This is something I often hear not only from my students, but also from audience members at events where I speak. Someone will tell me they learned something in a class or heard something in a presentation that exactly addressed a problem they were experiencing in the workplace. Energized by the new knowledge, they’d go back to the workplace with a suggestion that they believe addressed a specific problem that the team had been struggling with. They were then shocked and frustrated when the response from the boss was lukewarm and unsupportive.
Often what is happening is not resistance to a specific suggestion but to a perceived loss of some sort. Sometimes a suggestion that we should try something different is interpreted as a threat to one’s control or security. It is this threat that is being resisted and not the suggestion itself. Once this is understood the approach can be adjusted to address what is really being resisted making it more likely that the suggested change will be supported.
When teaching project management I have a homework assignment that I give to my students. I have them interview a working PM and ask a series of questions. We would then review the results in class. Something that was very consistent was that about 75% of the working PM’s they interviewed had no certification or formal training. Everything they knew they learned on the job.
Sometimes when people have only experience and no formal training they believe that they are valuable to the organization only because of their experience. This isn’t exactly true but some have this perception. When someone suggests to one of these people that something isn’t working and we should try something different it is sometimes perceived as a threat to their security. In that person’s mind you are saying that the thing he or she thought was so valuable maybe isn’t quite as valuable as they thought. It’s often this threat they are responding to and not resistance to a specific suggestion.
Realizing what is actually being resisted allows you to adjust your approach to address the real issue rather to just continue advocating for a specific idea. This ability is an important soft skill and part of the emotional intelligence we should all be working to develop in ourselves. Getting good at this will make you more successful and happier at work.
Take a moment and consider the following:
- Communication – How we communicate in the workplace is critical to our success. Communicating with others is something everyone has done throughout life and something at which we should all be pretty good. Yet many of us could definitely improve in this area. Communicating effectively is not as easy as you would think.
- Resources – Books provide an inexpensive source of information you can use to develop your communication skills. The Enlightened PM book list found here is a great place to start.
Please take some time to consider and share your thoughts on the following:
- Are you good at recognizing the real resistance to change?
- How could you use this knowledge to improve your performance?
- Do you sometimes resist suggested changes due to perceived threats?
©2017 Joseph T Drammissi