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Kubler Ross Change Curve is a model which was originally developed to understand the grieving process. It was first introduced by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in 1960s. This model has since then been used for change management by understanding the emotional reactions of people to change.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Raj Saxena on 17th Jul 2020


Applause for all the respondents - Logic, Mohamed Asif, Alpesh Gorasia, Pinku Lal Karan, Kalyan D, Sourabh Nandi, Raj Saxena, Ashok Ghodke


Q 279. The recent pandemic has brought a big change in our lives. Human reactions to this change follow Kubler Ross curve. What is this curve and what are the learnings for the organizations?


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What is this curve?

Kubler Ross curve is also known as ‘Five stage of Grief’. This model was introduced by Swiss-American Psychiatrist Elisabth Kuber-Ross in her 1969 book ‘On Death and Dying’. This book and the work she had done was inspired by her work with patients who were terminally ill.

It’s a series of various level/stages of emotions which are experienced by: -

-          A ill patient prior to death

-          A person who is going to approach death

-          A person who is a survivor of close acquainted to death

-          A person who have lost a loved one


These five stages are: -

1.       Denial: - Its first stage.

           a.       Short lived stage mostly but sometime some people may remain in the state of denial for longer time

           b.       Doesn’t accept what is happening and that its happening to him/her

           c.       Individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistake

2.       Anger: - Second stage of Kubler Ross curve.

          a.       Individual recognize that denial can’t continue

          b.       Realization of actual situation

          c.       Psychological response (ie. Why only me? Why would this happen?)

          d.       Frustration, short tempered and always remain irritable

3.       Bargaining: - Third stage comprises hope.

          a.       Ways to postpone

          b.       Trying to find best thing left behind

          c.       Negotiate in the situation and come to a point of compromise

          d.       Search for dissimilar outcomes which helps in less traumatic

          e.       Attempt to bargain for more time to live

4.       Depression: - Fourth stage of sadness.

          a.       Losing interest, not bother about whats going on

          b.       Individual hopelessness at the recognition of their mortality

          c.       Sadness, fear, regret, Guilt

5.       Acceptance: - Fifth and last stage of resigned.

          a.       Embrace mortality or unavoidable future

          b.       Accepting the reality that grief will not go away


What are the learning for the organizations?


This is very reliable tool to understand/help the different stages of employee who are going through significant transformation in organization. It also helps department head to understand the transition of his team mates to one position to other or one department to other department. And this further helps manager to build a good road map or different strategy to support employee transition to finally make controlled situation and successful task completion.



Trying to explain with some real example “Change of role”.



          -          Denial: - He doesn’t accept the sudden change. He start thinking why it’s happened to him only.

          -          Overcome with situation: - Give clear communication why there is change of role. What is purpose behind it and why its require? It may be need of organization with his specific skills.


          -          Anger: - so employee understand the denial can’t continue and he realized the situation but there is anger and frustration.

          -          Overcome with situation: - when people leave their comfort zone then they need time to adopt the situation and this adapt situation make sometime people frustrating. Other than communication, they also need support to adopt with current situation and spare some time. This is natural reaction as changes are not really smooth always.


          -          Bargaining: - Employee start negotiation to reach on the point of compromise. They may try to find best place to fit themselves.

          -          Overcome with situation: - Understand/assess the current level of employees and feed them with good training skills which make them more productivity instead of working in compromise way.


          -          Depression: - Adjustment with situation or adjusting in different team with different skill people is not always easy which make employee feel sad and depressed.

          -          Overcome with situation: - More astonishing training, finding easier way to explain situation, try making situation ease for employee so that he can adjust, make social gathering within office with team members.


          -          Acceptance: - Employee finally accepting the changes. Some start working with new change and some may resign due to unfit the situation.

          -          Overcome with situation: - Productivity improved as employee either with you working as per new changes.


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The Kubler-Ross curve is an early and the original model of the 5 stages of grief. As the grieving process starts with Shock, goes into denial, anger, and depression and finally ends with acceptance. 

