Where are you on the change curve?

By understanding the change curve journey and where you are on it, you can better understand your own emotions and behaviours.

What you will learn

  • What a change curve is
  • About the four stages of a period of transition, and how to manage your emotions during each stage
  • How to develop your self-awareness to process change effectively

What is the change curve?

The change curve is based on a model developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s to describe the grieving process. Since then it has been adapted and used as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change.

Change can involve anything from a change in personal circumstances to a change in working conditions such as redundancy or restructuring. The change curve helps predict how you’ll react to these changes and describes the four stages you might go through as you adjust to change.  

By understanding the change curve journey and where you are on it, you can better understand your own emotions and behaviours. 

The time you take to go through each stage depends on your personality, the circumstances and the change itself. You may not experience every stage and you might take longer in one stage than someone else.

There are four stages within the change curve. Understanding each will help you to identify your current situation and prepare for where to go next.

The 4 stages of the change curve 

  • Stage 1 - Shock and denial 

Your first reaction is likely to be shock as the reality of the change hits. It may take some time to sink in and during this time you might feel loss, fear and worry about the future. You might feel demotivated and overwhelmed which may cause a fall in your productivity as a result. 

Once the initial shock subsides you may be in denial and question the need for the change at all. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way, no matter how resilient you think you are. 

  • Stage 2 – Anger and depression 

This stage is where the reality of the change starts to hit, and anger or depression is often the next step. You might fear the consequences of the change and feel frustration, or you might look for someone to blame. 

This is the lowest point of the curve. 

Your morale is likely be low and you might feel anxious and uncertain. Try to share these thoughts and emotions and don’t keep them to yourself.  

 Again, remember these feelings are natural and everyone will experience them to some degree. 

The quicker you can move through the first two stages the better. Have a look at these exercises from Career Ambitions to help you move through the change curve as quickly as possible. 

  • Stage 3 – Acceptance 

By now, you have accepted the change is inevitable and start exploring what this might mean for you. You may now start to feel more optimistic and hopeful about the future or opportunities that may arise from the change. 

At this point you might still dislike the change, but you start attempting to adapt and make it work. 

You might start to think about your previous work experience and the strengths and skills you used in these roles and where they could take you in future. Or you might start thinking about any training you might need to make the next step in your career. 

  • Stage 4 – Commitment and growth 

This is the point where you might start to embrace the change and start to see any positives in the situation. You might feel more in control of the situation and can start looking towards the future and thinking about how any transferrable skills you’ve gained can be used for other opportunities, 

Getting to this stage of the curve will most certainly have been difficult but the more experience you have of dealing with change, the quicker you will progress through the change curve for similar changes in future. Moving through the curve can also alter your life and career for the better, leading to more opportunities for growth and development and enhancing your career prospects. 

Developing your self-awareness and emotional intelligence are useful ways to cope with change. Improving your own resilience and investing in your own well-being can also help. Read our article ‘Top tips for building resilience’ to find out more. 

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