If you are facing multiple changes of organization, strategies or tools, maybe you have a recurrent management issue: how could you deal with the people of your team who are “resisting”? The forms of resistance expression are multiple and varied, and management techniques to address this topic are highly documented. What if being solution-oriented was not the right question?
Let’s look at the notion around “refusing to change” with the concepts of homeostasis and resistance.
1. Let us just remind that we are human beings, as billions of cells organizing themselves
In biology, the homeostasis can be defined as the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. So, the good news is, we are not resisting; we are simply going through internal imbalance for longer or shorter periods, and we finally overcome them. The symptoms of these significant imbalance are seen as « resisting signs”. Therefore, it’s interesting to reframe this perspective and consider them just as more or less comfortable symptoms. When Mr So&So says “I do not understand how I could join this new project” or when Mrs So&So underlines “I’ll see what I can do” when you know from start that nothing will be done, don’t’ waste your energy convincing them.
2. Listen to resistance in a different way
What is it about? How do you listen to your “resistant” employees? Which part of themselves is afraid, and of what? What is their discomfort level, and how is it reflected for them? You do not know how to evaluate their feeling of unease? Trust them to tell it to you. A simple question such as “What would you need to go through this difficult changing period we are experiencing, and how could you contribute to the solution?” might open perspectives and challenge the obvious visible solution to enable you to co-design it. On your end, the first answer to give is silence: accepting their world, their lack of comfort, as current reality. Welcoming them with authenticity and genuine empathy “I do feel that you are discouraged by …. and understand that these frequent changes are stressful” could engage in a useful and different exchange of views.
3. share your experience
Sometimes, our managerial scope leads us to appear, as change leader, with the image of someone never doubting and capable of saying without any mistake that we do embrace the change to lead. If an attitude showing faith in the future is one key to success, a manager-coach attitude with a collaborative approach in this situation is more challenging. Give up your motivational speeches….
Remember your own moments of discomfort within change and put them back into circulation! Share your own true stories, even short, that do not always have a happy ending, but offered you learning opportunities “At that time, I realized that I’d learned…”.You will reconnect to the human and fallible person you are, and therefore open a relational space for your collaborator to express their own. You may also invite them to share “what worked well for you during other change moments”. If you are in a creative mood, dare using metaphors, from your own frame of reference, it’s also a good way to put into perspective situations felt as stressful.
During your next convention about leading change, may you read with another attention the slides about “Resisting teams” and take pleasure in being in the heart of continuous moving and uncertain contexts!