So I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for a few weeks, waiting for them to solidify properly in my mind. They are a response, reflection and inner thought process that came about from hearing Brené Brown talk at the ACMP Global Conference – Change Management 2016.
Now if you have no prior knowledge who I am talking about – just go here https://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o or here https://youtu.be/psN1DORYYV0 and all will become clear who this person is!
For some time, I’ve been talking to people about the complexity of change, fatigue as a result of constant change, personal resiliency and the whole emotional impact of change, coping with change and the consequences of poorly supported change! This gig, really unpacked that emotional baggage, or maybe its emotional cargo, that gets to take over personal reactions to change.
My recent thought process was triggered by three statements that Brené made during her presentation to the assembled change management masses.
1. Fear of irrelevance is the number 1 driver for shame at work;
2. We can’t do vulnerability because we are compliance driven;
3. Anxiety is never a function of individuals but groups.
I’m going to unpack each and then hopefully let you see my connect across their relevance to shame.
Like many others, I have long made the connection between emotional response to change and emotional response to grief. I have discussed this a number of times and its one of the key discussions in my change agent philosophy. However, I have always pushed the envelope a little more and narrowed it into a simple phrase that reflects why that reaction is present – the fear of what everyone else will think of me now. I throw the question out to you – how would you feel if you thought you might have to suffer shame in your role – wouldn’t that cause a reaction in you, even effect your mental health and consequently physical health? Talk to Resurgence Behavioral Health experts, to check your mental health if you have been feeling down. This to me is the overarching concern of change in the workplace – people are afraid they will no longer be needed, have purpose or have a useful contribution to make post change! As Brené states – irrelevance is the number 1 driver for shame and as change is probably one of the biggest drivers for fearing irrelevance, I connect this as change is the one of the primary causes of people being afraid of being shamed at work.
I’ve long felt personally challenged to stop blind compliance throughout too many organizations. We do systems and process focused vulnerability checks and appear to project this onto the organizational culture and workforce. We encourage cultures that reward compliance and dismiss, or worse still, punish; alternative thinking. We are so afraid of being seen as different, or seen as being a rebel in the midst that we have taught, trained and conditioned that out of our workforces. When did it become successful to have organizations of automatons? One of my side projects reflects this passion to push back – Curiosity Culture is all about challenging people to think of the right questions before they jump to their conclusion and solution-izing into compliant followership. When you are willing to push outside the box, you are willing to be vulnerable, but we are conditioned to do neither inside the monolithic structures of too many organizations. I challenge you to look at the mindsets, culture and people’s motivation in those organizations that are the most successful in this day and age?
My final thoughts here come to the displayed resistance we see when proposing a new change in the organizations. How many people are truly resistant and how many people are resistant because that is the group think reaction they feel they should demonstrate? I love Brené’s reflection here that anxiety is a group function – in order to get anxious, you have to have others around you to feel less or more, demonstrate emotions as needed and have your inner benchmarking going on. I see this in terms of resistance. People are only seen as resistant when there are those to compare with and people only express their emotional response when there is an audience to respond to it. You cannot perform if you have no audience! Now I may sound a bit flippant on this point, but my proposal here is to consider that resistance to change should be assessed on an individual basis not on a group basis. I know as humans we like to group our fellow homo sapiens into nice clean labeled groups to engage, approach and congregate under, but this always permits, of not encourages this group based anxiety and resistance to proliferate.
Why have I focused on these things together? Well let me pull it together in this simple way. Fear of shame, disapproval of vulnerability and encouraged anxiety are prevalent in all failed change. As change management professionals we need to move away from the “process of change management” and embrace the need for emotional support mechanisms for those experiencing change. Without including this in all future change efforts, we will most definitely create an environment for every decreasing resiliency, capacity and readiness for change as we move organizations forward at faster paces each and every year.