The Emotions of Change

The agile movement has encouraged people to change—from changing technical aspects of programming, to changing social interactions via increased collaboration, to changing management styles to adaptive and facilitative rather than command and control. Sometimes in thinking about organizational change we forget that it is ultimately a “people” change and that organizational change is the accumulation of individuals who are changing. And, at an individual level change is first and foremost emotional.

On the positive side, change holds out the promise of exhilaration, hopefulness, excitement, enthusiasm, optimism, wonder, rejuvenation, and surprise.

On the flip side, change can bring out feelings of suspicion, fear, foreboding, frustration, anger, dislike, confusion, hesitation, numbness, disquiet, uneasiness, fatigue, insecurity, anxiousness, irritability, and stressed out.

The places we are changing from are rarely completely bad and the places we are changing to are rarely all good—which often makes the changes difficult because it intensifies the emotions surrounding questions like “Are we really making the right choice?” We need to be more cognizant of the fact that successful change involves both analytical planning and managing the reality of emotions.