Fight, flight or freeze – what’s your response to change?

    Oct 28, 2022 | Posted by Katie Brown

    As Humans we are physiologically programmed to identify changes in the environment. We have an innate ability to sense disruption to the norm and react to it. That’s our built-in change detector calling our attention to things that are out of sync in our environment so we can respond appropriately. When “one of these things is not like the other”, it’s time to pay attention. And so we do.

    Paying attention to changes and threats is not just so we can run away or go to bat against them, but also to adapt. Fight, flight and freeze are logical outcomes to a potential threat.

    Change resistance is natural and universal and so is adapting to change. Because of this we take advantage of opportunities. We develop new skills. Research tells us the common ways we react. They are Fight, Flight and Freeze. Here’s what they mean:

    • In fight mode, you actively resist change. You might think things like: “I’m afraid it won’t be done right. I just need to push harder and do it my way!” 
    • In flight mode, you actively avoid change. You might say, “I’m afraid to get into a fight about this I don’t have time to get all worked up about this”
    • In freeze mode, you might not take any action at all. You might think things like: “I’m afraid that I don’t have the answer. I don’t know what to do”

    You might find that one, or multiple, of these behaviours is how you would react in the face of change. Take a moment to identify which one or ones apply to you and your team.

    Our response to change is 100% a mental game, which means we can change it. While our instinct may be to run away, with mitigation strategies we can reduce the time it takes to overcome these barriers.

    Change Management facilitates a smoother less resistant road to embracing the change; new way of working, new systems and processes. As change practitioners we engineer a positive approach to challenges.

    First, as change professionals, our initial responsibility is to educate our stakeholders. Not just about the practicalities of the change, but what they feel about it and in turn how they influence others on the subject.

     Prosci's Tactics for Managing Resistance to Change which you can view here details 10 tactics to overcome change resistance. You will notice that they begin with listen and understand. This is the most effective method of combating fear, in business and in our personal conflicts.

    The world we live in

    From the pandemic to the global economy and the rise of technology we are forcing companies and organizations of all kinds of change in order to be competitive and viable.

    Even when change is necessary, however, employees can view it more sceptically than managers and executives would like to believe. And when employees take a negative view of change, their performance may suffer.

    Mid level managers and sponsors of change can mitigate these problems by getting employees on board with a change early and, more importantly, emphasizing how that change will be positive in the long run. To put it on the simplest of terms.

    Once you have identified how you and your team are responding to the change, only then can you choose the right path to mitigating that fight, flight or freeze response.

    Learn more

    If you're interested in becoming expertly equipped to manage your teams through change, consider attending an upcoming Prosci Change Management Practitioner Certification Programme. Download the brochure to find out more.

    CMC Global also works with a variety of organisations across a variety of industries and geographies to provide them with change management support and training solutions.

    If you'd like to know more about how we can work directly with your organisation, get in touch!