Three stages of transition
Bridges identifies three stages of transition that people pass through:
- ending, losing, letting go of old ways and identities
- the neutral zone where the old reality is gone and the new one isn’t yet fully formed
- the new beginning working with new energy and purpose.
People pass through these stages at different paces, often moving backwards and forward rather than neatly stepping through in sequential order. He suggests that leaders can best support their teams to manage transitions by helping people navigate these stages.
Covid-19: the neutral zone?
In responding to Covid-19, many people have changed role and accepted different responsibilities and as they come to terms with what this means for them, they find themselves in the ‘neutral zone’ of Bridges’ model. This is where many people find themselves now. This is the psychological no-man’s-land between the old reality and the new one, when the old ways of doing things are gone but the new doesn’t feel clear or comfortable yet. It is also the time when old habits are replaced with new ones, better suited to the new situation.
Characteristics of the neutral zone
- People’s anxiety rises and motivation falls; they feel disoriented and can doubt themselves. Energy can be used for coping tactics rather than work. Productivity may suffer and old weaknesses in a team or service can worsen.
- Teams can become divided: some people want to rush forward and complete changes, while others want to go back to the old ways.
- However, it can be a very creative time as new ideas and systems fall into place.
What can leaders do?
Leaders can best support their teams by offering structure and containment, protecting, encouraging, and creating opportunities.
- Strengthen connections within the team and communicate a lot – the neutral zone can be a lonely place.
- Help people to understand the bigger picture by situating new changes within the whole .
- Create clear temporary structures or reporting lines so everyone knows how they’re working, even if these are short term.
- Set some important short-term goals that will give people a sense of achievement and movement.
- Review processes to ensure they can deal with the constantly changing situation.
- Look for every opportunity to brainstorm and develop ideas. Encourage experimentation.
- Resist the impulse to push for certainty – you don’t know what that looks like yet. But believe it will come and with it a new energy for the new direction.
- 1. Bridge W (2009). Managing transitions, 3rd ed. Boston, US: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
It is very important to understand everyone's unique needs during this pandemic, like for me reduced work hours was very vital in order to keep up with child care and home schooling. Everyone's story is unique and must be heard and treated fairly. at Barts NHs we have facilities to unwind, we have virtual meeting, 1-1 meetings to address our needs. The trust has also benefits such as free car park for employees.