The Plane Isn’t Free Falling, But You Still Need to Put Your Oxygen Mask on First.

Kathy Rapp Books, Career Advice, Change, Change Management, Coaching, Communication, Corporate America, Culture, Employee Communications, Employee Engagement, Engagement and Satisfaction, Good HR, HR

The person who gave me my start in HR also gifted me with a book, Managing Transitionsby William Bridges. At the time I was going through a professional change and my organization was in flux–the book was much appreciated.

Fast forward almost 28 years (yes, I started my career at 12) and I still revisit that book whenever I need to remind myself that change is what happens to people; transitions are what we go through internally.

I’ve had a bit of change happen to me this year and just when I think I’ve got this “managing transitions” stuff down, I seem to deal with each pivot, shift or Lucy ripping the football away, differently.

Some of you may feel you’ve managed through enough professional or personal change you’re almost superhuman. No curveballs here. You’ve got this, and you’re going to be the model for the rest of those saps who need your help.


It will never be as you expect it to be, so don’t think you’ve already got the playbook. You get to start over just like everyone else. And as HR professionals, you get to help your managers manage!

But, before you can help others, you must put your oxygen mask on first. As a parent, and in the moment, it would be a difficult task to do; however, you’re not going to be any help to your child, your direct reports or your co-workers until you’ve got your mask on.

And I’m not implying an organizational change is an extreme emergency either. The plane isn’t free falling. Everyone is going to be OK. You must ensure you’re really OK before you can be there for others in an authentic way.

So, how do you help yourself first?

Ending, Losing and Letting Go

It doesn’t matter if it’s a new leader, a merger, surviving a RIF or a restructuring that impacts how you get work done–you’ll experience an end or loss of something/someone and the need to let go.

Communicate how you’re dealing with the change and let others know what’s up. This is the roller coaster phase. One day you’re cool; the next day you can’t find enough Cheetos to drown your emotions.

Neutral Zone

This is when things can turn to mush. You feel unproductive or lost. Days, weeks, and even months can go by, and nothing much gets you excited.

You must be directive. Short-term goals are important for you to feel drive and accomplishment. Remind yourself why you’re there. Put the Cheetos down.

New Energy

The dots start to connect; pain or loss lessens, and there are new ideas. “Firsts” start to emerge, and new beginnings are recognized.

Take time to collaborate, share and celebrate! High-five yourself. You made it through the transition and only gained 5 lbs!

Change management can feel massive and academic when you’re trying to apply it across an organization. Be selfish and keep it simple. Recognizing and managing what you’re dealing with internally is the first step.

And don’t be afraid to do a Cheetos run at midnight if it makes you happy.