The Mouth of Change | Employee Resistance to Change

Change is always the same. Change itself is not the issue; it’s the resistance to change that causes problems.

Many of us learned this growing up as we competed in sports, or for the attention of others. In the business world, the resistance is naturally strong when we explain our great reform is based on doing more with less. We tell our coworkers and even our bosses that the future is based on being more productive with fewer resources. (I don’t know about you, but I always dreamed the future would somehow involve physically doing less with much more cool stuff.)

We can attempt to cultivate buy-in by explaining how to be more productive and how to lessen the cost of that productivity, ultimately enabling us to wrap our fingers around that holy grail of business achievement: profitability. But let’s get real. All signs might point to profitability as a logical product of the changes being proposed, and yet logical humans need to see how a change in process will make them look good before they will give it their all.

Through our surveys of top professionals who serve as change agents, Wynn Solutions has noticed a critical first leg of the buy-in journey. (“Critical” and “first leg”? It sounds like change is limping already!) We found that top professionals who succeed in implementing change begin by tactfully explaining that the more people focus on making change work, the more value they have to the company.

Additionally, these professionals dealt with the good-old-days syndrome that prevents some people from creating their own future. You may have heard that to spread change through an organization, you have to prove to key players that the new way is at least as good as, if not better than, the old way. You might think you need to provide some physical evidence (data) and a couple of testimonials (people thought of as straight shooters saying positive things about the changes) as well.

However, if you want people to see it’s possible to succeed by doing more with less, you need to find or create change agents who will massively benefit from the change and who have an outstanding advocate network, great communication skills and “above all” really big mouths.

How To Get People To Listen To You: Over-the-top influence


Leadership and communication skills mean nothing if no one wants to listen to you. Many knowledgeable, committed people have zero personal influence simply because they are not interesting. We have all been bored by someone to the point where we imagine ourselves on a Caribbean beach sipping a big umbrella drink and listening to metal drum music. That’s right – we will choose the sound of someone beating on harmonically modified oil drums as we sport embarrassing beverages rather than stay tuned in to information that just moments ago we thought would easily hold our attention.

On the other hand, we watch people on reality shows who are seemingly devoid of value, babbling about stuff we can’t even relate to, much less learn anything from that remotely applies to our own lives. (I won’t name names but it starts with a Kar and ends with a Dashian.) What is it that makes something we truly want to know unbearable and makes useless drivel so appealing? Is it a big personality?

I don’t know about you, but I have had to relocate on a mercifully semi-empty airplane because my seatmate had too much personality. It’s easy to say we choose entertainment over education. (If that’s true, why can’t I stop watching Antiques Roadshow?) We can’t get the education we need to forward our lives because we won’t take the time to study, but we will watch Honey Boo Boo and Swamp People until we begin to develop grammar problems! We can’t focus while at work, but we come home to watch someone do their work on TV. Recently, a very honest woman struggling to sell real estate told me she was not willing to work late because she wanted to watch a show every night about real estate gurus easily selling mansions.

Contrary to what we have been told most of our lives, it seems that we are oddly interested in things we can’t relate to very well. For instance, if you can’t sell a fixer-upper in a questionable neighborhood, then watching a show about superstar realtors selling 30,000-square-foot houses supports my theory. When it comes to shows like Hoarders, we watch and feel better knowing that our messy house is not so bad. Interestingly, though, we won’t clean our house in response; instead, we watch as someone cleans the hoarder’s house. Actually, the show makes most people decide to stay in their relationships because you are less likely to gain 100 pounds and sleep on a pile of pizza boxes if you have a roommate.

General Hospital is still on TV while PBS, which airs some of the best documentaries we’ve seen in years, struggles for funding. Great shows end because they run out of ideas after five seasons, whereas General Hospital has had a 50-year run and hasn’t changed a bit. Sure, some characters who’ve died have come back to life, and sometimes the series just switches actors in a key role, as though no one will notice. It’s just not very realistic … and that’s what we like. What family has someone in the hospital every week? If you knew that family, would you want to hang out with them?

In that same vein, science fiction and fantasy are the top movie and TV draws. From Star Warsto Game of Thrones, we can’t get enough of shockingly unrealistic concepts that try to deliver a moral message. What have I learned? Be nice to dragons and always hang out near the escape pods!

