People at parties love to tell me about workplace disasters . . . the cool new collaboration space as storage dump, . . . the low-panel exposure to a neighbor who coughs and farts all day, . . . the working at home on deadline because laundry is less distracting than other peoples’ speakerphone calls. What went wrong?
Clients rarely mention the possibility of failure. They’d rather float down a river in Egypt. But denial won’t solve this problem and may even be the cause.

Let’s start by acknowledging that big change carries big risk. It’s easy to crunch numbers and modify a space, a lot harder to modify attitudes and behaviors. William Bridges, Ph.D. author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change says, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. . .Change is situational,… Transition is psychological.”  

Successful workplace change involves an emotional shift – and not just resignation but also embracing new benefits. (If there are no benefits, don’t do it.) Bridges identifies three overlapping phases for making a transition:

  • Ending, Loss, Letting Go
  • Neutral Zone
  • New Beginning
Transitions Diagram_Wm. Bridges

Tactics for supporting people through it all may include focus on the reason for the change, defining what’s changing and what’s staying the same, recognizing “losses” to support the process of letting go. You can read more at
The Heart of Change Field Guide by Dan S. Cohen (protégé of change guru John Kotter) provides a good structure too. Like Bridges, he emphasizes the personal.
Of course there’s more to change management than a few quick steps. Remember that transitions are psychological, not situational. Change means loss, as well as gain. That does not mean workplace change is a bad idea. The real risk is in thinking you can re-arrange the furniture and call it done. 

AuthorMarcia Hart