Personal Transition through Change

With the outcome of the recent EU referendum, change in organisations is inevitable and is already happening. Robin Hills, an expert in emotional intelligence, highlights the different stages we can move through in responding to change:

Change is the only constant.

Change is all around us. The pace of change seems to be unrelenting.  It appears to occur faster and faster with every year, month or even week that passes.  How you respond to change can make all the difference to how resilient you are to it.

Change can be a really valuable, exciting opportunity, with the right approach and focus, for organisations, for management teams – and, vitally, for people who will experience the changes.

Organisations don't just change because of new systems, processes or structures.  They change because the people within the organisation adapt and change too.  Only when the people within it have made their own personal transitions can an organisation truly reap the benefits of change.

John M. Fisher’s Personal Transition through Change curve explains how people respond to change through defined phases that are followed in succession until they accept the change.  John is the Chartered Psychologist who researched and developed the curve based on earlier studies by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who identified five stages of grief.  This model is more focused around business.  He presented at the Tenth International Personal Construct Congress, Berlin, 1999, and subsequently developed in his work on constructivist theory in relation to service provision organisations at Leicester University, England.

The Personal Transition through Change curve is widely used in business and change management. This tool is extensively used in all sizes of organisations across the world to understand the emotional pathway that people go through when they experience any change.

Much of the actual transition through the phases is completed subconsciously. While some people move more quickly through the phases than others, everyone will need different things depending upon which phase they are in.  Deciding factors are their tempera­ment, life experiences, perceived degree of control and so on.

See if you can relate to these steps:

Anxiety – You don’t really know what’s going to hap­pen next, and you aren’t sure what any change will really look like at this point.

Happiness – You’ve committed to the change, and you are feeling really good about it.

Anger – Some anger and frustration is directed at others, especially those who you believe are responsible for forcing the change.  At a later stage, this is directed at yourself with feelings of guilt for not having coped as well as you believe you could have.

Despair – You may feel confused and apathetic and really start to wonder who you are.

Other pathways on the curve are:

Denial - where you deny that any change is occurring at all

Disillusionment - where you decide that the change does not fit with your value system and you decide to have nothing more to do with it.

Hostility - where you show aggression towards yourself and others and the change, in general.


John explains how he came to develop the change curve and how he uses it in his work in an exclusive Ei4Change podcast.  You can listen to the full podcast on the Ei4Change website.

Copies of the Personal Transition through Change curve can be downloaded free of charge, along with other free resources on the Ei4Change Resources page.

Adapted from “The Authority Guide to Emotional Resilience in Business: Strategies to Manage Stress and Weather Storms" - published May 2016.  Available to order from Amazon -


Robin ran an engaging session with the ABP earlier this year, focusing on psychological resilience. Filled with interactive exercises and activities for everyone to explore their own personal resilience, it was a great opportunity to learn more about this aspect of emotional intelligence and how it is relevant in times of change. As well as the change curve discussed above, the session included:

- Exploring the real meaning of resilience and the limitations of commonly used definitions – for example, Robin encouraged us to see resilience as adapting to stressful situations rather than ‘bouncing back’

- Considering the benefits of resilience and situations in which it is particularly useful

- Exploring how we personally feel at our most and least resilient

- Learning about the effects of different emotions on resilience: those that facilitate or drain it

- Distinguishing different types of perfectionism and how these may sometimes hold back resilience

- Discussing how we are able to develop resilience, including the benefits of coaching