We all know those people. In fact, for most of us we have probably worked with, or currently work with them. You know the ones. The ones that constantly seem to resist any new idea, thought, or proposal for change. When asked why, their response is often along the lines of “we tried that 10 years ago and it didn’t work”, or “people won’t like that” etc. These people are in every Organisation. They can be toxic and negatively impact the wider workforce trying to drive positive change within the business if not dealt with constructively.
But, I also know this.
Resistance to change almost always comes from fear and insecurity. A lack of understanding as to what the change means for them, and how it might impact them. Therefore, it is easier to retreat to safety. To what they know and are comfortable with. To push back. To oppose. To resist.
I see this come up often with work I do with leaders. They feel lost and a little helpless in terms of how to manage this resistance, or how to keep the rest of the team motivated and not dragged into a minority approach to negativity. I see it in colleagues who work with these people too. Desperately wanting to continue to positively drive the organisation forward, yet bogged down in seemingly endless negativity and feeling powerless to change it.
Whether you lead a team, or you are part of a team, and work with a colleague who seems to constantly be opposed to any kind of change, here are some tips for you to consider as to how you can positively move things forward and continue to drive change:
- Always remember the 'WIFM' principle to change – WIFM stands for ‘What’s in it for me?’, and although people may not realise this when they are resisting a new idea or thought, it is usually coming from a place of fear, because they cannot understand exactly what benefit the change means for them. Whenever a new process, idea, project is coming into play, always remember the WIFM principle. If people can understand exactly how a change will help them, they are more likely to get on board with it.
- Lend an ear and try to understand what is going on for them –Sometimes people don’t have strong support networks, or any support network. Therefore, they have no outlet to get things off their chest –guess what then happens? It comes out in meetings, emails, or water cooler conversations (even virtual ones). Sometimes people who appear constantly resistant to change, just need to feel heard and understood – they need to air their laundry and feel like someone empathises with them. If you feel like you can do this, it may significantly help. It also puts you in a position to then do the below.
- Now, ask them for a positive contribution –Now that you have heard what is going on for this person, and why they feel the way they do – ask them for something positive they can do about it to take action. Alternatively, if you find you can’t do step two, yet you are still met with regular negativity and resistance, try this tip. Let’s say someone has just downloaded a whole heap of negativity in a meeting, and the tone of the meeting has now taken a dive – you could lighten things up again by saying something like “Ok, well now that we’ve gotten through all the negatives, there must be something positive we can do with it all – what do you think we can do?”. Look to that person and wait for them to provide a response.
- Don’t take it personally – it is not about you– This is the most important tip of all. DO NOT take other people’s negativity and resistance personally. It is not about you. It is about what is going on for them. The behaviours that you see or experience manifest out of insecurities, fear and anger. The most important thing you can remember is to not take it personally, or take it home from work with you.
- Call it out if you feel you can –Sometimes people can be cynical or pessimistic by nature, and this can come out as negativity or resistance. Often though, they do not realise the impact they can have on others in a meeting, a conversation, or the downer they place on things. If you find yourself in a position with someone, and they just keep putting in unhelpful or unfounded negative commentary and resistance – constructively call it out. Get them to explain more and own what they are saying. Ask them to explain why they believe the proposed idea or change can’t work. You might find that either a) you at least get to understand what is going on for them, or b) they are forced to own their negative commentary which might see them dial it back.
- Be responsible for your reaction – Whether the person is negative and resistant or not, ultimately, you’re the one who is perceiving the person this way. Be aware of this and why you are finding this person negative or resistant. We may not always have control over the environment around us, or the people we work with, however what we do have complete control over is how WE choose to react to an environment or a situation, and how we choose to show up.
- Remove yourself temporarily if you need to – Looking after yourself is the most important thing you can do. If you are finding that someone’s negativity and constant opposition is really starting to impact your own mindset and motivation, remove yourself for a bit. This might be challenging sometimes in a work environment for you to do indefinitely, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take a moment, or an afternoon to step away and restore your energy by doing something else.
Navigating change and uncertainty is a skill needed by all leaders – those both formally in leadership positions, and those informally. I work with Organisations to help build confident, courageous and self-aware leaders who are able to navigate change for their teams, in order to continue to drive better business outcomes. If this is something you need support with, I’d love a virtual coffee! I can promise you no B/S and no jargon, just real-talk and real conversation.