The Psychology of Transition

By Melissa Neidermeyer

As we think about change, one nuance is frequently overlooked – the distinction between transition and change. As William and Susan Bridges describe it, “Transition is not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now.”3

As you manage change with your team, we recommend you consider this idea: when we are transitioning to a new normal, the psychology of change is just as important as the activities of change.

In order for a transition to be successful, a leader must help his or her team through the three phases of transition identified by William Bridges. These phases share some common themes with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Everyone moves through the transition phases at different speeds, so it is vital to monitor where you and your team are in the transition process and to respond accordingly.

Be sure to check out William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change for more ideas about how to help your team navigate change.

Bridges, William, Transition as ‘The Way Through’, Organizations in Transition, Vol. 14, #3







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