Managing Negative Ned, Fearful Frieda and Other Personalities in the Workplace

Leading a team is not easy.  Teams are made up of unique individuals with their own wants, needs and personality types.  Leading and managing those different personality types is especially important when you are introducing a new challenge or changing a current process.  Some people just don’t like change and they have no problem letting you know!  Of course, how they do that depends on their personality type. Perhaps you recognize some of the following?

Resistant Rhoda won’t even let you finish your sentence when you bring up a suggestion or new procedure. Resistant Rhoda say things like “Stop right there.  I’m not changing how I do this.” and “But, we’ve always done it this way.”  Resistant Rhoda does not like change. One way to get Resistant Rhoda to consider change is to compare her way, the old way to the new way.   Walk through the process step by step, highlight areas that have not changed and clearly explain the why behind necessary changes.

Negative Ned doesn’t walk; he shuffles.  A black cloud of negativity follows him everywhere.  All suggestions for change are met with either of two phrases: “That’s not going to work.”or “That’s just stupid.”  When Negative Ned starts, ask him to explain to you why he thinks it won’t work. There is a good chance he won’t be able to come up with a good reason, in which case you need to explain the rationale behind the change request and if possible, show him examples of how it will work.

Analytical Art is a numbers kind of guy.  Analytical Art wants proof; he wants to see the numbers, the research and the rationale.  Show it to him. Make sure he clearly understands what outcomes are expected and why the change has been made.  If there are examples of other organizations or departments that successfully made the change and achieved the objectives, share that with him as well.

Watch out for Sabotage Sue.  Sabotage Sue will eagerly agree with anything you say as long as you’re around. As soon as you turn your back or leave the room, Sabotage Sue is whispering with other team members saying things like “I really don’t understand how that can possibly work.” or “Why are they making us do this?”  Try inviting Sabotage Sue into the planning process.  Ask for her advice on how to get the rest of the team to buy into the process and then have her help you introduce the changes to the team.  She will be less likely to sabotage the plan if she helped develop it.

Pushy Pete usually catches on to change quickly.  He jumps on board, takes on the challenge and then makes sure that everyone who doesn’t catch on as quickly knows it.  Pushy Pete takes every opportunity he can to point out others errors. One way to counteract this is to recognize Pushy Pete’s ability immediately and ask him to help you train others.  Coach him on how to do this effectively and then lead by example.

Fearful Frieda is just scared. She doesn’t like change, she is scared of making a mistake and she lets you and everyone around her know it.  Acknowledge Fearful Frieda’s concern, work with her closely or assign a mentor to help her.

The reality is that Fearful Frieda is being the most honest when she clearly expresses fear.  Chances are that Negative Ned, Resistant Rhoda, Pushy Pete, Analytical Art and Sabotage Sue are also scared of change but instead of admitting it, throw up different defence mechanisms to hide their fear.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that change can generate fear.   When asking your team to take on a new challenge or change a process, clearly share the vision and the objectives, share the why, acknowledge the challenge and then invite them into the process.  You can’t change their personalities and you may never get all your team members to the point of eagerly embracing change, but with patience, you can gain their trust and help them overcome their resistance to change.

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