In short, we choose escape over importance, spectacle over value, reality TV over reality. Consequently, if you want to get people to listen to you, you need to start with an over-the-top story that makes others feel like they could never achieve such a lofty, unrealistic dream. Or, if it’s over the top in a negative way, it should make them glad that this mesmerizing train wreck did not happen to them. We don’t care for personal tragedy, but we will actually pay to see the misfortunes of others. That’s why your college professor who told weird and probably untrue stories had so much impact on you. It also explains why you slow down to look at accidents even when you are late for work.

Armed with this insight, what can we do to make sure that people absorb what we want them to hear? 

  1. The most ridiculous, outlandish story you have needs to be put to good use. Points are easy; good stories are hard to come by. Take a great true story (embellishments are OK; you can even admit you’re exaggerating as you tell the story) or an untrue story you can use as metaphor and find the points you need. You can adjust the story to fit your points, but keep in mind that it requires focus. Saying “Hard work creates opportunity” is easy; getting a great story to illustrate that point is much tougher. I once heard a former IRS tax attorney talk about some intensely boring subject matter, but he used really crazy stories about agents tackling celebrities in their front yard and people trying to deduct payments made to prostitutes. I still remember his basic points about record keeping and how to make sure you’re maximizing deductions but playing by the rules. I don’t want to be tackled!
  2. Make sure you start with the problem or issue, then the solution, and finally why the solution is valuable. This order is important for impact. Even the worst reality show with the lowest production value is easy to follow. You can present an over-the-top problem that you solve with a straightforward solution and then a dramatic, metaphorical explanation of value. If you can be funny, be as funny as you can. (If you are not funny, don’t be.) Humor that works always gives you an advantage. We can remember a good joke we heard two years ago, but we don’t recall what we had for lunch two days ago.
  3. Be aware of what your audience values and believes in, even if it’s an audience of one. TV and movie companies do lots of research on this and create things that match what they know about the viewing public. If you know people who really dislike a particular sports team (that’s weird, I know, but it happens), then being over the top in a negative way grabs their attention. I spoke at an NFL event, at a pre-Super Bowl meeting attended by fans and staff of only one of the teams. There had been recent news coverage about players saying negative things about the team I was speaking to. It had gotten out of hand. I mentioned that I had a desire to fight the other team’s mascot because he was annoying – and that I was qualified to do so because I had once taken down Barney in an ugly altercation in a Toys R Us parking lot. They cheered and clapped for a full minute. Then I made my point: Sometimes the best action is restraint, followed by introspection. To win, we must keep a cool head and not be distracted by our personal resentments. I admitted to the large crowd that extreme loyalty to a football team was not my issue. I clearly have a problem with people in big furry animal suits. I trace it back to a Disney trip at age 11 when Goofy and I had it out over a funnel cake.

To ensure that we are seen as interesting, we have to be realistic about how people respond and what they respond to consistently. Being sincere, factual, relatable, relevant, and on point can never compete with a personal, colorful, funny, over-the-top, hard-to-believe story or metaphor with a good, solid, easy-to-understand solution or idea that focuses on delivering value to the listener. Here’s the proof: Whether you liked this article or it rubbed you the wrong way, you seemed to have no problem finishing it!

Employee engagement programs and descriptions

How the Millennial Work Ethic May Permanently Improve the Economy

How the Millennial Work Ethic May Permanently Improve the Economy

Can we achieve more by working less?

If you are in your 20s, you are hoping the answer to this question is a big, barefooted “Yes!” If you’re in your 50s, this is a goal you have secretly cherished while professing the opposite to your employees and kids. If you are in your 30s or 40s, you think this is just the propaganda of the lazy trying to weasel their way into a shorter work week; and if you’re 60 or above, you think this question is the beginning of the end of the world. But if it’s true – if embracing the Gen Y work ethic could actually have us working less while achieving more – we could crown Gen Y as the real “greatest generation,” leaving a lot of World War II survivors and baby boomer historians and journalists with disturbed looks on their faces.

Let’s be honest: Baby boomers have worked fewer hours, and in cushier conditions, than their parents did. They are much more educated than their parents, lived at home longer, got married later and wanted to automate so they could get better results with less effort. Have they produced fewer results than previous generations? Do we think of them as entitled and lazy?

