July 27, 2020
By Frances Frei, The Enterprisers Project
Let’s say you’re making progress toward a more inclusive operating environment, but you suspect your colleagues are trying to slow you down. Resistance to change can show up in many forms, some of them hard to decipher.
The following ten signs reveal that your organization is digging in its heels.
1. A task force has been assigned to the problem
A small, intrepid team of reformers is one thing; indeed, it’s among the most important tools for accelerating action. Most task forces, it turns out, do not fit this profile. If your organization is pushing you to rely on a structure like this that’s outside the typical chain of command, make sure it’s a mechanism with the legitimacy and decision rights to make a difference.
2. You’re being thanked for your time and effort
If you suspect you’re being indulged and dismissed, then you probably are. By the way, this is not the same thing as being disagreed with, which is a perfectly acceptable response to you. Your obligation as a change maker is to make the persuasive case for your ideas. Your colleagues’ obligation is to engage with them in good faith, not to meet all of your demands.
[ Want more wisdom from Frances Frei? Her popular TED Talk is featured here: 10 TED talks to sharpen your communication skills ]
3. People doubt whether the organization (really) has a problem
Be prepared for your colleagues to push back on the diagnosis that the company has an inclusion problem. Hard truths are, by definition, difficult to face, and this is particularly true for data that confirm a tolerance for bias (or worse). Stay strong. Be fluent in the evidence you’ve gathered and also in resonant stories about the cost of barriers to everyone’s full participation.
4. You’re asked to respond to the grave concerns of unidentified critics
These exchanges often start with some variation on, “As your friend, I think you should know what people are saying.” This is usually a tactic to keep you in check rather than empower you with information. Don’t take the bait and react to rumor and hearsay. Encourage your critics to reveal themselves so that you can engage directly with their concerns, which may very well be valid. Collaboration happens in daylight.
5. The specter of “legal issues” is being invoked
The antidote to this one is to work directly with the legal team, which is often made up of people who are far more creative, flexible, and solutions oriented than the detractors who are using their name. Lawyers are rarely the risk-intolerant killjoys they’re made out to be by non-lawyers, so partner with them early.