Stages of Change

Negative change comes  in many forms:  A termination, the merging of organizations, a bad performance review, a reorganization, to name a few.  You may not be able to control a negative change, but you can control how you respond to it.  But first you’ll need to understand how individuals and organizations typically react to change.  If you can understand the dynamics of the change process, you can position yourself in a positive and proactive way.

INDIVIDUAL REACTIONS: Individuals behave in a different ways depending upon how they are affected: Is your job at stake? Are you highly marketable? Are your skills critical to the organization? Are you highly paid? Are you close to retirement? No matter what the cause, there are common stages that most individuals will move through.

As an individual, moving through these stages more quickly can position you as an early supporter and leader, versus a detractor and impediment.  As a supervisor, if you understand these stages and are flexible in your approach, you can move performance and productivity of your group to a higher level more rapidly.

The following stages of major change are credited to psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, supplemented by Bill Kaufmann’s experiences:

STAGE I:  SHOCK/DENIAL- (This can’t be happening to ME / us !!)

STAGE II:  ANGER- (Who do they think they are!!!)

STAGE III: DEFENSIVENESS/ DEPRESSION- (I don’t know if I can do this)

STAGE IV:  RATIONALIZATION – Maybe it won’t be that bad if …)

STAGE V:  ACCEPTANCE- (This may turn out OK after all)

ORGANIZATIONAL RESPONSES:  Organizations respond to change in somewhat predictable ways.  The following stages tend to be sequential. However, depending upon how the changes are managed will determine if the next progressive stage is reached.  In other words, where top management is clumsy, non-communicative and insensitive to the needs and feelings of the organization can lead to a situation where the behaviors of STAGE I remain for a very long time.





To understand how people and organizations respond and react to bad news is a valuable asset.  Effectively managing change is a skill and career accelerator.

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Saving Your Bacon

A few unmanaged loose ends at the end of a job search and you’ll never know why you didn’t get the job of your dreams. They are:  Background checks, references, inconsistencies, a social media gaffe and honesty.

Background Checks – Some people don’t think a company will look microscopically at their past experiences.  Think again.  When a company is looking for the perfect candidate, they first need to screen out those that fudge on their dates, schools, degrees, certificates, past companies or responsibilities.  If you have a problem area, you have two choices:  Either leave it out or come clean early in the process.  Don’t lie or you’ll never make it to the next step.

References – Don’t provide references until you know you’re a finalist candidate.  You don’t want to overwhelm them.  Your reference should be your best supporter.  Help them remember your most outstanding performance by giving them a list of accomplishments that parallel what the hiring company is looking for.  You don’t want references to draw a blank when they get the call.  Draft a script for them.  Understand that up to 50% of references are rated poor to mediocre by companies.  Make sure your references are top notch.

Inconsistencies – One of the ways to get eliminated from a job candidacy quickly is to have different information in different places:  Resume, interview, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.  Surveys of hiring organizations have found that about half of all applicants have inconsistencies or worse.  Crosscheck and look for holes in your resume. If you don’t, the hiring company will.

Social media gaffes – About half of hiring companies check social media.  What are your friends saying about you?  Be careful about inside jokes that can be misinterpreted. Scrub out your past either by eliminating questionable items or add articles to bury them.

Honesty – Be honest, but tilt information to your advantage.  When asked for your compensation target, give a range not a specific number.  Benefits, incentives, bonuses, and commuting costs may have to be factored in.  You may have an Associate Degree leading to a full college degree.  Leaving it off isn’t a lie.  Put your highest degree, not an intermediate one.

What if you have a problem?  You can preempt issues by surfacing them early so you’re not hiding anything.  It’s all about how you present the information and when.  If you have a “hole” in your dates, present it as a positive:  “took a year off for a travel, education and language emersion “, “took 6 months to care for an ailing parent”,  “started a doctorate program”, “was promised a position that went away with a merger”, successfully sold time-shares after the merger to keep my sales skills sharp”.

Not managing these loose ends may cost you big time.  You can’t win the race until you cross the finish line.

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Assumptions and Success

Be careful about your assumptions as they may help or hinder your success. If you approach situations with faulty assumptions, you lower your probability of success.

Assumptions affect behavior. If you assume you’ll not do well, chances are you won’t. Your behavior will be influenced and determined by your assumptions. Here are some thoughts about assumptions, behavior and change that you should test against your own reality.

