The Road to Business Success - 4

In my previous blog (here), I highlighted a small sub-group in any group facing change that I called the ‘Active Negatives’. Every business has them. In this blog I’ll show you how to zap your active negatives in the workforce.

They account for maybe 5 to 10% of the total group. They see the change program as a threat. They’re the ones who, for whatever reason, see themselves as losing something as a result of the change initiative.

It’s not that they lose in a financial sense, but in say, recognition or reputation or status. They therefore set out to do whatever they can to delay, stop or sabotage the program, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly.

Unfortunately, in this sub-group I often find some junior and middle managers, maybe even a senior manager or two.

If possible, we need to try to give them a benefit from the program that more than compensates for their perceived loss.

But they’re not always easy to deal with or to turn around.

Let me outline how you can minimise or eliminate their effects and ensure a successful change program.

So who are these ‘Active Negatives’?

Typically, these people fall into one of three sub-categories that I call –

  • the over-dramatic,
  • the over-egoed, and
  • the over-promoted.

Let’s look at each of these separately.

The over-dramatic.

These are the people that thrive on chaos. It’s what makes their lives worth living. They just love to be in the middle of chaos, over-dramatizing their role in resolving the issues.

They’d never think of trying to avoid the chaos in the first place.

So when a change program comes along with a much more orderly, predictable, smoother operation, they see their reason for living is going to disappear. They just don’t like it, and so become negative towards it.

Now, this sub-category is probably the easiest to resolve since we can engage them in specific parts of the program, similar to how we deal with the unofficial influencers. (See my previous blog here).

Get them busy developing some of the solutions that they can then take pride in. You’ll find that most of them will then become more positive towards the program.

The over-egoed.

They are the ones with a big ego about what they do. They see themselves as better at the job than anyone else. They think they know it all. Nothing is ever their fault.

They resent people coming in from outside their world with new fancy ideas, particularly with a new change program that emphasises flexibility and teamwork. They just don’t want to know about it. They’d far rather be left alone to get on with their thing.

Again, if you handle them carefully, they’re reasonably easy to deal with. Recognise them as subject matter experts and have them train others in their particular skillset. Make them feel expert – endorse it – emphasise it. But at the same time use it to get more flexibility within the group.

The over-promoted.

The ones in this sub-category are by far the most difficult to deal with.

It’s unfortunately a fact that, as companies grow and develop, too often people are promoted into management roles who may have good technical skills, but lack the people management skills required in their new role. This can then adversely affect the morale and motivation of their staff.

But of course, they enjoy the status and perks of their role and don’t want to lose them. So they do their best to be successful and cover up their weaknesses, of which they are usually well aware. They see the new change program, with its clear measures and transparency as a threat, and will do what they can to kill it.

Again, give them responsibility for delivering part of the change program. Continually measure and assess their performance. Don’t accept excuses for late or non-delivery of objectives.

Above all, build the key program objectives into their personal objectives as part of their annual review and pay assessment. And ultimately, if they’re not performing, move them for the good of the program and of the business.

But sometimes,even these corrective actions just won’t work. To finish, let me give you some examples of extreme ‘active negatives’.

Real Life Examples

In one company, when the core project team wanted to introduce productivity measures into the assembly area, it turned out that the Head of Production had specifically forbidden any such measures in that area.

He knew the routings were wrong, but didn’t want to compromise his ‘success’ by alerting head office to problems that would lead to pricing issues.

In another company, we discovered a section supervisor manually checking and hand filling bottles on an automatic filling line to ensure that he had 100% pass rate on the check weigher.

In each case they were making sure their operations were seen as successful. At any cost.

But perhaps the worst example was the Production Director in yet another company who met all three of the above sub-categories and became visibly livid about the change program proposals.

In all of these examples the individuals could not live with the transparency of the change program. There was no easy way of correcting such twisted logic, and in the end they had to go for the benefit of their businesses.

I hope you find the above guidelines help you to implement your change programs more smoothly. Enjoy your success. You can become the best in your business.

Apply the thinking in the ‘Elite’ Business Series of books here under the Books tab, and Beat the Competition!

Let me know how you get on.

If you need any help or advice, contact me at or via Linked In here.

Thanks for visiting,

Jim McCallum

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