However, I for one don't think the mass social reaction towards the recent Covid pandemic follows this same exact pattern. Yes it started with shock, then went straight into anger towards the authorities and then a quick leap into acceptance. The world is starting to move on knowing this might very well be something we will have to live with. 

Organizations, mainly corporate houses, were the first to 'demand' acceptance because without it their losses would keep piling up. The example is the immediacy of Work From Home concept. They did not have time to grieve or go into denial. The machinery was falling apart and the human parts needed to perform.

The WFH in fact proved to be a boon for capable managers. Wipro for one has made a policy now that at any point of time there will be 33 percent of their staff on the office floors. This helps cut their management costs, infrastructure costs, and enables a more portable and manageable workforce. This system also ensures an equal degree of efficiency from WFH employees, if not more, because they are working at the comfort of their homes so they give better output. A cut in employee's travel allowance is another moneysaver. 

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Kubler-Ross Change Curve is a version for crossing the transition between - Change initiation to reaching overall goal. It describes the emotional journey that people undergo when coming across with change and transition.


Below are the typical emotional change over’s

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Anger / Frustration
  • Depression
  • Experiment
  • Decision
  • Integration / Acceptance

This can be viewed in 4 broad stages:




Stage 1

Status Quo

Shock, Denial

Stage 2


Anger, Fear, Blame, Confusion

Stage 3


Searching, Acceptance

Stage 4


Commitment, Problem-solving


People's reaction to pandemic is no different and resembles the below curve



Critical learnings and take away from this transition that organization should adopt and look into would be to:

  • Involve and engage people
  • Put people first
  • Move faster
  • Reimaging value creation
  • Communicate with transparency
  • Working at the speed of customer
  • Build augmented workforce strategy
  • Reskill resources – Promote and facilitate digital learning
  • Make processes and services mobile and flexible
  • Adopting ecosystem mindset
  • Embrace new technologies and data-rich technology platforms
  • Empower leaders with judgement
  • Turbocharge decision making
  • Treat talents as scarcest resource
  • Learn how to learn
  • Change, adapt and innovate

Not only adopting these at crisis situation, nevertheless it should be considered on-going basis to evolve, grow and achieve organizational success and it could possibly shrink the change transition timeline.



It takes time, Nevertheless, Difficult times often bring out the best in people.


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Kubler ross done research on subject of dying experience and death.He came out with five stages which represents series of emotions which person gone through after facing traumatic condition.


Below are the five stages.

1> Depression

2> Bargaining

3> Anger

4> Shock

5> Acceptance


Based on above emotions he made a change curve which is known as Kubler ross curve.


If you want to make cultural change in your organization, you face challenge about to help and support team through above individual phases, which can many times traumatic - Involve loss of prestige, power or even your job also.


Easier you make the journey for team, fastest the organization will get benefit and you will be more successful and if you get wrong in this it may be heading for your project and your failure.


The Kubler ross curve is a strong and powerful model to understand the stages of transitions and change in organization.

It helps you to predict how team / person will react to change so that you can guide them for their own personal transitions and ensure that they get all the supports which they required.

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The Kubler-Ross Change Curve is a paradigm for navigating the transitions between when a change is initiated to reaching the organization’s overall goal. The model was first introduced by Swiss-American Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969.


Organizations use Kubler-Ross’s research to understand how people navigate change. Change is an upsetting time for people as it can introduce a variety of uncertainty. The ability to manage the different stages of change – and the manifestation of the behaviors and reactions associated with change is critical.


Managing change effectively means helping people and organizations transition from the ‘current state’ to the ‘future state’ in a way that minimizes productivity losses, customer impact and employee turnover. All change involves loss at some level. This model is used to understand how people react to change at different times.


The stages are

Shock: During this stage, individuals and teams are taken aback by the announcement. Individuals and teams will express surprise and wonder what the impetus for this change is. Shock is a discomforting stage for individuals and teams and they will be trying to prove their worth.