  • All behavior is caused, whether it makes sense to you or not. Find out why someone else’s behavior makes sense to them. Understand the motivation to understand the behavior
  • Resist accepting quick first impressions of people. Your assumptions are most likely wrong.
  • You are what you believe, yet you have choices and alternatives
  • At different times we can either be rational or irrational. Ask yourself what is true?
  • We all want a chance to accomplish something worthwhile
  • We all want recognition and appreciation for our contribution
  • We are sensitive to criticism and yet we want “feedback”
  • We may not want change. We need a compelling reason to motivate us to change
  • We more readily understand people who are more similar to us
  • We aren’t usually motivated to understand people who are a lot different from us
  • Some people don’t practice participate management because they lack the skills and/or they’re afraid of the risk of change
  • On the other hand, some people do not wish to share power at all, with anyone, at any time, for any reason
  • Some of us want and yet are afraid of real responsibilities
  • Sometimes hard working people are working on the wrong things
  • Sometimes people confuse a high level of activity with results
  • In order to survive we will have to change some
  • In order to prosper and reach our personal and professional goals, we will have to learn new things, experience more and change a great deal over time
  • The primary factor for any strategy for change is “time”. The shorter the time for dramatic change, the more traumatic. The longer the time available for change with an effective strategy, the more smooth the change process.

What are some of your assumptions?

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Talk Versus Action

What would it be like working for the company you’re interviewing? There’s a simple test that will give you an idea: Assess how you’ re treated as an applicant, then as a candidate. Interviewing is similar to dating. Everyone is all dressed up, on their best behavior, polite and communicative. That may or may not be the norm. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Was the company responsive, informative and timely when you sent in your application?
  • Unorganized or a lack of continuity may be a sign of greater issues
  • Did you have enough time to prepare for the telephone screen or were your rushed?
  • Being pushed may demonstrate unusual pressure to fill the job quickly
  • Was the telephone interviewer helpful in answering your questions in addition to answering theirs? Were they evasive or lacked the information you needed?
  • Lack of answers to your questions or evasive responses could be that the interviewer isn’t knowledgeable, or maybe doesn’t want you to know the answers
  • How long did it take between the telephone screen and the 1-on-1 interviews?
  • If it’s quick, they may really want you. Too long maybe you aren’t their first choice.
  • Did you have a briefing about what to expect during interviews? A list, by name, title and time-line, about each meeting? Did you have enough time during each interview to learn what the job was all about both short and long term? Able to respond to questions fully? Ask them questions to your satisfaction with informative answers? Have enough time between interviews to gather your wits and prepare for the next interview?
  • These questions and many, many more will give you great insight about the sensitivity, culture, management style and expectations of the hiring organization

On the other hand, the company will learn what you may be like as an employee. Were you annoyed by their questions or careless with follow-up? Are you on time and timely with information requested? Are you difficult to deal with?

There are some situations that are difficult to read, but most times if you look hard enough you’ll get great insights into the operating rhythm of the company. Of special interest are all the tell-tail signs when meeting with your potential boss. Don’t assume that the boss must be having a bad day and it will be much better if you’re hired. Just like dating, it’s usually the best it’s going to be.

Listen to your “radar” during the interviews. How people act are always a better predictor of the future than what they say.

Take control of your future. Contact Bill Kaufmann as a coach.

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What’s Your Value?

If you don’t understand your value in the organization, function or marketplace, you’re just diminishing your potential. Not knowing where you stand and what your options are, limits your opportunities, success and ultimately your financial status.

Some professionals make a job move every 1 to 2 years. They may be getting a breadth of experience but miss the depth of learning. Others stay in a job too long and lack broader exposures. Test the marketplace every 18 months to find out where your functional specialty is going, what’s new, where salaries are moving and if there’s a demand or glut for your skills?

Here are a couple of ways to think about your value:

  • What’s your contribution to the results of the organization? If it’s subjective, you’re vulnerable
  • Your ability to achieve objectives is key. Do you have objectives? What were your results?
  • What’s the relationship between your cost of being employed and your productivity?
  • Performance is viewed against the organization’s needs. How are you fulfilling those needs?
  • Are you in the main stream of the core business or an adjunct support?
  • Do you contribute directly to revenue and profit or are you a cost of doing business?

Why do people wait so long to recognize their value and make a career change? Some are just too lazy, others don’t like the unknown, are too comfortable, failed to prepare for the next step and some are not able to answer the question, “Why are you looking to leave?” You can’t know your true value until you get the information from which to assess your potential.

Do your research:

  • Every job has a value, dependent upon certain criteria:
    • The industry, function, level and responsibilities all determine value
    • The size of the company, department, or as an individual contributor vs. supervisor
    • Are you at the core or periphery of the business?
  • The compensation policies and pay practices of your company should be understood:
    • Does your company pay at the 50th percentile? 30th? 70th?
    • How are pay grades and ranges determined? Above or below industry averages?
  • How do you compare:
    • To the same function in the same industry? To competitors?
    • To the same function in other industries that are not competitors?

Want to find out where you stand? Ask your boss what you need to do to increase your value. Ask for a more helpful title if money is a problem. An Assistant Manager title is better than a Manager’s Assistant. Put a plan together before your performance appraisal. List your accomplishments in terms of value to the organization. Sometimes a one-time bonus is easier to get than a merit increase.

Your value is directly related to your research, plans and actions. Make it work for you.

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