Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Change

Change Resistors and How to Deal With Them

I was watching the evening news when a reporter interviewed a man celebrating his 100th birthday. "You've seen a lot of changes in your 100 years, haven't you? Without batting an eye, the old gentlemen replied, "Yep, and I was opposed to every one of them!"

What a miserable way to spend a century!

I think I've met his cousins in my client organizations across the country. Are there some in your workplace? Oh m'gosh, it's not you, is it?

You can recognize them by their mantras..."
"We've already tried that..."
"We've always done it this way..."
"That'll never work..."

Are These People Trying To Be Difficult

Maybe yes, maybe no. It's true, there are some people who have a negative view of everything, and positive visionary people tick them off. They feel a calling (from where?) to sabotage those who dare to realistically change for the future.

But I would suggest that many if not most resistors to change are doing so for less malevolent reasons.

1. They may be so focused on their immediate tasks that they don't see how conditions have changed. I was in Beaver Creek, Colorado, July Fourth weekend for my stepdaughter's wedding - a beautiful event in an exquisite and not inexpensive locale. One factor astounded me. In 92-degree daytime weather, the hotels and restaurants had no air conditioning. When I asked the obvious "Why no A/C?" question, I was told "Our summer weather is so mild up here, we don't need it."

Ahem! Did you notice? It's 92 degrees. Is it possible your weather conditions have changed, and for the sake of your customers, you might need to adapt?

When conditions change gradually, in our lines of business, it's easy to miss the fact that the way we've always done it won't always work. Any of us is vulnerable to that blind spot.

2. They may be strongly committed to "doing things right." Change resistors are often conscientious people who know from experience that change brings about confusion and mistakes. They have high standards that tend toward perfectionism, and they wince at the idea that tested systematic procedures will bow to sometimes chaotic experiments.

In their zeal to do things right (which we'll all agree is a good thing), they can lose sight of the fact that doing the right thing sometimes calls for going through the wilderness of change.

3. Underneath the angry stubbornness,they may be afraid. Most people who resist change do so because they fear they will lose something they value in the process. They may feel afraid they will lose such things as...

  • A sense of competence - knowing what to do and how to do it well;
  • Power and influence;
  • Financial and emotional security
  • Valued relationships; and …
  • Familiarity - giving rise to the basic fear of the unknown.

Three strategies for creating comfort and buy in

1. Ask yourself, "Who stands to lose what?" By anticipating the possible perceptions of those affected by a proposed change, you can proactively plan to communicate ways that these needs will be met in the new situation.

2. Acknowledge, affirm, and show concern. It's a relief to have your concerns discussed and to know that: 1) someone notices and cares, and 2) transition plans will include addressing the needs of those who will implement the plans.

3. Involve people early and often. Much of the distress in change resistance grows from a perceived loss of control. The more quickly people are informed of the reasons for the change and are invited to participate in working out how the transition will be implemented - the more genuine the buy-in. Think about this. Did you ever wash a rental car? Why not?

Most people don't put forth extra effort without ownership. In a transition initiative, highly involved team members who have the pride as an owner will not only put forth their own best effort despite the hassles of change, they will influence those around them.

Don't resist resistors! They will only push back. Instead, give them the attention and the tools that enable them to move forward, and the majority will come on board.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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