The Four Ways People Respond to Change

This post is one of Jeff’s regular submissions in the “Supercharge Change” series. Subscribe for free insights, tools, and videos here.

The lights went out and then the screaming began!

I was at the American Museum of Natural History, enjoying the exhibit on how rock ‘cathedrals’ are formed on the ocean floor. Checking the time, I headed over to the theater to watch a short movie about the origins of the universe. It was planetarium and I was looking forward to a relaxing show in the reclined seats.

As the lights began to dim, I heard a whimper followed by a loud cry as pitch black descended completely. The child would not be comforted and the parents made a beeline for the exit.

I’m sure those parents believed their child would enjoy the movie. Who doesn’t love to look at the stars?? And yet for him, the darkness was a threat. He couldn’t see beyond the momentary disorientation to the joy of a journey into space.

It’s difficult to predict how individuals will react to something new. I’ve seen people trip over what seemed to be the simplest, most beneficial changes. For example, new patient tracking software promises advance notice of potential risks. It can save lives. Yet healthcare workers view it as:

  • More work – staff have to enter more patient info
  • A tool for micromanagement – leaders have reports showing the regularity of updates
  • A threat to pride – employees might look incompetent when first learning to use it or it may expose a lack of ‘computer know-how’

Each perspective is legitimate. They help frame the four responses to change.


  1. Flight – Some will want to leave the role or the company.
  2. Fight – Others resist either openly or passively.
  3. Freeze – Not knowing what to do, they do nothing.
  4. Flourish – Eager employees see the advantages and jump on board

With than in mind, now we can watch and plan for each type of response.

I’ll be sharing more about strategies for managing each response in the coming weeks. To read more about this model, check out my contribution in the Change Management Review.

Thoughtfully yours,

Jeff Skipper

Jeff Skipper Consulting | accelerating change for dramatic results

403.589.6226 | | in | tw |

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.