You may laugh but there is some truth to that statement. However, while organizational change is inevitable, it doesn’t go over well to say this to your employees or to hear it from your boss. Change happens and the default response is pushback. It is as if we are hardwired for stability and when the circuitry is swapped out we struggle to learn the new operating system. Upgrade be dammed, if the work-around fixed the problem then leave it alone. Sound familiar? Everyone has been on both sides of change but resistance is especially difficult on those whose job it is to implement change. Knowing the behaviors to look for helps to map the terrain. Understanding what underlies these behaviors is the decoder ring.
Resistance behaviors fall into four categories:
1. Interrupting (talking over, cutting off)
2. Arguing (challenging, discounting, hostility)
3. Negating (blaming, disagreeing, excusing, claiming impunity, minimizing, pessimism, reluctance, unwillingness to change)
4. Ignoring (inattention, non-answer, no response, sidetracking)
Interrupting is a form of judgment and is the first level of resistance. “I’m right, you’re wrong and I’m going to make sure you understand why.” Judgment-based resistance focuses on information with the goal of logical persuasion.
When information-based resistance fails to achieve the desired outcome the next level of resistance is emotional. Arguing with challenges, discounting, and hostility are all emotional-based resistances that can turn even well intentioned people into angry bullies.
Negating and Ignoring are the third level of resistance. Employing cynicism and silence, these resistance strategies are often the most difficult to address. At the core of cynicism and silence is a general dissatisfaction that is larger than the current issue. Never make the mistake of assuming that silence is golden or that the office cynic will eventually come around. These can be the most toxic influences to a change initiative because their objections are diffuse and pervasive.
Knowing what to look for, both in others AND in ourselves, alerts us to all that is living just below the surface. When we feel vulnerable and in risk of being taken advantage of we pass judgment. Anger and fear arise when stability is threatened. We become cynical when we perceive there is no choice, and silent when secretly negotiating an exit strategy.
Resistance may be futile but in the end it tells us a lot about who we are and how we choose to be.
“Protest is when I say I don't like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don't like. Protest is when I say I refuse to go along with this anymore. Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too.”
-- Ulrike Meinhof
Copyright ©2014 Katherine Hunter