Denial: Denial is when individuals and teams look for reasons why the change will not happen. For larger organizations, the entrenched nature of operating procedures usually serves as the disconfirming evidence.

Anger: As employees move through the process, anger is a distinct possibility. Individuals and teams are frustrated because they feel as if they are not being set up to succeed. The frustration becomes an impediment to productivity.

Bargaining: This stage is when individuals and teams avoid the change, delay it or attempt to sell an easier and less uncomfortable alternative. Because this is a time when team members are attempting to stave off change, productivity rates continue to descend.

Depression: Workplace nihilism takes root during this point. Individuals and team members often question their existential purpose and become less motivated. This dour nature impedes productivity as engagement and enthusiasm are at a low point.

Acceptance: At this point, the change is integrated. The people within a company accept there is a new way of doing things and appreciate the importance of learning new methods and procedures.


Advantages of Kubler-Ross Curve

· This model gives insights to understand the emotional stages involved in any process of change. If these are managed better, then entire journey of change will be smooth and successful.

· This model useful because it is very easy to understand and apply to any situation. People can relate it to their personal and professional lives and be able to understand the transitional stages.


Disadvantages of Kubler-Ross Curve

· This model lacks empirical evidence to support its assumptions and it fails to fully explain complex forms of emotions people have to cope with during change process.

· These stages of grief or loss are neither sequential nor work in parallel. It is not always that a person must reach the last stage, as he may get stuck in any stage.

· The model is also criticized for being relevant to some situation and some culture and it is not applicable to all situations of entire change process.


What are the learnings for the organizations?

The Kubler-Ross Curve is a useful change management strategy to navigate through organizational change. This model is successfully applied to business and work environment to explain behavior of employees going through change process at their organizations. It can help by:

· Creating an alignment

· Maximizing communication

· Sparking motivation

· Developing capabilities

· Sharing knowledge


Building structures to help people move through change quickens the adaptation process as many people experience feelings of loss during the change.


When Organization use this model they find most people are relieved to identify the stage they are currently in as well as recognizing what they have previously felt.


People identify with the stages from past experiences of change that might have been of a personal nature. It's also a huge relief to know that these reactions and feelings are normal and are not signs of weakness or that they are falling apart. People immediately get a better sense of their reactions and why colleagues are behaving in a particular way.

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Kuber Ross change model decribe internal emotional change every individual experience when dealing with a change and Transition. the journey consists of below major stages. The stages in this model are Shock,  Denial, Anger Bargaining, Depression& Confusion  , Acceptance and Problem solving.


When Covid 19 lockdown intiated by respective goverments every one get shocked , Every one denined that that lock down period will not be too long , the virus is not major threat ,But when the period is extended every one started blaming or got angry, their day to day needs were not met they started expressing in different ways. To stay inside home people started bargaining with Goverment agencies, There were miniumum intial reliefs announced by goverment to tackle the situaiton like differing EMI payment, Ration benifits, Electricity bill waver, limitation in lock down hours to purchase necessary items etc. . When People where not allowed to come outside for a period of time , this leads to depression and confusion about the future on employment, studies  businesss prospests etc over a period of time.  But after seeing the curve on number of incidents reported, recovery cases & death cases people start accepting that the virus is deadly one and needs precautions to avoid spreading. Later on they reliazed and understand ways to reduce the spread by analysing the problem. After problem solving people & goverment experts come out with minimum rules to be followed to protect self & spreading by


1. Social distanc between people & Avoid gathering

2. Using Mask all times

3. Wash hands frequently with sanitizors

4. While sneezing use Tissue paper or cover with elbow to avoid spreading though airborne


Thus Kubler Ross Model is perfectly fit for current covid situaiton one experiencing right now,

Kubler - Ross Change Curve.jpg

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Kubler-Ross model, involving the following stages: shock, denial, awareness, acceptance, experimentation, search and integration.  The below figures illustrate how people typically react to change. Lean Six Sigma projects are about changing things for the better. We’re trying to improve processes–so change is inevitable. Blindly hoping that doing the same things in the same way will magically improve your product or service is head-in-the-sand (HITS) thinking. This is what all the organisations learn from the current pandemic situation.



