The Kübler-Ross model lists the five emotional stages that we go through when dealing with grief. These are first denial, then anger, moving into bargaining, then depression and finally acceptance.
Apart from serious and tragic events, we can also go through a milder version of these five stages when faced with unexpected events or change.
Last Sunday I needed to drive from Cork to Dublin – normally a 2.5 to 3 hour drive, depending on traffic. I decided to detour via Limerick to attend a funeral which would add another hour to my journey.
I checked the weather forecast which was not great – lots of rain, wind and with the possibility of snow on high ground. But it was only a yellow alert – which is far from the “stay at home” red alert status.
So off I went. Within 30 minutes, the snow was pelting down.
Denial. This can’t be right? I’m not on high ground. It will go away shortly. 60 minutes in, some cars are pulling over and giving up.
Anger. 2 hours in. For god’s sake! Are these weather forecasters just looking out their windows? The radio station is giving me no information. This is ridiculous. The car behind me is driving far too close. Why are there so many muppets on the road?!
Bargaining. Ok – I will not attend the funeral as that will delay me an hour and then it will be dark driving through the snow. Visibility won’t be too bad if I complete my journey in daylight hours. If I just keep going I should get there within 5.5 hours. It’s the best option. Staying somewhere overnight means I’ll be stranded as the roads will be frozen over in the morning.
Depression. OMG. 6 hours in and I’ve spent the last hour literally parked on the motorway. Nobody moving. No idea what’s happening. Why did I leave this afternoon? Why didn’t I stay overnight in Limerick? Why did I need to go to Dublin? What’s the point of it all anyway? Why am I not in front of a warm fire watching football on TV? Why? Why? Why?
Acceptance. 8 hours in. Traffic has started moving again. Roads look fine here on the outskirts of Dublin. It was interesting listening to that Talk Radio report from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – I never knew there was a tech review radio show on Sunday nights – mental note for the future. The most important thing was to travel safely even though the journey took longer than it should. Feeling lucky that I had a full tank of fuel when I set off on my trip this afternoon.
As I realise that I’ve reached a Zen-like state of Acceptance, I also realise that when I am dealing with people in work and trying to drive through a major change, I need to recognise that people may go through their own version of the Kübler-Ross model. So instead of rushing people along and telling them to ‘get with the program’, I need to recognise and respect people’s need to get through the cycle in order to become supportive of the change project. After all, we are all passengers on the same journey – let’s be courteous to our fellow travellers!
After 8 hrs 45 minutes. I arrived. New record. 3 hours spent stationary on the motorway. But feeling calm, I decide to go celebrate my arrival with a pint of beer in the Ferryman pub on Dublin’s Quays – a great pub.
But it’s Sunday, and I arrived after 11pm, so the pub has just stopped serving beer. I can feel it coming on again – denial – anger – etc. etc.
Here’s to acceptance!
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