While snipers continually
sit on the sidelines and shoot at the change effort, skeptics are normally not
as aggressive. However, they are just as
adamant about keeping the status quo.
There are certainly natural
skeptics. We’ve all met them!
But, it’s more common for
skepticism to be cultivated. It happens in
companies that have had failed implementations, multiple reorganizations, or frequent
leadership changes. As a result, people start
to believe that all change efforts will be unsuccessful.
Take someone’s natural reluctance
to change, harden it with poor morale or a lack of trust, and you have a skeptic.
You’ll hear skeptics use phrases
- “We’ve never done it this
- “We tried this and it
- “Our department already solved this problem
What can you do about it?
You need to show skeptics respect. Just
like the sniper, they need to be brought into the loop. Listening to them may also help you gain their
trust. But, don’t let them be
When you hear: “We tried
this and it didn’t work.”
Respond with: “Really, I had no idea you had experience
with this kind of change! What exactly
did you do before?”
Follow up questions could
include: “Why didn’t it work?” or “How do you think we should adjust our
If their objections are legitimate, the change effort will benefit from their experience. If their objections are
not legitimate, walking through the specifics might help them to realize it.
Unfortunately, if your
skeptic (or your sniper)
remains unwilling to cooperate, stronger measures may be needed. This is especially true if they’re in a
management or executive position. If
they can’t get on board, they may need to be moved on to something else or out
(One last note: If
incentives are significantly misaligned, trust and empathy are not going to
change people’s actions! We will talk about
incentives and other obstacles that impede change efforts, in a later post.)
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