On resistance to change
A fresh start somewhere new: a new project, role, organisation or team. We arrive eager and excited for a new challenge. With innocent eyes, we see with clarity what everyone seems to be missing. There’s room for improvement and potential for great things to happen.
Optimistic and enthusiastic, we see a bright future ahead. We came in to shake things up, to improve stuff and change things for the better.
Some people appreciate the enthusiasm. Having been there for what feels like forever, their potential and drive has been buried beneath piles of inertia and paperwork.
Unplanned and unconsciously, things are normalised and standardised, and phrases like ‘this is the way things have always been done’ slip into conversation when you enquire about reasons and rationales.
Yet they welcome the fresh perspective, the readiness to experiment and explore other, hopefully better ways of doing things.
Trying, testing, reviewing, repeating.
But with others, you quickly hit a wall. They push back as soon as you scratch the surface and poke around into the way things work.
There is resistance to change. A point of tension that becomes a power struggle, and manifests in all sorts of ways.
A defensiveness when you ask questions, resistance when you suggest tweaks, downright disappointment when your changes are approved.
Changing how things are done can be seen as a risk to one’s role, one’s security. After being a gatekeeper for long enough, they’re now unable to share or let go of their domain.
How to navigate the power struggles you’re dragged into? Either resist and persist, or decide it’s not worth the emotional labour and give in. Your confidence and enthusiasm is slowly eroded, as is the potential to make things better for others.
History has an inertia and traditions are fossilised. Constantly swimming upstream and struggling against the current is emotionally exhausting. The system is a machine evolved for self-perpetuation, even if that means to wear you down and box you in, turning you into another cog - another brick in the wall.
Apathy and defeatism take over as the creeping feeling that change is impossible grows.
Andalusian philosopher Maria Zambrano wrote “To exist is to resist, being in front of, confronting. Humankind has existed when, before their gods, they offered resistance”. It’s in that struggle that we grow and take shape as individuals, separated and differentiated.
Resist the resistance and create the space for change to encourage new ways of thinking, seeing and doing.
Resist the resistance even though it would be easier to give in and carry on. But be strategic about it: learn to identify when to give and when to take. Build relationships and alliances with likeminded people and bring them on board. Think long term and pick your battles wisely. Not all battles are worth the effort, frustration and emotional labour in the long run.
And we’re in for the long run.
Rome was not built in a day. So, as the dog Latin aphorism goes, “illegitimi non carborundum”.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Our highlights this month
Christine Cawthorne and Rob Mills
Described as an ‘ongoing conversation between two people who write for a living and for pleasure, Christine and Rob are recording a podcast episode each week while they work together on a project. Listen and learn from two content pros!
A quick read on what happens when we lead with curiosity instead of conviction, and aim to be less wrong rather than focus on being right.
Reflecting on 15 years of writing about the potential of data and technology, Jennifer Oldfield considers the impact of open data, and the power held by the people behind the devices, apps, and algorithms that increasingly govern our lives.
Ruminating on the relationship between the news, attention economy and mental health, Oliver Burkeman gives realistic ideas for shifting our centre of psychological gravity back from the news cycle to the world around us.
A compelling case from content designer, Sonia on the benefits of plain language for B2B services. The takeaway? Plain language makes your service easier to find, understand, evaluate, and buy.