Interview: How to Deal With Difficult People

This month’s guest, Dee Daley, is a business leader with a 20-plus year record of leading organizational change initiatives for corporations including GE Healthcare, GE Capital and Office Depot. She recently presented on the topic of How to Deal With Difficult People at the ACMP Change Management 2015 Global Conference.

As change management professionals our success often depends upon our ability to influence without authority and to influence “difficult” people. Surprisingly, the research shows that 75 percent of the people with whom we interact at work and play are different from us in many ways such as how they make decisions, how they react when stressed and how they prefer to manage a project. It is these differences that frequently cause tension and strife. Listen in to hear what you can do about it!

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Six Underlying Reasons for Resistance

When we try to influence people to change, we’re likely to encounter someone exhibiting behaviors that make it seem as though they are resisting change, whether it’s outright refusal to participate or something more subtle like procrastination or avoidance. If we address these resistant behaviors directly, it usually serves to make the resistance stronger, because the resistant behavior is not the real problem. The resistant behavior is a reaction to change, but what we don’t see is the underlying condition that prompted that behavior in the first place.


Think of the resistant behavior as a symptom, like when you have a cold, you have a stuffy nose and a cough. But those are just the body’s reaction to the hidden virus that’s causing those symptoms. Resistance acts the same way. There are the resistant behaviors that we see on the surface, and then there is the underlying source of resistance that is hidden below.

The following are just six of the many underlying reasons people demonstrate resistance.

  • The change for them is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a disruption to their normal routine.
  • They’re not really clear about what they’re supposed to be doing and they feel foolish asking.
  • They don’t feel comfortable with their ability to do the job well, so they don’t even want to try.
  • Their boss is sending signals that she’s against the change, so of course they’re not going to stick their neck out and implement the change anyway.
  • They’re upset because decisions are being made about them without them, and slowing things down is their way of maintaining some control.
  • They’re offended at the insinuation that the way they’re doing things is not good enough or that it’s wrong.

When people resist change, there’s something going on below the surface. Once we uncover the part we don’t see at first, then we’ve found the true source of resistance. When we understand someone’s true experience of the change, then we can help them get through it. And if we can anticipate that the change may trigger some of these sources of resistance, we can design our approach to mitigate negative reactions before they happen.

If you want to influence change, start by treating resistance not as something to overcome, but as something to uncover.

See also:

Interview: Communicating Change With the Results Map

Caroline Kealey, Owner and Principal at Ingenium Communications, joins the show this month to share the Results Map, her tool for developing communications. Listen in to hear the key elements of the Results Map and how to use it to communicate change, including how to evaluate whether your communication is working.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

And get your Results Map Handbook here:

Three Ways We Make Resistance More Frustrating Than It Really Is

Recently, I posted Eight Telltale Signs of Resistance, in which I described some of the resistant behaviors people use to slow down or prevent change from happening. When we’re trying to implement change and we encounter these resistant behaviors, we often have three unhelpful responses that make it seem even more frustrating than it really is.Antique Retro Mirror

  1. We take it personally. After all, it seems like an attack on something that we believe is important or even on ourselves. It can feel like rejection, and we can become defensive. And then the change becomes a battle to win, instead of something to collaborate on together with the person who is resisting.
  1. We blame them for not changing. We fall victim to what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error. We tend to attribute others’ behaviors to their character, even though if we did the same thing, we would tend to attribute our behavior to our circumstances. So, we tell ourselves that people are resistant to change, or that they’re just being stubborn, even though if we were in the same situation, we would say we had a valid reason to resist change. Since it’s much harder to change someone’s personality than to change their circumstances, it seems like they are entrenched more than they really are.
  1. We focus on making them stop their resistant behavior. Because what they’re doing frustrates us, we try to make it stop. If someone is avoiding us, we track them down. If they’re making excuses, we come back with all the counter-arguments. If they’re pushing back, we strengthen our position. If someone is procrastinating, we remind them to the point of nagging about getting it done. Sometimes we get their boss involved. We try to overcome the resistance. The problem with this approach is that addressing the resistant behavior only serves to make resistance stronger, because the resistant behavior is only the symptom of the problem, and not the real issue. The real problem is the underlying condition that prompted the behavior in the first place — the fear of the unknown, or the lack of clarity, or disillusionment, or loss of control, to name a few. Unless we alleviate the underlying cause of the resistance, it will only become more entrenched.

When you encounter what seems to be a resistant behavior, take a step back to assess the situation as objectively as you can. Ask yourself a few questions:  How is their resistant behavior affecting me personally? What story am I telling myself to explain their resistance? What have I been doing that may be making the situation worse? And what else may be going on that could explain their behavior? When you understand the experience of the change from their point of view, then you have something you can effectively deal with, and you’re better equipped to help them navigate the change.

Enclaria Gains Qualified Education Provider™ Status from ACMP

acmplogoI’m pleased to announce Enclaria recently gained the Qualified Education Provider™ status from the Association of Change Management Professionals® (ACMP®) for its upcoming Fundamentals of Change Management course. ACMP’s goal is to advance the discipline of change management, and Enclaria is eager to contribute its part in developing skilled practitioners who design and influence change at work.

The QEP status signals that this course aligns with ACMP’s Standard for Change Management© and adult education best practices. As it is a generally accepted approach to change management, aligning to ACMP’s Standard provides a solid base for change management education and knowledge. The Fundamentals of Change Management course also adheres to best practices in instructional design and delivery, ensuring participants have an opportunity to apply what they learn.

For those seeking ACMP’s Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP™) accreditation, taking the QEP course will ensure a quicker review process for your application as well as help you prepare for the related CCMP exam when it becomes available.

You’ll hear more about the Fundamentals of Change Management course in the coming months. For now, mark your calendar for September 28-30, 2015 in Atlanta!