Why Asking Someone to Change How They Work May Not Be as Simple as You Think

It happens all the time in work environments. The organization wants or needs to change – the way it works, delivers service, makes its products, is organized. Often this point is missed: change is not just about the mechanics of what is to be changed, it is about the people. People make up and deliver our systems and processes. Most people say they don’t mind change, but they don’t like being changed. Even when it “makes sense”. Because “makes sense” depends on your perspective.

Anais Nin - We don't see things as they are

When we are looking for efficiencies at work, we are often asking someone – or several someones – to change the way they work. To take on new responsibilities or to give up part of your role. It seems to make sense in the grand scheme of things. It is integral to the change working. If we are leading the change or innovation, when we meet resistance we often don’t understand why. What we are asking often seems like a simple request.

conversation-one-on-oneThe challenge we meet is that many of us identify with our role. It forms part of our identity. We think we are simply asking people to change the way they work when we might actually be challenging the way they see themselves. We might be challenging their very sense of identity. And when we feel our identity is being challenged or threatened, psychological research tells us that we respond as if our very life is being threatened. Instead of being open to change, we dig in our heels and overtly or covertly resist being changed. We become more attached to our role or our identity.

Worldview Intelligence offers personal explorations that help us understand our own worldview, where it comes from, what influences it, what values and beliefs are fundamental to who we are. It illuminates typical responsesingrained human patterns, of how we respond to challenges, how we filter information in and out, how our sense of identity shapes our responses, how we become entrenched in our point of view when we feel compelled to defend it. When we can bring curiosity to the exploration we become aware of what is important and why and then we can become conscious of the choices we are making. The very exploration opens up the possibility for each of us to expand our own worldview and be more open to possibility.

For those of us who are responsible for leading change or asking our people to change, understanding that simple requests might have deeper implications allows us to think about how we approach another person or whole department, their role, their work and what is needed to bring about the changes that we need or want rather than becoming frustrated or combative which only serves to make us less effective in our leadership.

3 thoughts on “Why Asking Someone to Change How They Work May Not Be as Simple as You Think

  1. Reblogged this on ShapeShift and commented:

    There is solid research that points to successful change management practices and most of it gets ignored when organizations are seeking to implement change. We want it to go faster than is possible to make change stick. A key success factor is understanding the human dynamics of change – why simple requests may not be so simple when engaging human beings. This is where Worldview Intelligence provides important insights and understandings.


    • Bad hiring decision is certainly one example. And there are genuine reasons for organizations to need to change the way they operate requiring employees to also change the way they work. One more example is when good employees want to hang out to parts of their jobs that make them seemingly indispensable and it would seem simple to make a change but people so identify with their role that it is a much deeper request than most employers understand. It needs to be approached differently.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s