As the world changed through the pandemic, so did our preferences for the meaning that we make in our identity of work. The ‘great resignation’ has more to do with finding personal purpose, than with work that does not serve us. People are in personal transitions, and we take a closer look at how to navigate these disorientating times.
In the book, ‘Managing Transitions’ by William Bridges, he contemplates three stages in making transitions in life. The phases are: ‘ending, losing and letting go,’ followed by the ‘neutral zone,’ and then finally the ‘new beginnings.’ Transition in this three-phase psychological process is where people gradually start to accept the elements of a new reality, situation and the resulting changes that transpire. Transition is a slower process than most planned change, which tends to be abrupt.
When we think of transition and ‘ending,’ being the first phase, it seems paradoxical. The reality is that when we have any change in our lives, there is always something that we leave behind for the transition to begin. A prime example is when you change roles in an organisation, with a new team. You leave colleagues behind; you enter new relationships, and you recontract your old relationships. This may feel very tough, but it is extremely important to acknowledge the boundary and ending, to make way for something different to transpire and letting go of the old.
In the ‘neutral zone,’ we are confronted by the psychological ‘no mans’ land,’ between our previous reality and what might become our new reality. This stage can be even tougher than the ending, as we have no anchors, and are faced with multiple realities, ambiguities, and feet in conflicting places. By example, this might be a time where little is known about what the future may hold for your career and the passing of time, will align all the right conditions to make a choice on a final direction, team, or role. We must remember to stay in the neutral zone for longer to surface great opportunities and not rush into the ‘new beginnings.’
If we have our timing right, ‘new beginnings,’ will be filled with palpable energy and the excitement of getting going. The anxiety and tension of the previous two phases, will dissipate and free us to be open to new learning, new relationships and thrusting ourselves wholeheartedly into the new world of work we have chosen.
These three phases are NOT linear, and we may vacillate in and out of all the phases through complex personal change. Thinking in this paradigm, at every inflection point, will anchor and assist us to make meaning of where we are, and how we manage ourselves with greater effectiveness to our desired end point.
Leadership Hacks to support people in transition in your organisation:
Talk about the process of transition and allow people to know that it is normal to feel the way they do.
Dialogue and name the ‘losses’ that people may be experiencing in the ‘ending,’ phase.
Over communicate what we know and do not know about upcoming changes openly.
Look for signs of anxiety and loss of motivation and support people in the ‘neutral zone,’ by teaming and solving for ambiguity together.