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A Psychotherapy for Resistances to Change Published: Thursday, November 12, 1998 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Leaders are prepared for every eventuality, including the resistances to be expected when one challenges a system or an organization to perform with higher standards. The logic to encounter, as stated, is the following:

A need to do something different is felt, partially rationally, mostly intuitively. It is the pressing need to open the organization or the society up to a new way of doing things. The organization looks for help in creating the conditions that will enroll the population of teams in a challenge of change and transformation. Nevertheless, unless there is full and constant support from the final organizational power and authority, such efforts are likely to lead to erratic results at best.

Organizational resistances are mobilized. That can happen instantaneously or very subtly and gradually. Leaders attempting change in their systems are likely to confront wounded pride, anxiety, breakdown of social equilibrium, coalitions and culture shock. The resistance is manifested by a wide range of clever defense strategies. The first step in managing them is to name them. Some typical defenses are silence, boredom, indifference, sleep, inaction, embarrassment at valuing personal support, always having something else to do that interferes, living in crisis rather than in a planned environment, accusations of all sorts, lack of seriousness, reading papers while an important meeting is going on, no interest in thinking about change, indefinite postponements, procrastinations, intended political sabotage, cynical manipulation, ignoring that solutions are personal actions, and thinly disguised hostility. All these actions for resistance can always be rationalized by professional objectivity. These strategies of resistance are verbalized in typical ways: "This is dangerous", "We don‘t need lectures", "How do I apply it", "The timing is not right", "Define your terms", "How do you make these ideas work for one thousand people", "I am very practical", "Subsidized therapy", "We are overload", "I am here because my boss sent me", "We have these meetings, but nothing ever changes around here", "Go back to work now".

Resistance is a manageable interference with the growth process. The typical expressions are those of projection, displacement (which can be somatic), denial, numbing, and sublimation. Resistance must be treated with uncompromising realism. Sufficient ventilation of the resistance gets to root causes. Once we know what we are up against, we can begin to deal with it.

The demand to make the leadership mind operational, to the degree that such a request is unauthentic, has many responses. The struggle of change, to certain extent, is about understanding the workings of the minds. In psychotherapy, insight heals and creates personal power. That is the theory that produces knowledge as the foundation of change. Another perspective is to develop techniques and skills of transition and stressing that Superman or Superwomen do not live in the organization and that people should look for constructive answers themselves. At times, leaders should question the questions to make the point that change and transformation is dialogic, it requires the contributions of all of those truly interested in behavior modification ventures. It is important to establish the cost of resistance (emotional and financial) for the health of the organization. A critical mass is created as sustained commitment and perseverance is shown by key decision makers, who must be the sponsors.

Gradual transformations of organizations occur like sunshine after rain, daylight after a long night. The idea is to make the culture`s new consciousness permanent over passing the danger of the status quo habitual recidivism. A call for modeling is based on the theory that leadership for change is contagious.

 


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