It’s almost a pattern we can trace through the past century: Each generation expected long hours and hard work to bring prosperity but then saw those expectations disappointed somehow, leading the next generation to reexamine what success looks like. Until the 1920s, most Americans had jobs that required 12-hour workdays. They believed that if they worked hard enough, the value of their companies would rise with the power of their efforts – but in the 1930s the economy crashed. Nowadays, hardworking Gen Xers can be very critical of the Gen Y work ethic, even though Gen Xers themselves were viewed as slackers by baby boomers and faced the economic fallout of the early 2000s. My point is that people of every generation have tried to make things easier, still working pretty hard in their own way while facing the judgment of previous generations; but they haven’t seen long-lasting results. We seem to have a work ethic that is by all accounts noble but fails to sustain success.

How is Gen Y different? They are told they’re too confident in their abilities and think too highly of themselves. But wait a second…these are their bad traits? When did liking yourself and believing you can succeed regardless of circumstances become undesirable attributes? Well, it’s complicated, so stick with me on this. If you force a lot of self-esteem into a 5-year-old, you end up with some unwanted results. For example, a percentage of males who believe “I’m OK no matter what, so there is no need to be successful” don’t exhibit a lot of ambition. (Only about 40 percent of U.S. college freshmen are male – and although pursuing a college education is not an exclusive indicator of ambition, the trend is telling.) A percentage of females will believe “If I’m OK no matter what, then nothing is really ever my fault,” so they don’t have a basic level of personal accountability. (Interestingly, the women of Gen Y are much less likely to apologize than boomer women.)

Sometimes great things come at a cost that at first glance is too high to pay. Could the “I’m OK no matter what” mindset be siphoning some millennials’ potential to achieve? It’s possible that as many as a third of Gen Y may have been sacrificed to produce the most confident, empowered generation of all time. So what makes what’s left of this generation so great? They believe that every problem comes with its own set of solutions; they were taught to partner and collaborate to succeed. They were taught it is, in fact, possible for everyone to win. If you get a group of millennials together to deliberate, they end up with an agreement; if you ask a bunch of boomers to try to work out their problems, they just end up with some very sophisticated blaming techniques. (“I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m just saying that your ideas won’t work under these conditions!”) Just turn on your TV and watch the news; it’s full of gray-haired people in disagreement.

Most people in their 20s don’t need to be as right – or make others as wrong – as previous generations. They are also much less prejudiced and much more tolerant. This means that Gen Y could resolve political and religious differences that have existed for centuries. The collaboration worldwide will likely improve all economies. But it’s the desire to focus on working smart rather than working hard that will change the world forever. Free from the belief that effort and long hours are the foundation of innovation, they are uncovering new technologies to make more time in life for fun and to make their jobs meaningful and enjoyable.

People who don’t like their jobs don’t do a good job. That’s a fact, not a theory. More than any other generation, millennials will quit a job that leaves little time for the things they enjoy. For Gen Y to reach its potential (at work and in the world), they must find engagement in their workplace. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 70% of all employees are not engaged at work. Disengaged employees are much less productive, which has led more than a few top business consultants to consider disengagement the biggest issue in corporate America. In short, hard work is not as productive as liking your work, because your commitment and awareness are lower. Working long hours with maximum effort while you are emotionally disengaged also increases your chances of making mistakes, according to Evolve Performance Group, a research firm that has surveyed thousands of employees in 46 countries and 28 languages.

Even more interesting, Harvard Business Review’s Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance outlines some basic keys to engagement as follows: (1) knowing my boss cares about me, (2) seeing a clear path to leadership and (3) knowing how my job helps the company be successful. Frequently cited by millennials, these engagement factors are all about feeling valuable in order to perform better at work – not about performing better so they can feel valued. That’s something to consider. Gallup surveys have shown this for 70 years; but still leaders have touted long hours, hard work and inflexible conditions, until recently, as we see Gen Y CEOs changing the model. What do you think the engagement levels are at Facebook and Google?

When Gen Y comes of age, based on what we have seen so far, they are likely to be the most productive workforce in history. It’s just that they might do it by showing up at 10 a.m., leaving at 5 p.m. (with a long lunch in there somewhere), and working late at night. The future never really looks exactly right to the people from the past. It may be possible that it took this many generations for mankind to figure out that hard work is what you do when you don’t really know how to succeed!