I’ve learned in leading change that there are some common objections. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.
Here are 5 common reasons for criticism of change:
Confused -These people just don’t understand the change. They lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, they become supportive or less opposed.
Conflicted – Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Frankly, some people can be mean. This category can be the most hurtful as a leader, but understanding them may help you avoid a lot of heartache. These people will likely always be critics until something is addressed with them directly. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. If the change is necessary, you may have to confront these people directly or simply learn to work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.
Care – These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their position. These are many times changes which appear to favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. I have seen that many times including people in the decision process, acknowledging and attempting to understand their concerns, along with good vision casting can alleviate some of these concerns.
Control – You stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This reason for criticism is probably most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them. I have found that many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you, even if they still don’t agree with the change. (And, then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support.)
Comfort – These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change is relative to the size of the change. We all resist change at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. The only solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt.
Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that’s leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.
I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of criticism. Even the best ideas will receive some.
You may want to read 5 Right Ways to Respond to Criticism and 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism.
Are there any other reasons you have seen for criticism?