This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.
When a new change programme is announced, you’ll hear a chorus of complaints and concerns about what’s to come. After a while, you will start to notice some common themes. Almost certainly, they will be coming from similar personality types.
No matter how well a change programme is communicated, people will always push back at first. But it’s important to not allow that to settle into entrenched resistance. Behind these concerns are legitimate fears and worries that correlate with the needs and concerns of each personality.
By knowing these concerns in advance, you can be prepared to work with each of the different personality types in your team, have compassion for their concerns, and feel better equipped to handle them, without the push back becoming embedded.
We’ll use the four Temperaments to help us understand the main concerns people have when faced with change. Dr. David Keirsey has identified the four basic temperaments as the Artisan, the Guardian, the Idealist, and the Rational.
“It’s going to slow things down” - Artisans
Sensor-Perceivers (SPs) in the Myers and Briggs personality system, or Artisans, value freedom and flexibility. They are practical, resourceful and realistic in troubleshooting whatever problem arises. So, when a change programme is announced, they are going to look to see if it reduces or increases their flexibility and freedom. They will say things like “It's too rigid” or “it's going to slow things down.” As realistic troubleshooters, they are trying to understand why the organization wants to introduce a new system or process that reduces flexibility.
To help answer this question, gather tangible examples of problems the organization has been experiencing and the practical reasons why this approach has been taken. Also, talk to Artisans about how their ability to be flexible and adaptable will or won't be impacted and, if it is, look at how they can gain flexibility back in other areas.
“It’s not proven” - Guardians
Sensor-Judgers (SJs) in the Myers and Briggs personality system, or Guardians, value reliability, dependability and proven experience. They are excellent at stabilizing organizations through standard procedure, and administrating organizational systems with precision and authority.
When a change programme is announced, they are concerned about how the team and system will be disrupted, and whether it will undermine the organization's structure and stability. They will say things like “It’s not broken” or “that is an unproven approach.” They are trying to see if all the disruption will be worth the outcome, and whether it will make the organization more or less reliable.
To help answer this question, get the Guardian involved in the change process as much as possible. They are great at knowing how and when to make adjustments. However, if it does appear like you’re making change for change's sake, they will push back and will be slow to get on board.
“That’s illogical” - Rationals
Intuitive-Thinkers (NTs) in the Myers and Briggs personality system, or Rationals, value well-designed systems in which their competence is valued and they are able to operate reasonably independently. They will ask ‘why’ or ‘why not’ until they feel they understand the big picture and the logic behind it.
When a change programme is announced, Rationals are likely to ask to review the logic behind the decision, as well as to propose a number of alternatives, asking “wouldn't it be better if…” If the person running the project lacks the knowledge or the competence to be successful, the Rational will talk about how “it's not logical that…”
What these types are really asking is how will their competence fit into this new environment, and will they retain the same amount of independence they currently have? To answer these questions, encourage them to look at the logic behind their own concerns, and to talk to the change team about the other alternatives they have come up with and how these have been considered.
“People won't like it” - Idealists
Intuitive-Feelers (NFs) in the Myers and Briggs personality system, or Idealists, value meaning, empathy and a desire to help people. They focus on the atmosphere of an organization, known as morale, and how any changes in morale will affect the people.
When a change project is announced, they are looking for how people will feel about it and how people will be impacted by it. They will say “Is this change actually meaningful?” or “People won't like it.” What they are really trying to understand is the real purpose behind the change. Are senior management proposing something for authentic reasons or just trying to rebrand something smelly with some nice packaging?
Whatever the answer to that question is, you can help the Idealists by focusing on what they can learn from the change project. Idealists have an inner drive to grow and develop, and every change programme is an opportunity to do just that. Once they can see that opportunity for themselves, they can in turn start to help others do the same.
Whether you are in the middle of a change programme or not, it is always a good time to know your team members core drives and motivations. That, in turn, will help you understand why they might be resisting a new task, project or something bigger.
By understanding each team member’s deeper motivation, you can start the process of addressing their real fears and concerns — the ones they aren't easily able to voice but, once addressed, can get things moving again.
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