Detect Workplace Change Resistance Like Sam Spade

On more than one occasion as an organizational consultant, I have detected hidden workplace change resistance long before the leaders and managers. They asked me later, how did you know?

It got me thinking about how I spot change resistance lurking in the cubicles.

Spot Workplace Change Resistance Like a Detective Image by:TheLoushe

I detect clues much like Sam Spade.
I spot …

  1. Words that are contradicted by actions or inaction.
  2. Words or actions that seem forward focused while anchoring everyone in the status quo.
  3. Questions that are actually saying no. These are resistance statements in disguise.
  4. What doesn’t fit or make sense given incentives, choices, and conditions.

How can you become the Sam Spade of change resistance?

  • Give yourself permission. It’s both OK and essential that you see the reality. Sharpening your sight doesn’t make you a tyrant or a cynic.
  • Be ever present and conversational. Your conversations, formal and informal, will produce more clues. Presentations where you ask for questions are only a small piece of the picture. To see a more detailed picture, get a closer view.
  • Trust your ability to handle change resistance else you might overlook a clue that’s right in front of you.
  • Overcome any fear of conflict otherwise you may block from your mind what you find undesirable. As leaders, your inner strength will guide you through discomfort and give your teams a beam of support during the change.

  • Your detective skills help all involved in the change. They unearth obstacles, concerns, and energy drains that everyone can address once out in the open.

    Contrarily, overlooking resistance, avoiding conflict, being distant during the angst and stress, tells your teams you don’t believe in the change. If you don’t believe in it, why should they?

    Lead change with vision far and near. Like a detective you will unearth both obstacles and success — with and for your teams.

    From my experience to your success,
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

    How have you detected hidden change resistance? What specific clues got your attention and how did you handle them?

    ©2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, delivers workshops, keynotes, and consultations that turn interaction obstacles into organizational success. Leaders have been booking Kate for 21 years to fill the gaps of diversity with action and teamwork. See this site for customer results and book Kate now.

    7 Responses to “Detect Workplace Change Resistance Like Sam Spade”

    1. Shawn Murphy says:

      Such an important topic to share with leaders. I want to reinforce what your write about overlooking resistance. I often see this associated with a leader’s reluctance to share difficult news. It’s too often focused on not wanting to alarm employees. Yet too often the news is circulating as a rumor or employees see the proverbial “writing on the wall.” The reluctance is often rooted in the leader’s resistance to deal with confrontation, or in worse cases, with reality. Consequently, communications, presentations, and meetings struggle to connect people with the purpose for change. And more resistance surfaces. Nasty little loop.

      Good post, Kate.

      • Kate Nasser says:

        So very very true Shawn. Delaying difficult news is not kinder on those who must hear it. Leaders who can step outside of their own comfort and help others deal with the change are far kinder and of course more effective.

        Many thanks for sharing your perspective here. Always pleased to read your thoughts.

    2. Steve Keating says:

      Excellent post! More leaders really do need to be more aware of their surroundings – I’m also thinking the first step to using Kate’s great ideas is to admit there might be stuff going on in your organization that you don’t know about.

      Great, thought provoking post Kate!

      • Kate Nasser says:

        I agree Steve. Admitting there’s a problem is a great first step. Turning an org. around means seeing the truth.

        Many thanks for your contribution!

    3. Alex Dail says:

      I would add foot dragging and doing what is minimal to avoid detection too as resistance to change. I agree being willing to be perceptive is key. Often when people become victimized by social trouble it is because they are unwilling to adjust their perception.

    4. Jon Mertz says:

      Great post! It is enhancing your senses as a leader, meaning observing clearly, listening closely… All are critical to really understand the barriers so they can be removed or worked through.

      Excellent! Thanks!


      • Kate Nasser says:

        Nicely said Jon — enhancing your senses as a leader. You paint of picture of continuous refinement, learning, and growth. It helps with every current challenge and paves the way for future success.

        Many thanks for your contribution.

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