Kübler-Ross Change Curve


This framework/concept is used when dealing with employees who are resistant to change.

When discussing the emotional response category of reactions to change, I think it’s important to work through the steps of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve, also known as the five stages of grief[i]. Yes, that sounds a bit dramatic for a discussion on digital transformation, but since its initial application to reactions to death and dying, it has been successfully and rather broadly applied to organizational and other personal change[ii].

Figure 3.1.1 The Kübler-Ross Change Curve
Figure 3.1.1 The Kübler-Ross Change Curve

As you can see in the figure above (Figure 3.1.1) we ultimately reach acceptance after a series of steps:

  • Shock and denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • and, ultimately, Acceptance

A good manager and leader knows that you can’t really skip a step here, but the goal instead is to be understanding that big changes aren’t easy for anyone.

[i] Kubler-Ross E. On Death and Dying. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 1969.

[ii] . Anastasia. Understanding the Kubler-Ross Change Curve. Cleverism; 2015. Available from: https://www.cleverism.com/ understanding-kubler-ross-change-curve/. [Last accessed on 2022 June 12].