Change -wanted but not supported

The pain of transformation in the organizations

They wanted you. You were the unicorn they had been searching for a long time. You were hired to do the job the way only you know how to do it. Then you realized that yes, the company hired you to do the job, but actually, the company prefers you’d do tasks the way they’ve used to do things. Sound familiar?

Last week I read an interesting article from Kauppalehti. Osaajasota paljasti heikon johtamisen freely translated talent war, revealed poor management. The core was about why people are changing jobs, but it triggered few matters I have wondered about lately: What are your options when you have realized the way your efforts are wanted on the paper but not supported? What actions can you take when the company culture is nowhere near to the description you got and expressed and written values never reach the level of everyday tasks?

What are the things you should consider if you suddenly feel pushed into the pattern you didn’t want to adopt in the first place? Should you just forget what your work experience and learn and adapt, in the worst-case scenario, that company’s 25 years old habit they have been cherishing? Or push and try to get people on board?

Here are some thoughts from my experience.

Choose your battles

Your organizational change management capability may have all the elements in place, but you will still struggle to deliver broad-reaching successful change without that upper management’s change leadership. The conflict and chaos are just waiting behind the door when someones words and actions don’t align. Those mixed signals can come also from an upper management representative that you should work with.

Always start with an assessment. Be clear about the importance of your battle to yourself. Not all wars are worth the fight. Consider what your role is in these battles and why it is essential to you. Take a look at the big picture and try to find who you need to get on board to win the battle. And finally, ask yourself if you have the amount of energy at your disposal to win this battle.

Study your opponents

There will always be change resistance in every organization. People generally find it safe and convenient to continue doing something as they have always been doing. What seems a minor detail for you can be seen as a massive change for someone. People see and feel things differently and in different magnitudes. In general, changes always bring alterations in a person’s duties, powers, and influence. Hence, the people to whom such changes will affect negatively will always resist. 

In a new organization, colleagues can see you as a possible threat to their job descriptions. Even, sometimes without realizing what they are doing, they can start resisting things you bring to the table. Not because of those terrible ideas, but because those didn’t come from them or came from you. Pretty petty, but unfortunately very common.

Everyone is a prisoner to habit and comfort

In many of these situations, patience and time usually help. Try to involve those people early, so they start understanding what’s happening and feel they can contribute to coming change, event or material and through that reduce insecurity.

Here’s some additional questions that could help you on the way:

  • Could you get the results with some other method than the one you’re using? Are you willing to make a change yourself?

If the result is more important than the way of getting there, try to take another approach. If the needed change is against your own beliefs or personality, I advise you not to do that. You could master it for few weeks, even months, but most likely, you’ll be feeling terrible the whole time.

  • Is this person approachable and willing and able to change their mind and discuss your approach or method?

In many cases, you don’t know these people that well, so this approach requires courage. If you feel you have a connection and based on the conversations and other communication methods, you think there could be a chance; I hope you’ll have the courage to do this. Everyone needs feedback. The higher in the organizational ladder you are, the fewer feedback givers you usually have. In the best scenario, the person is clad that you brought things up and try to change. In the worst-case, bridges will burn.

  • If that person doesn’t listen to you, are there any other people in the organization that could make this specific person listen? Could you ask them to help you?

I feel it’s a bit easier to ask for help from a colleague in these kinds of situations. Very commonly, there’s no one on your organization level to turn to. But before you head to the corner office consider how would you feel if someone would go to your boss before even talking to you? At times this approach is justified but requires a lot of consideration.

The Energy Given – The Energy received

There are also situations where there’s no chance to win. If you find yourself in a situation where all the options seem impossible, the most self-respecting and bravest thing is to leave and close that door. 

I use the formula The Energy Given – The Energy received as a measurement of my own wellbeing. One negative day now and then doesn’t shake the balance significantly. Problems usually start when you give more energy than you get several days in a row. It’s a subjective measurement and requires you to stop and evaluate your own situation, but once you get hang of it and start understanding how to identify both sides, it works nicely.

Like Susanna Aho mentioned in the article, the COVID-19 remote work situation has revealed many hidden issues in companies. 

Realizing the incompatibility between you and your employer, unit or boss, is not always a sign of your mistake but a motion to evaluate the situation one more time.

Stay energized!