Kubler-Ross grief cycle

The change roller coaster

Mapping the impacts of change

kubler-ross,change resistance,resistance to change,change management,change managers,change management training Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss physician/researcher who undertook seminal work on the grief process.

The Kubler-Ross model, was first introduced in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying" in which she describes five stages of emotional and psychological response to grief, tragedy and catastrophic loss.

Many regard her as the mother of the modern hospice movement.

However the wider business significance of her work has been the realisation that people go through similar responses when faced with lesser – but still significant changes in their working and personal lives.

    In summary, the 5 stages of the Kubler-Ross model are:

    (1) Denial - This is usually a temporary initial response along the lines of: "I feel fine... this can't be happening to me..."

    (2) Anger - Once the realisation that that denial cannot continue then anger sets in: "Why me? It's not fair!"; Who is to blame?"

    (3) Bargaining - This stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the inevitable… “Just give me a bit longer… just let me finish…. “

    (4) Depression - During this fourth stage, the person begins to understand the certainty of what is going to happen:" What's the point? I cant go on?"

    (5) Acceptance - This final stage comes with a measure of peace and acceptance of the inevitable. "It's going to be okay… can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."

The Kubler-Ross model provides a template that maps the key emotional responses that people are likely to feel when major change initiative is announced and the impact of it is going to cause them loss.

Here is a schematic based on this model that highlights what is often referred to as The Change Roller Coaster.

kubler-ross,change resistance,resistance to change,change management,change managers,change management training

This representation of the change roller coaster highlights the emotional landscape that people are likely to be experiencing, and it underscores the need for compassionate leadership - and especially during the early stages of the initiative.

This where thorough attention to the Stakeholder Mapping and Analysis process and the Communications Strategy is very important.

This article on the Kubler-Ross grief cycle outlines how people get stuck in the various stages of the cycle or move forward too soon and get caught in a loop between 2 stages.

Books by Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Applying these insights

Surprisingly the insights of the change roller coaster model are all too frequently overlooked, and this is reflected in the failure rate with change initiatives.

William Bridges has said:

“A change can work only if the people affected by it can get through the transition it causes successfully.”

All of this is examined , co-related and integrated with the other key themes in the "Practitioners Masterclass".

Return to : Change management theories

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