So why don’t some people like change?

I met an acquaintance recently, who asked me what I was now doing, and when I said I was a business change/strategy consultant, he asked me “Why doesn’t my colleague want to change and grow the business?”

There are many reasons why people don’t like change and I can categorise the behaviours I have come across.

Ostrich – the person who puts their head in the sand and pretends nothing is happening. They think if they don’t engage it will just pass them by, they just need to try to ignore it. When has this worked?

Clown – they think they are very funny, with quick quips, jokes and employing lots of other distraction tactics. They think they won’t come across as negative, as who doesn’t like a joker? But they might be able to slow it down, and gain some support for stopping the change

Tiger – not quite king of the jungle, but has sharp claws (tongue). They don’t see the reason why you think that change may be a good thing, as hasn’t this worked for them for years? They will snarl at your every comment, with their seeming power, and years of experience of lounging near the top. Others will be scared to speak out in front of them, in case they get brought down in the cross-fire. They can have real sway, and impact on the success of your project.

Trapeze artist – they are on the high wire, not appearing to come down on either side. They are balancing and swinging from one seat to another, you think they are on board, but then they seem to sway the other way. They continually stay up high, just focused on their world, and not landing either way.

As the ringmaster what do you need to do? Engage, engage, engage. Try and find out what is causing their fears, as that’s why they haven’t become cheerleaders or a participative audience. Even if they frustrate the hell out of you, try and put yourself in their shoes, make efforts to recognise concerns – and bingo, you should have real participation and the show can go on, leading to resounding applause.

I gave my acquaintance advice on how best to approach his co-worker who he was running the business with. Clients asked for him, and he had ideas and ambitions on how he might one day run the business. Easy assumption that his co-worker felt threatened, and was probably concerned for their future. I advised him to talk to her when she was complaining about not coping. To acknowledge her skills, and how they might both share skills and techniques. If this went well, he could then say that he was happy to take on a larger share of the burden. He might then meet his goals of growing and eventually taking over the business.

I have not yet heard how it went, but as we know from the Hotel Inspector, not everyone takes on board Alex Polizzi’s advice either – at their peril!