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Navigating Organizational Transformation: An Examination of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

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Managing change is an inevitable part of any business. As organizations strive to stay competitive, they must adapt to new strategies, technologies, and processes. However, reactions to change can be difficult, and often leads to resistance amongst employees. Understanding the emotional responses to change can help leaders manage this process effectively. One model that has gained popularity in this regard is theKubler-Ross Change Curve. This article explores the application of this model in the context of organizational change.

Unveiling the Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Change Curve is rooted in the work of Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Initially designed to help understand the Kubler-Ross stages of grief experienced by terminally ill patients, the Kubler-Ross model has found wide application in the corporate world as a tool for comprehending and managing the emotional turmoil that can accompany significant organizational change.

The Five Stages of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve describes five stages of emotional response during times of change:


This is the initial stage where individuals may reject the reality of change. It often results in a decrease in productivity as employees cling to old processes and routines.


As the reality of change sinks in, feelings of fear or anger may surface. If not managed effectively, these emotions can lead to significant disruptions.


Once the anger subsides, individuals may seek to negotiate or find compromises to minimize the impact of the change.


In this stage, individuals may experience feelings of hopelessness and extreme sadness, often accompanied by a decline in motivation.


This is the final stage where individuals come to terms with the change, their resistance decreases, and they begin to explore new opportunities presented by the change.

Applying the Change Curve to Organizational Change

Understanding the stages of the Change Curve model can help leaders anticipate employee responses and strategize accordingly. Here are some strategies for navigating each stage of the Change Curve emotions:

Clear communication

During the denial stage, it's crucial to provide clear and transparent communication about the need for change and its potential impact on stakeholders.

Managing roadblocks

In the anger stage, leaders should actively listen to concerns and create a safe space for employees to voice their opinions.

Providing support

Offering personalized training programs during the bargaining stage can help employees adapt to new tools or processes and bridge any skill gaps.

Recognition and celebration

As employees begin to accept the change, it's essential to recognize their efforts and celebrate key milestones.

The Benefits and Limitations of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Kubler Ross Change Curve model offers several benefits, including its broad applicability across industries, its ease of use, and its focus on emotional responses to workplace change. However, it also has limitations. For example, different employees may progress through the stages at different rates, and not all individuals will necessarily experience all the stages of this personal transition. logo

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