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From NOPE to HOPE: Tips for helping your staff adapt to changes

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Over the years I have worked with many organisations and individuals as they have had to adjust to significant career changes, whether through outplacement, downsizing, significant life changes or numerous other factors. When I was studying Loss and Grief, I came across an author who changed the way I thought about how we as human beings adapt to change. The author was Nancy Schlossberg. Below is a very brief summary of Schlossberg's 4S transition model. It (the model) discusses 4 variables - Situation - Self - Support - Strategies.

I suspect everyone is well aware that the changes to our workplace and ways of working is unprecedented in modern times. Have a read of Schlossberg's model and see if asking any of it makes more sense of how to support your staff as they continue workplace and transitions.

Situation Variables

Every individual's situation varies according to the following factors

¨ Trigger (What set off the transition?)

¨ Timing (How does the transition relate to one’s social clock? – Most adults have a built in social clock that acts as a barometer to judge whether they are “on time” or “off time” with respect to family, career, self issues thus events – both anticipated and unanticipated can be at a better or worse time making it easier or more difficult.)

¨ Control. (What aspects of the transition can one control?) Even if a transition is beyond someone’s control, the response to it can be within the individual’s control. Two sources of control – internal and external – interact. (A worker may have been preparing to retire or quit anyway e.g.)

¨ Role change. Does the transition involve role change?

¨ Duration. Is it permanent or temporary?

¨ Concurrent stress. What and how great are the stresses facing the individual now, if any?

¨ Assessment. Does the individual view the situation positively, negatively, or as benign?

Self variables

Examines what the individual brings to the transition.

¨ Personal characteristics

¨ Psychological resources.

Pertinent questions may include

Are they able to deal with the world in an autonomous way? Can they tolerate ambiguity?

Are they optimistic?

Do they blame self for life events?

Do they feel I control of their responses to the transition?

Do they feel their efforts will affect the outcome of a particular course of action?

Support Variables

Importance of social support is often said to be key to handling stress. However needs to be defined operationally because it comes in many shapes and sizes.

Pertinent questions may include

Is individual getting what he/she needs for this transition in terms of affect? Affirmation? Aid?

Does individual have a range of types of support – spouse or partner, other close family or friends, co-workers, neighbours, strangers, organisations, institutions?

Has the individuals usual support system been interrupted by this transition?

Does the individual feel their support system is a low or high resource?

Strategies Variable

Coping strategies – things we do to avoid being harmed by life strains.

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