Change is omnipresent and often necessary in small or large dimensions in our lives and for companies in order to continue to be successful. A change is defined as: “changing oneself, becoming different”. We have all changed in one way or another and realized that change is not always easy. Humans are creatures of habits. Even this smallest possible Change creates a bad feeling in many people and the desire to restore the old state. But why do we find it so difficult to implement changes?

Change is omnipresent and often necessary in small or large dimensions in our lives and for companies in order to continue to be successful. A change is defined as: “changing oneself, becoming different”. We have all changed in one way or another and realized that change is not always easy. Humans are creatures of habits. Even this smallest possible Change creates a bad feeling in many people and the desire to restore the old state. But why do we find it so difficult to implement changes?

Many companies are certainly dealing with this question and investing a lot of time and money in such changes. The question of the success factors of change are explained quite simply on a purely human level in companies: want, ability and may.

  • Want : Do I want a change? Do I feel like it?
  • Can : Do I have the necessary skills to implement the changes?
  • Allowed to : Does my boss / management allow this change?

For me, the most important criterion of a change process in the company is the component “may” (my management allows me). Most changes in companies primarily affect employees and hardly any managers. Such a change often requires permission to be obtained from management. I’ve already written an exciting article on this.

Reading tip: Convince management

Despite the new forms of organization, many employees are still hierarchically shaped and have the following instructions from management. Which is why the other two dimensions can often be carried out clearly simply through discussions / processes (willingness) and further training (ability). For knowledge about change management, I have put together two reading tips for you:

Change means resistance. In this article, I would also like to go into the individual level (employee and manager) of a refusal to change. Specifically, on two points:

  • What happens if a single employee completely refuses a change?
  • What happens if a change suddenly affects a manager and he behaves in the same way?

What happens if there is a change?

A change triggers a sequence of reactions that are almost the same for every person. Take a look at the following illustration. The following steps are particularly important:

  • 3: Rational insight: if you look at it soberly, it makes a lot of sense!
  • 4: Emotional insight: well, ok!

They notice on the curve that after the emotional insight they have actually survived the hardest part. I’ll give you an example: Take the gym: Many people know that they are a little overweight, but they still don’t go to sport. They say: I know it’s not healthy, but I don’t feel like it. Rational belief is present, but emotionally the person just doesn’t feel like it. Now the question remains, how can you convince employees emotionally?

Concrete: If I understand it (rationally) and feel like it (emotionally), then I also go to the gym!

Change model prank
Change model according to Prank (own illustration)

Limitation

Of course, this does not apply to all managers and many employees are actively involved in changes. There are often a few individual cases that cause headaches when there are changes. Even if some tips sound drastic, we humans should always act with respect and find compromises, but also balance the cost-effectiveness and effort. I would also like to emphasize that the examples are fictional people and do not reflect any direct connection to my customer projects.

An employee refuses to make a change

Back to the beginning. What happens when there is a change in a classic company as we all know it? As a rule, a change is approved by management and announced to the workforce. Step 1 after the announcement is a state of shock, which in my opinion can be got through simply by waiting a bit. In other words: wait 14 days after the announcement (SMEs) and let the change take effect. A CEO of a large direct bank once said to me: After I told my more than 20,000 employees in 2018 that we are now using agile methods, I haven’t said a word about it for 1 year. Only then was the shock slowly gone and I started with the first information material.

The second step is to convert rejection into a rational insight through meaningful information and appraisal interviews. However, this rational insight is only half the way and can be achieved through powerpoints, coaching and questionnaires as well as employee interviews.

First choice: coaching and peer pressure

As in the last paragraph, the emotional insight is the crux of the matter. So what to do with employees who are not very insightful?

The first option is intensive coaching by management and possible external consultants for particularly stubborn employees. My tips for such coaching are:

  • Show the positive!
  • Do not create pressure!
  • Take your time and listen!
  • Respond to the employee’s objections!
  • Ask questions!
  • Smile often and show open body language!

In addition, it makes sense to put the employee in a very motivated team. People are group beings and like to adapt to an environment. Specifically: if my whole team does it like this, then I’ll take part!

Second choice: instruction

Especially from my time as a consultant, I know that you often put a lot of time and effort into such coaching and an employee could still quit in the end. It is important to carefully consider whether the effort is worthwhile or whether the employee will leave the company anyway.

Every coach and freelancer will probably judge me now, but I am a manager myself and I know that time is often not enough and that we introduce agility alongside day-to-day business. I therefore experience that with very little insight and candidates who can leave the company, a simple method is used: The employee is advised to implement this change, as he has a valid employment contract. So it is ordered.

Difference between managers and employees – power and the dark triad

Managers have had a special position in science for a long time. With a certain hierarchical power they are able to block or implement changes in the company through instructions. The selection of executives is particularly important. If an employee does a bad job, often only his direct colleague suffers. With a bad top manager, the whole department (30-100 employees) is welcome.

Striving for power

In most cases, leaders strive for power. Position designations, status symbols and company organization charts signal such power. It is particularly strong striving for power that often leads executives and top managers to anti-social behavior.

A study by the University of Bamberg has around 200 executives at Board game Catan compete against each other. An important fact of the game is that you don’t necessarily have to compete against each other, but can help each other by trading. The researchers wanted to analyze the behavior of managers. The use of petroleum is permitted in order to analyze the consequences of power behavior. The consequence is that environmental damage and declining overall yields can occur. can lead. All test persons had to fill out a questionnaire beforehand (determination of the desire for power).

