Archive for January, 2010

Embracing Your Workplace Resistors

One of the most common things I’m asked about, whether in consultations or workshops, is how to cope with ‘difficult’ employees or workmates.  It often transpires that these individuals are classed as ‘difficult’ because of their seeming lack of willingness to agree with others’ opinions or because they don’t generally support proposed concepts.

It is human nature to want people to like us and agree with us.  History relates that blind devotion can have terrible consequences however, and leaders should therefore always be ready to listen to the negative voice or the objector in the crowd, no matter how much they’d prefer not to.  This is a coaching practice called Deep Democracy and allows everyone the right to have their opinion heard. 

Unfortunately, Deep Democracy is rarely practised in the workplace.  By avoiding eye contact or magically running out of time before you hear everyone’s opinion, it is easy to avoid listening to the person whom you predict will disagree and bring you back down to earth by potentially seeing the flaw in your suggestion or plan.  However, taking the time to listen to those who do not share your opinion can pay dividends, literally, by providing you with invaluable insight from another perspective.  Additionally, it may soften resistance when these people feel they will at least receive a fair hearing, regardless of the final decision.

Everybody is different and therefore experiences the world differently.  People disagree, object or resist for all manner of reasons: fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being outside their comfort zone, a previous bad experience, lack of clarity in the outcome, poor understanding of the process, impact on their specific situation, etc, etc.  These are all valid reasons and it is imperative that the leader gives them due consideration.  In doing so, the leader will be confronted with issues and concerns which he/she had not even contemplated and as such, will be in a better position to pre-empt potential pitfalls which had not been previously highlighted.  This is leading proactively rather than reactively.

So the next time someone says “yes but…” take the time to listen to the end of the sentence. Think of it as constructive feedback rather than criticism and don’t just switch off. Ask their opinion on how the issue might be resolved or overcome and involve them in the process.  Oftentimes people just want to be heard, to feel that their opinion counts and that they are being listened to and that could easily be their only reason for objecting – to feel part of the process!

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