Friday, July 15, 2005

The opposite effect

Sometime you do something and it has the opposite effect of what you intended. This is a problem at the best of times, and its a problem when your dealing with change.

Maybe you want someone to do something. But actually asking them to do it can bring about a defensive reaction. For example, someone changes to a new role in your organisation. They start working with different people, it makes sense for them to move desks, they may even know it. But when someone suggests they move desks they ask “why should I?”

This happened to a friend of mine recently. He’s not really been seeing eye-to-eye with his manager for a while. He’s got a new role in the company, a role he’s actually quiet glad to have taken on – and a new manager too. Yet he had a feeling he’d been shunted out of his old role, that the old manager didn’t want him there.

And this kind of manifested itself with his desk. He knew he should move desks but it wasn’t clear where he should sit, nor was it ever the right time, and in truth moving desks signalled an identity change, a move away from one team. Yet every time his former manager mentioned moving desks he felt less included to. Every time it was mentioned he was reminded of this feeling of being pushed out of his old department.

So, actually by mentioning the change it became less likely because he became defensive. This was minor for my friend and his desk but think about an organisation undergoing radical change. People can feel unwanted, threatened and scared.

To finish the story, my friend recognised this within himself and realised the managers requests where the reason he was not doing what he himself thought was the right thing. Finally he moved desks because he knew it was right and was just not moving because of the requests to move desks.