I was doing a workshop recently with senior managers, and we were looking at how we build acceptance of change and build commitment towards it. One of the challenges that a lot of managers and leaders experience is resistance and push back on changes that they want to make. I hear managers say things like “they are negative”, or “I’ve tried everything and they just won’t accept it (the change)!”
Change is just a fact of day to day life for most organisations and managers that I work with, and what many managers say is that “some people don’t want to change” whilst others “just have a really negative attitude.”
I do often wonder if partly peoples reaction to change is at least in part due to what we communicate or how we talk to them about change. In working with people who are resisting change, the quick answer to the question “how do I change someone with a negative attitude?’ is – YOU CAN’T. So here’s my top tips for working with people who are resisting change;
- Accept that you can’t change them
For the most part, I don’t believe that people pitch up at work aiming to be deliberately difficult or negative. So, rather than trying to change them, focus on understanding what’s behind their cynicism or negativity. It might feel tough, but you really do need to understand how they see things.
- Go fishing
I’m a firm believer that the responses that you get from others are, at least in part, a result of whatever it is that you have put out there. So if you are getting resistance to your ideas, could that be because you are trying to push too hard? So, put something else out there. If you want a different response, perhaps you need different bait on your hook?
My third and final tip is listen and don’t be in such a hurry to react to what is coming back at you. If you notice that you jump in, interrupt or react to what is coming back, stop and W.A.I.T. by which I mean consider Why Am I Talking? Are you feeling defensive; are you pushing your idea too forcibly and are you really hearing what is either being said or what is being implied?
Sounds obvious I know, but I hear so many managers say things like “I’ve told them how great it (the change) will be, but they’re just so negative about everything. ” Yeah, and why is that? I’m pretty sure they weren’t like that when you recruited them? What is it that they feel so strongly about? If only we could REALLY see things as they do; then we might have an inkling about what we can do to best support them through change.
If you’re working hard to embed change in your team or organisation, let me help you develop the skills and capabilities you need to create a positive vibe about change – and maybe, just maybe you will find better ways of supporting and helping people to embrace changes that you want to make.