Nobody likes resistance, right? Well, despite this, it’s actually a good thing. Let me explain…
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There’s a simple model of resistance to change that you may be familiar with. It’s based on the work of Elizabeth Kübler Ross and Virginia Satir. (In fact, it fuses Kübler Ross’s DABDA stages onto Satir’s diagram)
What I hear from project managers is that one of the things they most fear is the resistance they will meet when they make changes. Here’s a quote from Woodrow Wilson:
If you want to make enemies, try changing something
But the truth is… Resistance is a good thing.
While people are in denial, they won’t engage. And that means you can’t make progress. When they start to show emotion – maybe it’s anger, but it could equally be frustration, sadness, fear, bitterness – anything – then you have some engagement.
The problem is that we are not well-equipped to deal with what can be strong emotions in the workplace. We aren’t social workers or therapists, after all. So we tend to withdraw.
And it gets worse. Because as the strong emotions dissipate, people start to regain their capacity for rational thought. At first, we think that’s going to make life easier. But, instead, it’s like we have come out of the frying pan and into fire. Now our resisters are able to reason, they will come up with a dozen good reasons why the change you are leading is… well, nonsense.
But this is good news. Now they are able to reason, you are finally able to reason with them. Now you can tackle the resistance in a rational and respectful way.
So, my message is this… Much as you do not like it; welcome the resistance. It’s a sign that people are actively engaged and that you can start to influence their thinking.
“Very practical and relevant for managing in real change environments. Found it very useful. Great training content and examples.”
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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