Thursday, September 08, 2005

Coping with change

Everyone has a different and individual way of coping with change.

When I was a hospital manager, a team of us had the job of closing the hospital for people with a learning disability and moving those patients into smaller community homes.

One of the office staff had been at the hospital for over 20 years and told me the hospital will never close – 'We have seen it all before' she used to say. 'It has been closing for years but it will never happen.'

I assured her the intention was to close the hospital within three years but she refused to believe it would actually happen. We offered her good jobs in the new set up but still she was in denial and refused to accept them.

Eventually of course the hospital did close two years later and what happened to her?

She was given a choice of taking a job she did not really want or take early retirement. She took the job until she retired five years later. She wasn't really happy in that job.

So what is the message?

She refused to accept that things were changing and therefore did not take early opportunities to find a new job that would suit her skills and expereince.

I always believe if you stay around with your head buried in the sand you often end up with something you do not really want.

Great that we are all different but sad that some people - like this woman - with long service and great experience that can be used in new services - just cannot come to terms with change going on around them. The hospital literally closed around her whilst her head was still in the sand.

I never understood it and still don't.


Anonymous said...

Change and change management are indeed very tough subjects to get our arms around. I preach change and teach change management, but sometimes even I have trouble with dramatic changes in life. I believe our resistance to change comes from fear. We fear the unknown; we fear becoming irrelevant--even though that's ironic; we fear not having control over the situation; we fear failing at our new situation, and so on. This fear can paralyze us into inaction. The human mind is predominantly irrational, so this fear sometimes transforms us into unbelievers. That's why the ostrich sticks his head into the sand in the first place--if it can't see the fear-inducing thing, it doesn't have to be afraid. I believe this is why some of the people in New Orleans stayed so long after it became obvious that it was futile.

Trevor Gay said...

Astute observation about New Orleans Mike - thanks for that.

We all fear change I guess and yet I have found in the last 12 months that to change one's life very dramatically is thrilling and a very positive experience - on condition you have someone beside you supporting and loving you.

I thank God every day I have Annie and her love with me love with me and that makes anything possible.

Anonymous said...

Change is thrilling. The same chemicals released into the brain and body are also released during fear. Riding a roller coaster is thrilling for exactly that reason. Self-actualized individuals like you and I understand this thrill as a positive force in our lives. Many people do not understand it that way. You and I will use the thrill as a catalyst to improve our positions in life or to do something even more meaningful to someone else. Our lack of fear comes from having the support of loved ones--vital--; understanding the physical and psychological effects of the change in advance; and experience. And we shouldn't underrate experience. The more times we go through dramatic and life-altering change, the easier it becomes for us. We realize we most likely won't end up starving and homeless because we quit a job. Most people can not make those connections without a lot of counseling and education.

Anonymous said...

Trevor, I wanted to thank you for your comment on Tom Peters. As usual, you made a good point - Why don't people just do their jobs and earn their salaries? I meant to take you up on it but of course I got sidetracked and doing it now would mean three posts in a row with my name on them which I'm pretty sure would be a little hard for everyone to stomach. But I do agree with what you said and first chance I get I'll mention it.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Mike and Noel - constant change is here to stay methinks :-)

We all have to just develop our own individual ways of coping with it.