Temperament and Change
by Donna Dunning


Adapted from Donna Dunning, Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Change (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission


Introduction to Change

Change is a broad term we use when anything becomes different or is replaced. Considering change has such a sweeping definition, it is not surprising that change is all around us. Any workday may bring a number of changes, which can range from fairly minor details such as the type of coffee available to major modifications in policy and procedure. You may also find the equipment and software you are using is being upgraded, the people working in your department are moving to different positions and new people have been hired. Working relationships can develop or break down. The size and nature of your personal workspace may be affected.

While this multitude of changes constantly affects your day-to-day routines and experiences, adjustments also need to be made in your work roles, duties, and expectations themselves. Leadership and organizational structure can change as well. This might affect whom you report to and how you go about doing your work. Health and personal circumstances also change throughout life and can affect the type of work you want to or can do. Even larger, more global changes may affect our work as people across the planet deal with economic and political realities.



Since change is obviously a common event with far-reaching consequences, it is important to consider how you react to and cope with it. To successfully navigate change, everyone must move through four steps: acknowledging change, accepting change, adjusting to new realities, and then anticipating change.

When acknowledging change you clearly define what will be different and how the differences will affect you. Acceptance of change is an essential next step where you become ready to move forward. Once change is acknowledged and accepted, you can begin to tailor your adjustment to the situation. A final step you should take is to anticipate change. By anticipating change, you can begin the process of acknowledging, accepting, and adjusting before the next change actually begins to affect you. This proactive orientation can place you ahead of the change and result in much greater preparation for and ability to adapt to change.

Temperament and Change

Your temperament will influence how you react and adjust to change. The actions and interactions of each temperament tend to reflect underlying needs. By focusing on and finding ways to best meet these needs, individuals of all temperaments can learn to thrive in times of change.

No temperament group adapts to change better or worse overall than any other group. Each group has its own unique strengths and challenges. This section will help you understand these differences so you can meet the needs of each group during times of change.

What the Four Temperaments Seek in Times of Change


• A vision of an ideal, improved state
• Alignment of the vision with their personal values
• Meaningful purposes for changes
• Knowledge of how the change will make things better for people
• Possibilities and opportunities for people to develop
• Consideration for the effects of the change on the individuals involved
• Mechanisms in place to help people navigate
the change
• Chances to grieve for and deal with what is being left behind
• General direction rather than specific steps
for change
• Minimal disruption in organizational atmosphere and morale


• A chance to share their experiences about what has already been tried
• Opportunities to preserve what works well now
• Practical, realistic reasons for and benefits of the change supported by data
• A clear, concrete picture of what the new reality will look like
• A solid link between the current and proposed realities
• A step-by-step plan with details on how to implement the change
• Clear roles and expectations within the change process
• Incremental change anchored by current realities
• A clearly defined plan with measurable outcomes and time frames
• A sense of belonging and identity throughout
the change


• A vision and model for the change
• An overview of a strategic path forward
• Logical reasons for the change
• A definitive purpose and goals to be achieved through the change
• A clear rationale for the direction chosen
• Analysis of possible directions and options
• Long-term and global benefits of the change
• Opportunities to conceptualize and strategize
the change
• A sense of competence and task mastery
• Independence with opportunities to modify and improve the plan


• Practical information about the change
• An opportunity to give input about how things are right now
• A clear picture of how actions will lead to outcomes
• Opportunities to act while the change is being planned
• Something to do right away
• Concrete actions resulting in practical benefits
• Practical applications for the change
• A chance to maneuver and adapt
• Flexibility and options designed into the change
• A chance to troubleshoot problems as the change is being implemented


Adapted from Donna Dunning, Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments and Change: Strategies for Navigating Workplace Change (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission

Find out more about Donna Dunning, M.Ed.



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