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Kubler Ross Change Curve consist of Five stages denialangerbargainingdepression and acceptance. This model was introduced by and is named after Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in a book called 'Death and Dying' which came out in the year 1969




Importance of Kubler-Ross Change Curve in Business

The Kubler-Ross Model is also applicable for businesses. Every organization needs to bring about changes in its management and policies. But besides the improvement of systems, there must be a change in the people or employees as well. If even in bringing about several changes in the systems and processes, the employees of your company persist in their old ways, and then the thousands of dollars invested will go to waste. Therefore, it is important for the employees too to adapt and change accordingly. Only when the workforce of an organization makes personal changes, or transitions can the company move ahead and reap the benefits.

Every organization needs to support the employees in the process of making transitions or changes. These individual transformations can be traumatic and may involve a lot of power loss and prestige issues. The easier it is for the employees to move along on their journey, the easier will it be for the organization to move towards success. Thus, this impacts the success rate and overall profits experienced by the company. The Change Curve in business is thus a powerful model that can help one understand and deal with changes and personal transitions. It helps to fathom how one will react to change and how to provide support during the process of change.


The 5 stages of grief

It is important to understand that we do not move along the stages in a linear direction or step by step. A person tends to move into stages in a random order and may sometimes even return to a previous stage after a certain point in time. Each stage can last for a different time period, and it is possible for a person to get stuck in a particular stage and not move on from there. The following are brief descriptions of each of the 5 stages of grief:


1.      Denial: The Stage of shock or denial is usually the first stage in the Kubler-Ross Model and is mostly short-lived. This is a phase during which one puts on a temporary defence mechanism and takes time to process certain disturbing news or reality. One may not want to believe what is happening and that it is happening to him/her. It can bring about a dip in productivity and the ability to think and act. After the initial shock subsides, one may experience denial and may remain focused on the past. Some people tend to remain in the state of denial for a long time and may lose touch with reality.


2.      Anger: When the realization finally hits, and one understands the gravity of the situation, he/she may become angry and may look for someone to blame. Anger can be manifested or expressed in many ways. While some take out the anger on themselves, others may direct it towards others around them. While some may be angry at life in general, others may blame the economy. One always tends to remain irritable, frustrated and short tempered during this stage.


3.      Bargaining: When the stage of anger passes away, one may start thinking about ways to postpone the inevitable and try to find out the best thing left in the situation. Those who are not faced by death but by another trauma may try to negotiate in the situation and come to a point of compromise. Bargaining may help to come to a sustainable solution and might bring some relief to those who are moving close to what they wish to avoid altogether. The search for a different outcome or a less traumatic one may remain on during this stage.


4.      Depression: Depression is a stage in which the person tends to feel sadness, fear, regret, guilt and other negative emotions. He/she may have completely given up by now and may now reach a dead end from where the road only seems dark. One may display signs or indifference, reclusiveness, pushing others away and zero excitement towards anything in life. This may seem like a lowest point in life with no way ahead. Some common signs of depression include sadness, low energy, feeling demotivated, losing trust in god, etc.


5.      Acceptance: When people realize that fighting the change that is coming into their life is not going to make the grief go away, they resign to the situation and accept it completely. The resigned attitude may not be a happy space but is one in which the person may stop resisting change and move ahead with it.

While some people totally resign and go into a deep state of low energy, others may try to make the most of the time left on their hand and explore new opportunities. One has come to a point of peace and is prepared to take one whatever must follow next.


Corona Pandemic also hit us all in a same way. Now we all have accepted to live with it so there is an progress.


Reference: Wikipedia

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Everyone has given great answers, however the best answer has been given by Raj Saxena for listing out what actions the organizations can take at each stage of the curve.


Strongly recommended to read all answers.

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