Yield Sign

Don’t Yield to Resistance!

Change and its mirror image, resistance, is ubiquitous in the workplace.  The reasons for resistance are varied; they are driven by the business context for the change, the baggage each person involved in the change is carrying, and the macroeconomic environment.  Passing aside the “I just don’t like you” rationale for resistance there are many more actionable reasons for resistance. Some reasons people resist change are obvious (at least after examining how people are behaving) and some are less obvious (but still potent) without significant digging.  Some of the more pernicious reasons for resistance are: (more…)

Resistance to the heat is futile!

Organizational change is a common, almost ubiquitous, feature in today’s business world. Change is known under many monikers, from transformation to creative destruction, and the variety of names is a portent to the one constant in any organizational change: resistance. Resistance is defined by Changing Minds as the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive the change that is occurring as a threat to them.  Resisters come in many forms, including: * these are listed from the most problematic to least.

Naysayers – There are those in most organizations that have never met an idea or change that they like.  Naysayers will go out of their way (perhaps even habitually) to express negative or pessimistic views.  Naysayers don’t need a specific reason to be negative or pessimistic . . . they just are.  Naysayers are typically a cancer on an organization and need to be removed.

Enemies – Organizations are political environments.  Every change has to have a sponsor and there are often factions within the organization that are actively or passively struggling against the sponsor and her/her ideas.  Change programs are often large and important enough that a failure can severely negatively impact a career.  Leveraging the appropriate change sponsor is often needed to ensure that the proper pressure is provided to dampen internal political objections.

Indirect or Passive Aggressive Resister – The great O’Jay’s song “Back Stabbers” illustrated this form of resistance perfectly.  


(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers) (AZLyrics)

Use public commitments or public signing events to get the indirect or passive aggressive resistor to commit to the change even more openly.  Your goal is to increase the price they pay for resisting behind your back.

My Way or The Highway Resisters – This class of resister is not anti-change; rather they are for change if they are championing the idea and against if it is someone else’s idea.  Find a way to incorporate this type of resister into defining or implementing the change.  If they accept the role they will have to accept at least partial ownership of the change.

Committed to Current State Resisters – One the statements most often heard when discussing change is “we always do it this way.” There are many reasons people might be committed to the current process, ranging from fear of change in the organization’s social order, to lack of personal competence.  Diagnose the reason for the resistance and determine if the reason can be addressed.  People in this camp will be fairly easy to identify (they generally are not trying to hide), and can be leveraged to find the holes in new processes. Just be ready to hear why what is being proposed is not what is done today.

Not Convinced – This class of resister is often a reflection of a change program that has poorly communicated the rationale for a change and/or the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) component of change management. People truly in the “not convinced” category can be converted by personal interaction and communication.  Do not assume that communication and change management programs tailored to convince people will work for everyone. Say things many ways and many times!

While the Borg might believe that resistance is futile, no one has told the population of most organizations.  Resistance is inevitable.  Recognizing why it is happening starts by understanding who is resisting, but then has to get into the weeds.  The big idea here is that knowing the type of resistance you are facing is just step one of tackling a longer and more difficult problem.

Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Beware Of Poisonous SnakesHiking and delivering change have similar aspects.  Neither activity is without dangers.  As a change agent you need to be aware that not everyone will be as excited by the changes you bring to the organization as you are. Some will be openly critical and others will hide their criticism behind a veneer of approval and support. I am always disappointed by this type of resistance therefore I am often disappointed. What I am is not thwarted.

As with snakes, forewarned is forearmed. Delivering a change requires aligning you allies, marketing your change, providing support, listening to feedback and considering who will resist both overtly and covertly.  Having a plan to deal with problems you can anticipate before they crop up makes sense unless creating the plan stops you from delivering. Waiting until everyone is on your side or you have a plan to deal with every eventuality will cause planning paralysis and you will never deliver. Plan your route, tell someone where you are going, grab a snake bite kit and then hit the trail.  Just watch for the snakes!