To Manage Change, Recognize That It Entails Loss


In English, in any case, we have just the single word, loss. But regardless of the language, coping with loss can take a toll on those affected. Therefore, if you’re introducing a change or in charge of its implementation, it’s a mistake to ignore, belittle, or trivialize the loss. It’s a mistake to excessively tout the benefits and the whoop-de-do associated with the new way as if everyone is breathlessly awaiting its arrival. And it’s a mistake to focus entirely on what’s being changed and to be oblivious to the people affected by the change.

Rob was probably counting the seconds till he could finish his presentation and be done with us. But he might have triggered less anger if he had started by acknowledging that many of us were distressed by the change; he didn’t have to know for a fact that we were distressed to make the reasonable assumption that we were.

In addition, he could have displayed empathy for the fact that we were giving up something that was part of who we were. To show he understood what we were dealing with, he might have offered an experience he’d had in which he had to give up something he cherished. Instead of ignoring what we were giving up, he might have begun by citing things the two platforms had in common. By displaying respect for what we were experiencing and honoring what was soon to become our past, he might have triggered less hostility from the group.

Shakespeare said, “Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear.” Indeed, a little praise of our current platform might have taken the edge off our aggressive reaction and led us to listen to information that, like it or not, we were going to need.

In Rob’s mind, we were probably just a bunch of rude, obstreperous techies. Fortunately for him, he had to face us for only a couple of hours. Our management, however, didn’t seem to know any more than Rob about helping people cope with loss. But that’s the subject of another article.

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