During a recent interview a candidate made a comment that not only made me laugh it also struck me as all too true. Asked to describe a challenge he has faced driving change his response was “the biggest issue is usually the CAVE men.” Reading my puzzled expression he went on to explain “citizens against virtually everything”. How often have you met the person that just isn’t interested? Isn’t open minded to possibilities and refuses to even listen let alone ponder the benefits change can bring? What about those who insist on highlighting every reason imaginable for abandoning your change efforts? I’m referring to the people that rarely raise intelligent or sensible concerns– they simply dig their heels in and refuse to play nicely.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the people who resist change because they are genuinely concerned about undesirable impacts to them, their colleagues or the business. Fear of the unknown, a desire to stay within their comfort zone, anxiety about losing something they value are just a few examples of the very real concerns people have that may cause them to push back or simply not move forward. It is just as common to observe people resist when they sincerely believe it is not in the organisations best interests to take the intended direction or actions.
What I am referring to are the people who resist change ‘just because’ – in other words they have no reasonable argument, they simply don’t want to play nicely. I’m also referring to those people who despite every best effort to help them to understand, to bring them along on the journey, to give them comfort of their value and the security of their role, choose to focus on remote possibilities of detrimental consequences. When next faced with a CAVE man or woman in your business here are some of the most important things you can do to address the issue:
Call a spade a spade. If your concerted efforts to persuade and influence have failed, let them know their continuing resistance is unreasonable and unacceptable. Sometimes people need to know you expect them to get on the bus or stop crowding the bus stop.
Set clear expectations. Not only do they need to be told to get on the bus they also need very clear direction about which seat to sit on and how to conduct themselves once there. In other words be very clear about the role you need and expect people to play; what they need to do and how they need to go about it.
Be strong. Maintain a constructive and compassionate approach but hold your ground. Be unwavering and firm in your expectation that they behave in ways any reasonable person would consider in a spirit of good intention and cooperation.
Keep the door open. For as long as it is makes sense keep the door open for them to re-join the team. While they continue to be a member of your team don’t avoid, marginalise or exclude them. Continue to express the desire for them to be on board and the value of the contribution they can make.
Call it a day. Once even your CAVE man combat strategy has failed it’s time to address the issue once and for all. Assuming you have been fair and worked hard to help them succeed, if people aren’t willing to cooperate with reasonable instruction it’s time for them to leave your organisation.