Having completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I went on to start my career in hometown, working in HR for four years. I enjoyed it, but somewhere along the way I felt the need to leave my comfort zone. I went back to university to improve my knowledge and explored new possibilities to experience life in other countries.

Over the last two years I have lived in Spain, Italy and most recently Germany. I’ve met many people from different backgrounds, learnt about various cultures and seen some amazing places, so I’m used to changing environments and situations.

But when I moved to Germany at the beginning of March 2020, I could never have expected how it would turn out. As with my previous moves, I didn’t have any friends there, I didn’t know any of my colleagues or the city and on the day before my internship started, the lockdown was announced.

I realized how I have been through the ‘emotional cycle of change’ many times and I’d like to share my most recent experience.

Girl with brown hair wearing cream adidas sweatshirt smiling and standing with arms crossed in front of pink adidas Originals Trefoil logo on the wall, İpek Ünlü, career, internship, adidas, virtual
The excitement of starting an internship at adidas became an unexpected challenge.

What is the ‘emotional cycle of change’?

The emotional cycle of change is a model in psychology developed by Don Kelley and Daryl Conner explaining how we face, react to and deal with changes in our lives. The cycle of change has five stages:

  1. Uninformed optimism – At this stage we are excited about change. We have plans and see the advantages of the change, but we don’t know what it is going to take from us.
  2. Informed pessimism – As the new situation takes place and we start to face the difficulties and challenges, the informed pessimism starts. Negative emotions such as frustration and anxiety kick in and you start to question if change is really needed or not. Between 2nd and 3rd step lies the valley of despair. It is very critical because many people give up at this level. You feel overwhelmed and you don’t think you can make it or the effort is worth it.
  3. Hopeful realism – If you manage to get out of the valley of despair, the sun shines again. During the hopeful realism stage, you start to rise and find solutions for your problems with the presence of a little bit of anxiety.
  4. Informed optimism – This is when you get your positive emotions back. You know what you’re doing, have a plan and have a strong hope for the future. You combine your experience with your positivity and continue on your journey.
  5. Success and fulfillment – You can see and experience the results of change. Reaching your goal brings a sense of satisfaction.

Before I started to work for adidas, I was very excited and clearly in uninformed optimism stage. Then as many others, I got hit by COVID-19 and followed all the stages of emotional cycle of change. Here are just some of the things that kept me going.

Black face mask with white adidas logo on wooden table with safety measures sign for COVID-19 outbreak, adidas, HQ, headquarters, precaution, health, employees, campus, Herzogenaurach
COVID-19 changed everything at adidas’ HQ in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Virtual onboarding

Onboarding is normally a very exciting time when you get to meet your colleagues, get to know the business and enjoy the first days of your work life. However, I started my internship virtually. Teleworking is something I’d practiced a lot over the past two years and it’s something that I’m comfortable with, yet I was not expecting to be onboarded virtually and work from home 100% of my time for three months.

During that time, I didn’t get the chance to meet any of my colleagues in person. Because of all the unexpected changes in the process, I started to feel the second stage of the cycle, informed pessimism. Difficulties and challenges tried to draw me into the valley of despair.

Our Future Talents team took a very fast action to convert the onsite onboarding event into virtual settings. So, all interns had the orientation and basic information sharing sessions online through Microsoft Teams events. Even the equipment that we need as new starters was sent to our homes.

Then, the onboarding within my team started. It was very intense that I had almost 10 virtual meetings every day with my colleagues to get to know each other, to learn the business and their specific job function areas. All my team members were very eager to share their knowledge, help me to learn more and make me feel as a part of the team.

The onboarding period at adidas helped me to get rid of all my negative feelings and see the light at the end of the tunnel! I saw opportunities above the difficulties which carried me to the hopeful realism stage.

Keeping our culture alive

It is important to seek new opportunities and to stay connected, beyond the physical space. Here are just some examples of how going digital helped get me to the informed optimism stage. I kept following my goals and plans by being resilient and positive.

Team culture is very important at adidas. Even though teleworking puts a physical distance between team members, we wanted to prove that it can’t prevent us from keeping the team spirit alive. We had daily check-in calls with the team to catch up. We had coffee/lunch dates to spend some time together and to keep the contact. We tried to support each other psychologically and socialize digitally. It had nothing to do with business topics, but more about to know each other.

We had stand-up meetings every week. Some of our colleagues offered online gym sessions; Lunch Roulette sessions matched colleagues based on their topic of interest; and there were many more creative solutions that helped us to stay connected.

Woman holding pen and paper while on virtual conference call with colleagues, internship, work, online, remote, WFH
Going virtual bridged the gap when the intern community couldn’t physically come together. ©Pojcheewin Yaprasert

The interns’ committees also did their best to keep the mood: The social committee ran virtual quiz nights, speed chat sessions and lunch gatherings to get us closer together; the fitness committee held events through the adidas Runtastic app and the career committee held a virtual ‘Striving Interns Speaker Series’ every week.

One team

At the end, I realized that physical distance hasn’t prevented us from being aligned with our colleagues. Now, we know each other even better.

I can say that adidas is a great place to work. It is great to be here not despite the quarantine, but because of the quarantine. Because I saw that there are many things to do as a company, as a team and as an individual even though you are not in the office and everything has changed.

If this is not the success and fulfillment stage, what is it? I reached my goals and had an amazing time at adidas in the teeth of the pandemic.

Closing the circle

To survive from the emotional cycle of change and stand strong, take advantage of your excitement. Make a list of the benefits that you will get from the change which will motivate you. If you feel overwhelmed, check your goals again and see if they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) enough. If not, try to reframe them based on the situation. Moreover, try to keep a diary. When you write down and verbalize your concerns and anxiety, it is easier to tackle them and find solutions.

We are human beings and we are always on an emotional rollercoaster, whether it is a big change or not. Always remember, whatever you do is for your current and future self. We will always be on the road without a destination. Be aware of the journey. Embrace it. Be flexible and resilient. Adapt to the situation. Inspire others. Greet the success and be confident.

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by Ken 10.11.2020
Great sharing! And I totally resonate with the "emotional cycle of change" when I first joined as a trainee too! Thank you for the great article, İpek!
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by Vince 16.11.2020
Great Article :)
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