Recognize intentions when dealing with resistance

Even when you have designed your change effort to perfection with the five colours, ADKAR and/or stakeholder management your change effort will meet resistance along the way. It means something meaningful is actually changing and people are nervous about it. How you deal with it is important and will depend on the intention of the person showing resistance, their their ability to change and their motivation to change, their team role and their part in team dynamics.  


When people are out of their comfort zone they will deviate from their normal behaviour in either aggressiveness or assertiveness. They will start to focus on task (getting it right or getting things done) or people (getting appreciated or getting along). Getting along and getting it right the more passive focus on task and people. Getting things done and getting appreciated are the more assertive focus on task and people. Assertiveness may come across as belligerent and personal at times. It is important not to take it personal. It is important to learn to recognize the four intents, since you need to deal with them differently. 




How to communicate with them

Can be helpful because

Getting things done

Task oriented and assertive

They are in a hurry. When they feel others are not moving fast enough they will show controlling behaviour and may steamroll others.

Use task oriented communication with them. Keep it to the point and short.

When they feel taken seriously and are not controlling they are a great help min getting things done.

Getting things right

Task oriented and passive

They will look for risks, because they want things to go perfectly. This may lead them to slow down the decision making process. They may be perceived by others as whiners.

Use detailed communication with them to show you also want things to go well. Let them help mitigate some risks and prove why not all risks need to be solved right now.

When they are not indecisive they can help you improve the quality of your change effort because of their eye for detail.

Getting along

People oriented and passive

These people want approval from the rest of the group. This can lead them to not show how they feel by adopting other people's opinions or by changing opinion every time they hear something new.

You need to focus on your relationship with these people. They need to feel safe in the group and gain insight in why their opinion is helpful.

These people are great listeners and have a good sense for what is happening in group dynamics. They can help you understand the team better and help the team along by making sure everyone is heard.

Getting appreciation

People oriented and assertive

These people love their job and love to help. They may get belligerent and disruptive until they get the appreciation they need.

Show appreciation in your communication with them and give them an important part in your change effort.

These people can be inspiring informal leaders when they feel appreciated. 

Basic rules

Anytime something meaningful changes people will get nervous. Resistance to change is normal human behaviour. You should be respectful to it and take it seriously, while also keeping your change effort on track. When harnessed correctly resistance can help with both the speed and quality of your change efforts. 

When dealing with resistance their are several things you need to look at:

  • Is the substance of the arguments and behaviour geared towards process, people or problem? If resistance is on a relationship level you will need to tackle that first. 
  • What is the intention of the person showing resistance and can we help them meet their intention without sacrificing positive energy in the group and progress in the change effort?
  • Can I get people in a different behavioural pattern by using tools like the six thinking hats while also getting their intentions met?
  • How can different stakeholders help you in dealing with the resistance? 
  • Can you design your change effort differently to take away some of the stress for people? 

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