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This morning I was reminded about the time I got cubed. 

A number of years ago, I was a Sr. Director at an organization going through a real estate move. Before the move, I had a large office with plenty of space and storage, just like all of the others at my level and above.

Then we moved floors. 

I got cubed. I was the ONLY Sr. Director who did not get an office. 

It was a nice cube. It was a large cube. But it was a cube. No one explained why I was the only leader at my level who didn’t get an office. No one even acknowledged it.

I was not happy at all. I was seriously pissed off.

In retrospect, I wasn’t angry. I was hurt and embarrassed. I felt a message was being sent that I was “less than” the others at my level. I felt shame.

Now, those feelings are a result of bags I’ve carried around since middle school and that’s my stuff to deal with.

But there also is a lesson here in managing the people side of change–managing transitions.

  • Change is what happens TO people; transition is the internal process someone goes through as they navigate the personal impacts (good or bad) of a change.
  • We don’t resist the change itself, but the transition and (real or perceived) losses that come with a change.
  • Unfortunately, leaders often far underestimate the reactions people will have, or make light of them, and are surprised by the resistance.

I wasn’t resisting the CHANGE of getting cubed; I was resisting the transition, the losses I associated with it.

  • Loss of status
  • Loss of equivalency
  • Loss of respect
  • Loss of value

These losses might all have been perceived, not real, but they were real to me.

Here’s the rub: If someone had a conversation with me and acknowledged the situation, explained it wasn’t an indication of my value or how I was perceived, and that yes it was kind of shitty but it was because they wanted to keep me close to the team and that meant putting me in a cube… I still would have been pissed off. But I would have understood, and I would have gotten over it a heck of a lot faster. 

All it would have taken was a conversation.

Managing transitions is about anticipating reactions, acknowledging losses, and helping people navigate through them. It starts with a conversation.

But we ALWAYS underestimate the reactions people will have to change, the losses people will feel with change. We discredit their reactions with “They’re overreacting.” We don’t want to step into the hard conversations and figure if we ignore it, it will go away, because after all, it’s not a “real” loss. 

But we forget that we humans assign meaning to the oddest things.
Like a cube.
I laugh about it now and use it as a cautionary tale when I talk about managing transitions. I’m passionate about this work and love to share it with leaders. If you’d like to build your leaders’ skills with managing transitions, contact me and let’s connect.

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