>Just try and make me change!
November 9, 2010
>I’ve been party to many conversations about behaviour and attitude change in the workplace. This is because I’m in a line of work which not only advocates for it, but sets out to catalyse it. There are a couple very important questions that deserve some consideration, however, and they are: Is behaviour change necessarily a good thing and who determines what that change should be?
I can instantly think of cases where behaviour and attitude change is absolutely necessary and where the person in question would be given little choice about the changes to be made, for example, cases of workplace bullying or discrimination. Human social groups always have and always will expect a standard of behaviour that they enforce. This is not to say the person at the receiving end of any intervention will necessarily change, but in cases I’ve dealt with, they are left in no doubt that neither their attitude nor their behaviour is acceptable and that change is conditional to remaining part of that workplace.
However, in the area of professional development, it requires an act of will on the part if the person to change. It is arrogant for anyone, be that the CEO, the HR Manager, the project manager or the consultant, to assume that you can make someone change just because you want them to, or you re-write the company manuals or you change systems and processes. People are not weak-willed and do not take kindly to being treated like puppets. People also want to be the chief agents in their own lives, both at home and at work.
If a change is called for, what is required is a good, solid ‘warm up’. This means you make a good case for change, field people’s questions and anxieties, treat them with respect and allow them to engage their will. Shifts in workplace culture, enhancements to systems and processes or the successful introduction of innovative ways of working will only really embed when people have taken these things into their hearts and minds. We can, of course, enforce these kinds of changes and just tell them what to do, however what we get are compliant behaviours with low levels of real engagement, workplace dissatisfaction and disharmony and the lower productivity that ensues (until they leave, that is).
So applying ‘warm up’ when seeking a change at work will create the fertile conditions for people to learn and change. Sometimes, that is only the first step and there is further work to be done. We have all been in situations where we really wanted to do something, we were excited about doing something new, we knew what we had to do…..but we just didn’t know how. When our internal wiring stops us from enacting a change we actually want, the use of human technologies which aid people to ‘re-wire’ themselves can be invaluable. Technologies such as role training or sociodrama can assist us, with our will fully engaged, to become the person we want to be.