“You just can’t do right by some folks”, as my grandma used to say. Or would have done, had she not had an aversion to ‘down home’-isms and we’d lived in Alabama in the 1930s.
Tough times call for tough decisions, and inevitably some soul-searching. No business wants to manage change that reflects that perhaps things aren’t going so well; we all want to lead change that sees new people come in to an organisation, new clients won, new projects planned for. We want to hire, not fire. We want good times, and what’s more, we feel we deserve them.
Of course. But I am afraid that’s not what I need to talk to you about today.
What I posted the other day about how to behave during organisational change struck a chord with a few people. I’d like to add to that piece about what I do when, despite making the very best effort, you get pushback, objections, challenges, threats, complaints, allegations, denial or downright stubbornness. Some people just can’t (or won’t) accept that they’re at risk. They rail and they protest. It’s to be expected; someone just moved their cheese*.
First thing to do- create some space by adjourning the meeting and agreeing a course of action. If they need to go home, that’s fine. Expecting them to walk back onto the ‘shop floor’ in a state of high emotion is both unrealistic and potentially risky.
Take a deep breath and step back from the fire. I use the time to check what I’ve done and look at the process objectively. I make sure I have covered all angles, been compliant, and done the right thing as far as was realistic and practical. I consider how I’ve talked to them in comparison to their peers. I ask if I’ve been fair. Have I kept to my behavioural rules as far as possible? Have I been respectful?
Mostly, I ask how I’d have felt, faced with my approach, escalated stress levels, the loss of my job, and a potentially life-changing situation. Empathy helps you place their response into context.
If I can come through all that and face myself in the mirror both as an HR professional and human being, I will keep my CIPD membership card proudly in my purse at all times and my credibility intact.
I hope Grandma would be proud.
*I still rate this as one of the most accessible and relevant business mentoring books around.