Thursday, June 24, 2010

Be Happy – Don’t Avoid Resistance (Part 2)

Resistance to the changes plays a vital role in forming our personality and progress. Why do we so often choose to avoid it? There are many reasons for it. We can identify them through their early signs. If you can catch resistance early, then you can respond to it before it takes hold, effectively nipping it in the bud.


Whenever a change is announced, you can hear the beating of drums from those who may feel to be affected with the change proposed/announced. You will get the varied opinion. You can put on your well wishers to keep their ears to the ground what is being said around across the tea tables, canteens or during lunch hours when staff sit together or your spouse joins the favorite group or company. You may have to watch the attempts to organize the resistance.

Grumbling and complaint are natural ways of airing discomfort, so you should not try to squash it (you would fail, anyway). The biggest danger of it is when it is allowed to ferment in an information vacuum.

At the earliest, you must respond to gossip by opening it up, showing you are listening to concerns and taking them seriously, and providing lots of valid information that will fill the vacuum.


Just as a high school class will test a teacher's ability to maintain discipline, so also will some brave soul test out what happens when they resist change. They may, for example, not turn up to a meeting or openly challenge a decision.

How you deal with such early resistance will have a significant effect on what happens next. For example you can jump on the person and squash both them and their words, or you can take an adult position, describing what they have done and assertively questioning their motives.

Collectivism of resistance

Resistance can happen both on an individual case-by-case basis or people may band together.

Individual action

Individually, people may resist, although this is generally limited to the extent of their personal power. For those with lower power, this may include passive refusals and covert action. For those with more power, it can include open challenge and criticism.
Handle individual action individually, starting with those with greater power. As necessary, you may need to make an example, and disciplining a senior executive can send a strong signal to other resistors.

Collective action

When people find a common voice in organized resistance, then their words and actions can create a significant threat to the change, even though they are individually less powerful. Trade Unions are a classic example of this.

Organized resistance is usually a sign of a deep divide. People will not go to the bother of organizing unless they have serious issues with the change.

Manage collectives by negotiating with their leaders (which can be much easier than dealing with a myriad of smaller fires). You may well need to make concessions, but you at least should be able to rescue some key elements of the change. You can also 'divide and conquer' by striking deals with individual key players, although this must be done very carefully as it can cause a serious backlash

Gandhi Ji says,"Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny." Similarly, there are drivers for and against the changes. We can sum up as below:


Beliefs are basic drivers of thought and behavior. If you can understand their beliefs, you can begin to change them.
• What are their beliefs about people? Their rights? Their capabilities?
• What beliefs do they have about themselves?
• How strongly do they hold these beliefs?
• What are the beliefs that they have that led them to oppose the change?
• What beliefs do they have that could be used to help convert them?


Values are guides and shapers of behavior that tell what is right and wrong, good and bad, important and unimportant. Understanding a person's values tells you what they will not do as much as what they will do.
• Are any of their values being transgressed by change actions?
• What are their stress values? Are these being triggered?
• What values can you appeal to, to persuade them to change?


Goals are the deliberate objectives that we set ourselves to satisfy values and needs. By identifying these and how they are affected by change, you can
• What are their career goals?
• What are their social goals?
• What other goals do they have?
• How are any of these affected by the change?


The perceptions that people have of the change is based on their internal systems and the inferences they make. Perception is reality for the person, even it if is not really true. It therefore makes sense to understand how they perceive the change.
• What are their perceptions of the change? What do they think will happen?
• What are their perceptions of other stakeholders in the change? Do they think others will help them? Do they think others will gain unfair advantage?
• What are their perceptions of those implementing the change? Do they think the change agents will be fair? Do they think they are competent?


A critical question about opponents of change is what they can and are likely do to oppose the change.
• What power do they have?
• What is the source of that power? (position, expertise, social, etc.)
• How might they use that power? (blocking, persuading others, etc.)
• What would the impact of that action be? (local, widespread, etc.)
• How might their power change?


When you understand the power that a person who is opposing or may oppose the change, the final step is to understand their triggers, those events that would tip them into action.
• What would lead them to use that power? (events, actions, etc.)
• What would defuse them beforehand? (involvement, listening, etc.)
• What would bring them down after they had started resisting? (listening, threats, etc.)
• Who do they listen to? (friends, social leaders, senior people, etc.)
• What could other people do to contain or convert them? (words, action, etc.)

When resistance to change occurs, then it is very helpful to be able to spot it coming and hence respond appropriately to it (rather than be surprised when the change mysteriously fails).

Sometime, resistance becomes visible. We may like to prepare ourselves to meet challenge. How that visibility may come about, we may discuss in the next post. In the meanwhile, we may not avoid resistance but face it bravely.

Be Happy –Don’t Avoid Resistance.

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