The results are short and sweet: The executives with a strong drive for power caused an oil accident most often (five times). In the case of managers of a cooperative nature, this happened much less often. So is less will for power necessary for leaders?

The Dark Triad

Unfortunately, a study shows that the number of personality disorders is increasing massively, especially at management level. A survey by the German Graduate School of Management and Law of almost 850 executives shows that over 300 people exhibited a high level of personality disorder. Lawyers (36%), managers (27%) and doctors (22%) are particularly affected. An even larger number show a moderate to mild personality disorder, especially in the managerial area.

The psychologists Delroy Paulhaus and Kevin Williams (University of Vancouver) conceived the so-called Dark Triad more than 15 years ago. The content is three specific personality disorders, which occur more and more in executives. The two psychologists found that white-collar workers, in particular, often pretend to be very different at work. Since executives tend to have greater freedom, they are more like “you” as employees. You have probably already seen someone suddenly change completely after being promoted.

Dark triad
Dark triad and description (own illustration)

Narcissism, psychopathic behavior or Machiavellian behavior usually have the following things in common in practice:

  • very sensitive to criticism
  • Depending on status and confirmation (ego)
  • Driven by goals like power, recognition, or wealth

I don’t want to go into the individual disturbances, but just look at what all three have in common when the manager loses power due to a change. You can now assume that a person with such a personality disorder will literally run “amok” in the company, depending on the severity, when power is lost, and that this is the majority of managers. This can be seen in the following examples:

  • He screams and is very impulsive
  • He fights the introduction of change
  • He tries to form an alliance against change
  • He threatens employees
  • He hides facts that the new organization will improve things in the company
  • He threatens the management that he wants to leave the company with numerous customers and employees

Willingness to change very little

There is one additional point: Managers are often very reluctant to change. In contrast to software developers, changing jobs as a manager is very difficult because there are not so many positions with the same conditions. This is why managers often do not quit when they are dissatisfied and fight for position. The question now remains, how do managers deal with which changes are actively combating?

One manager refuses a change – the escalating manager

When it comes to managers, I am not talking about team leaders, who often have little influence with professional leadership, but at least Head of department / area manager with disciplinary leadership and good position. What if a change suddenly drives such a manager crazy? Let’s take a look at a scenario that I have already experienced a dozen times in my consulting career at the time.

Example: Introduction of Scrum – from rational insight to total escalation

Imagine the introduction of the agile method Scrum in a 50-person IT department in a company with 200 employees. Important: Scrum reduces the power of executives at first glance through self-organization and team decisions and is above all a thorn in the side of “people in power”.

After the management decided to introduce Scrum, the workforce was informed. The current head of IT is convinced that the new structure will improve the performance of his department. So he has seen it rationally and is participating. A psychologist once told me that the mindset at this moment is as follows: Scrum improves the performance of my department and thus gives me more recognition and power!

After the 14-day shock phase and some discussions, some employees and external coaches start with the introduction at team level. There are retrospectives, dailies, sprints and the team leaders can easily find their way into their role as Product Owner or Scrum Master. The legitimized power of the organization is transferred to the teams and new Scrum roles.

Even the most friendly IT department head, who previously helped with the implementation, suddenly notices that power is dwindling and control is suffering. Dwindling power makes us increasingly nervous and he starts to process the change emotionally and comes to a result: Scrum will find its way into this department (rational) but it will wane my power (emotional). There is only one thing for him to do: “I have to fight Scrum “and he’s literally running amok.” Even if I repeat myself, you will now find the following behaviors:

  • He screams and is very impulsive
  • He fights the introduction of change
  • He tries to form an alliance against change
  • He threatens employees
  • He hides facts that the new organization will improve things in the company
  • He threatens the management that he wants to leave the company with numerous customers and employees

Often nothing is done for a long time

Practice shows that managers in this position are often in the company for a very long time and also have a certain influence on the company due to many years of success. So the top management will not do anything for the time being. This time is hell for the employees and especially the Scrum officers, because he will take care of that. During this time, the number of dismissals due to the head of department is also quite high. Because of his position of power, he cannot simply be ordered to accept the change. Do you notice a parallel to a current US president who just does what he wants and apparently nobody can stop him?

The only solution: escape or wait

Only a few tips will help during this time, as it is often very difficult as an employee (especially without a works council) to assert yourself against the disciplinary manager. As a consultant, I often left the company because my assignment was over, but I was able to collect the following tips over the years:

  • Try to be confident. Fend off claims and show they are strong too!
  • Build a relationship. Mention that you want to communicate and are not a danger (willingness to cooperate)!
  • Strengthen your manager’s self-esteem: You are an important man in the company and we need you as a constructive manager!
  • Make it clear to him that you don’t want to take anything away from him!
  • Communicate non-violently instead of making accusations!
  • In the worst case scenario, you quit. Chronic illnesses and long failures are the following from prolonged emotional stress.

Limitation

Of course, this does not apply to all managers and many employees are actively involved in changes. There are often a few individual cases that cause headaches when there are changes. Even if some tips sound drastic, we humans should always act with respect and find compromises, but also balance the cost-effectiveness and effort. I would also like to emphasize that the examples are fictional people and do not reflect any direct connection to my customer projects.

Conclusion

Changes are omnipresent and affect both managers and employees. The processing of changes goes through different phases. The most important thing is the emotional insight of the employees. While coaching or instruction with reference to the employment contract is often enough for employees with little insight, the situation is different for executives. One reason is possibly the particular prevalence of personality disorders among managers, which can lead to highly conspicuous behavior up to massive fights in the company. As an employee, all that helps is often waiting or fleeing the company.

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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