Let’s talk about one of the biggest challenges that stands in the way of change in your organization. If you’ve ever worked on an IT project that has introduced some sort of change, you have probably dealt with a small but loud minority who stubbornly resist [almost] anything new, particularly if it means they have to change with it. Despite all reason, this group refuses to see or acknowledge that the coming change has any value.
I’m not talking about the employees who may have valid questions or legitimate concerns about the switch. No, I’m referring to the employees who:
- Say ‘No” before they try to reason
- Find many reasons why something will not work
- Tell you they want improvements, yet resist changes to processes and tools
- Would “redesign” everything to exactly the way it is today
- Are better at articulating problems and identifying risk than at developing solutions
- Are very effective in getting people to follow them
What should you do to win over these nay-sayers?
Absolutely nothing. Ignore them for now. They are adoption bullies. While there may be some valid and valuable feedback coming from them, don’t spend time trying to turn them around.
That may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. This group – and in some cases, it may be one or two people – began arguing against the change from the moment it was announced, sometimes making cogent, reasoned arguments. These arguments receive a fair hearing but the team decides that the change is necessary to support growth.
You certainly don’t want to create an atmosphere where people feel their opinions don’t matter; that’s terrible for your workplace culture. But these dead-enders have had their “day in court.” It’s time to accept the decision and move forward.
And if you spend too much time trying to “persuade them,” then you’re ignoring the majority of employees who are dialed in and want to get going. And that’s just not good – it’s best to focus attention on the people who have opened up to the benefits of the solution, and empower them any way you can.
So ignore them. Perform a little verbal judo instead. When they complain or argue against what’s going on, just say: “Thanks, John. I hear what you’re saying, but we’re going to park this for now and move on.”
Then, work with the people who are using the new technology. Heap praise on them. Mention them in internal emails and in meetings. The diehard resistors will see this, and they’ll start to feel left out. Fear of being left out is a powerful motivator. Chances are they’ll soon realize that they’re better off getting with the program.
This is a more efficient way to engage more employees, and it’s probably your best chance to convince those tough nuts to come around; when they see they aren’t gaining traction and that their colleagues are moving forward without them, they’ll either catch up or move on.
I understand that change can be difficult. I’ve seen it up close in my own company. But I’ve also seen the very people who most fiercely resisted a big change come around and say to me, “You know Jesse, I’m really glad we made that change.”
Once they embrace the change, these employees can often be your most effective advocates – but they have to see the benefits for themselves.