based more around the idea of psychological safety. We might experience this level of need when faced with redundancy.
Love and belonging needs are more interpersonal. This involves the need for affection and affiliation on an emotionally intimate scale. It is important here to note that Maslow introduces a sense of reciprocity into the equation. A sense of belonging can rarely be achieved unless an indi- vidual gives as well as receives. People have to invest something of them- selves in the situation or with the person or group. Even though it is higher in the hierarchy than physical or safety needs, the desire for love and belonging is similar in that it motivates people when they feel its absence.
Self-esteem needs are met in two ways. They are met through the satis- faction individuals get when they achieve competence or mastery in doing something. They are also met through receiving recognition for their achievement.
Maslow postulated one final need – the need for self-actualization. He described it as ‘the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming’. He observed that people continued to search for something else once all their other needs were being satisfied. Individuals try to become the person they believe or