Wondering How to Engage Your People? Start By Transforming the Skeptic

on May 12, 2022
Resources All Employee Engagement Managing Change

When it comes to getting support from employees when rolling out a new initiative, the one person you need most on your side is a personality type that is found in every business, in every organization, in every industry. It’s the skeptic. Yes, the person rolling their eyes, making sarcastic comments, and generally ruining every meeting needs to become the person you care about most. This person can derail an entire team with a few disparaging (and deeply disruptive) comments. So, how do you get this “troublemaker” on your side? Start by thinking about why their attitude is like this in the first place.

What Makes the Skeptic So Skeptical Anyway?

In many cases, the skeptic is someone who has seen their fair share of programs launch with a bang and then wither away. They’re used to the fanfare and excitement that an organization has around a new initiative. But they’re also accustomed to what usually happens next – the reason that most strategies tend to fail: No one remembers to sustain the change and everyone counts on others to be the implementers.

Something else that is likely true about your dear skeptic – they probably aren’t often involved in any planning. They’re probably not given the opportunity to share their input, point of view, or ideas. So how does an organization expect to get all of its people on board if the very folks being expected to rally and change are never even asked how they feel?

3 Tips for Transforming the Skeptic Into a Supporter

Achieving change is a layered, multi-tiered process, but involving the skeptic is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked or downplayed. Here are a few tips to consider to get this often pesky personality on your side.

Tip 1: Most of us don’t resist change; we resist being changed by someone else. So stop trying to change people! Instead, tell them a compelling story that gives them the details of what is happening now and what the business will look like if change isn’t achieved. If the plan you’ve created really is for the best, others will be able to recognize this and want to be a part of the change. The skeptic can’t stay skeptical forever if you have a compelling, fact-based story to tell.

Tip 2: Make the skeptic (and all the other employee personality types too) feel valued. If leaders can help people gain a true sense of belonging – they see that they fit into the long-term direction of the company and that their managers will help them grow, achieve, and succeed – they’ll want to show their commitment to you in return. People want to know that they, as individuals, matter. So show them! Invest time, invest training resources, invest words of motivation. When people feel valued, they feel safe. And this might be just what they need to ride out the uncertainty of change.

Tip 3. Give people a chance to be part of the process. The skeptic likely feels that no one ever asks for their opinion. Being overlooked like this never makes a person feel good. So as a change is approaching, empower employees to be a part of the process by asking them what change they think is needed. Ask for their opinions as you craft the strategy. Chat, text, Slack, call, meet virtually, or all of the above. Whatever medium is best for your people, do it – just get them involved. Give people a voice, and the resistance will fade.

Winning the Marketplace by Winning the Support of Your People

Change is notoriously difficult. We all have a hard time adopting new habits, whether it’s a new fitness routine, new layout at your favorite grocery store, new boss, or adapting to a change at work. However, the discomfort and fear that come along with change can be greatly lessened if leaders:

  • Tell people a compelling story that gives the “why” behind the change
  • Let people know they matter and that they are truly important to the business and to this change
  • Give people the opportunity to weigh in – to express their opinions, voice their fears, and suggest ways to make the activation more appealing to those beyond the C-suite

So before launching your next initiative, take a moment to consider if you’ve accomplished these three things. If not, the skeptic on your team is likely waiting in the wings ready to derail, damage, and denounce the very plans you’re trying to get folks to rally behind.

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Managing Change
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