Could you commit murder?
In the movie “The Push”, Psychological Illusionist Derren Brown uses social pressure to convince ordinary, decent, real-life individuals to become increasingly socially compliant until they commit murder.
Have many of us have lost our objectivity because of social pressure?
Can socialization and corporate culture strip us of our capacity to think independently?
Critically, are socialization and corporate culture stifling creativity and innovation?
Let us explore these questions from the perspective of an avatar “Dan Jnr”.
Dan Jnr had been elevated to lead the unit. Like many others in his situation, Dan Jnr is facing many challenges. His experience is replicated across many organizations. We capture its essence here.
How was your promotion received?
There was lukewarm reception by some team members. A few appeared to be supportive. However, there is a hard core of individuals who had spent years under the leadership of my predecessor who refuse to cooperate.
What is their grouse?
The organization is big on tradition. Many of the employees have been there for years. Some have come there directly out of school and have never experienced any other work environment. You survive there by falling in line with cultural norms.
I am relatively new to the organization and a newbie in this unit.
I am viewed with suspicion as I am one of a group of strategically recruited executives who are expected to lead the renewal of the organization.
We are viewed by the employees as the first wave of an invading army that is coming to take away their jobs and destroy everything that they hold dear.
This sounds like there is mistrust. Do you think you may have contributed to this in any way?
I try to be polite and respectful. However, I am here to get a job done. I am expected to initiate change and make a difference.
The biggest challenge may not be related to trust. The problems arise every time I try to introduce something new.
I get overrun with responses about how it has always been done. The persona of the previous unit leader looms large. Resistance to change is the issue from my perspective. I have never hidden the fact that change is my agenda so there should be no misunderstandings.
What support are you getting from the top?
I get a mixed response. They seem to appreciate the need for the renewal but in the main they are also wed to the tradition.
For example, I might get approval for a new initiative but being supported in its implementation is another matter. Limited resources. Slow further approvals. Retreat when challenged by traditionalists.
Could it be that your approach to change management is too aggressive and needs tweaking?
It may be. I face roadblocks at every turn and I feel like I am out there on my own most of the time. But I feel like that comes with my role as a change agent.
What is the answer from your perspective?
I am not sure that I am able to prescribe solutions.
I think that both sides are into a new experience and neither party is sure how to deal with it.
Maybe I could have learned to slow down and build trust first rather than pushing through the change agenda.
I also wonder if top management could have been more thoughtful in the planning and introduction of the change initiative.
I have the sense that the organization was not ready. This kind of transformation initiative requires preparation and change agents like me could definitely benefit from some specialized training and ongoing support.
I appreciate the challenges. In the final analysis, I think that I need to continue to be different. If I succumb to the pressure of the traditional culture I would have failed.
I need to be different as the difference that I am representing will save the jobs of those who are resisting. It is not a strategy to replace them.
I need to be different because the trajectory of my life is different from most of my colleagues.
Statistically, the greater part of my life is ahead of me whilst theirs is behind them. I need to maintain a future-ready mind-set.
I have to be different because this issue is bigger than me and even my organization. This kind of transformation is of national importance.
Dan Jr’s situation is increasingly a feature of life in organizations in this climate of rapid and inescapable change.
Are there Dan Jnr units in your organization? People skills are critical for developing strong teams within organizations. Ask about our Time/Task/Stress & Change Management e-diagnostics as you look on the horizon to have even more impact for this new year.
Additionally, have you completed a climate survey recently? According to the Harvard Business review “Not having a regular survey sends a clear message: you don’t care about people’s opinions. The act of filling out a survey gives them a specific channel for expressing voice…. They’re still great predictors of behaviour, they give employees the chance to feel heard, and they’re actually a vehicle for changing behaviour.”
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