Three Phases of Transition

From Managing Transitions by William Bridges (2009).

  1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time when you need to help people to deal with their losses.
  2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the “neutral zone”: it’s when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place.
  3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work.

Because transition is a process by which people unplug from an old world and plug into a new world, we can say that transition starts with an ending and finishes with a beginning.

I would like to draw your attention to the neutral zone. It is especially relevant for fresh graduates like us who are at that in-between stage. Just out of school life, not fully in the working life, just somewhere in between.

Bridges says it’s important to understand and expect this stage so that:

  1. You won’t rush through or bypass the neutral zone and be discouraged when you fail to do so. You may mistakenly conclude that the confusion felt is a sign that something is wrong with you.
  2. You may be frightened in this no-man’s-land and try to escape (quitting the job). To abandon the situation, however, is to abort the transition, both personally and organizationally – and to jeopardize the change.
  3. You lose an opportunity to be creative, develop into what you need to become and renew yourself. “I had an immense advantage over many others dealing with the problem. I had no fixed ideas derived from long-established practice to bias my mind, and did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is right.” – Henry Bessemer, the British inventor who perfected the process of making steel by decarbonizing iron with heated air.

The neutral zone is thus both a dangerous and an opportune place, and it is the very core of the transition process.

I think I’m really currently experiencing this creativity that comes with being new in the job. My eyes are open to opportunities, I want to make a difference to the situations faced, I question why things aren’t done in a better way. It’s just cool. I hope to capitalize and prolong this period as much as I can! 🙂


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