Why committed staff resist change

Every manager dreams of having committed staff, diligent people reliably coming in at 7am and still working into the evening.  But when it comes to organisational change, your most committed people can be the first to resist.      Managers need to support staff to keep work in perspective because when strategic change happens, nobody is protected. It can then be the most dedicated staff who feel the most hurt.

The Unspoken Expectations of Committed Staff 

We all know overwork is bad for us.  Despite this many of us still kid ourselves that it’s the right thing to do.  We tell ourselves and our teams we have to do it for the greater good of our project and our organisations.  Sure in the short term this might be helpful, but when people are too personally invested in their jobs it’s a nightmare keeping boundaries between home and work life.  This kind of commitment can cause a lot of problems. I see this a lot in not-for-profits, where staff are so focused on the cause and loyalty to colleagues that nothing else much matters.

It’s not always bad of course.  There are many successful organisations which only survived crises because devoted people stayed up all night to finish a proposal or to review the accounts.  Sometimes we have to do it.   But when work and personal lives become too intertwined, it comes at a price.  When staff give so much of themselves to the job,  they usually have an unspoken expectation that the favour will be returned.  They don’t admit it to themselves let alone to their employer, but there is an assumption that the organisation will demonstrate similar loyalty to them when the going gets tough.  They are massively disappointed when it doesn’t.

Successful Organisations Thrive Without Us. 

One of the toughest jobs for a manager is implementing change.  It’s doubly difficult when you know your staff have invested so much of themselves in the work.  How do you tell someone  their project is closing when they have spent their evenings working on it?   Or that their performance needs to improve when you know they really love their job?  So many change programmes derail because managers just don’t know how to have that difficult conversation with dedicated staff.  When change hits a committed member of staff, they can easily transform to become the change programme’s greatest critic.

It’s great to get have a team who get on with each other and love what they do.  No-one wants to clockwatch and disappear in a dust cloud at 5.30pm.  And of course as managers we should appreciate the extra effort from our staff.   But we all need to have a line between ourselves and our job. While many of us feel our work is personal, organisational change is not.  When we have too much vested interest in our work we can get in the way of bigger change happening. We need boundaries, not just to protect ourselves from stress and burnout but also to enable our organisations to move on and succeed without us.

In the fast moving work environment you need to work hard and keep your skills up to date.   But you also need to remember a job is a job – know the line where work finishes and home life starts. Have a great weekend!