Sometimes we place others in the uncomfortable position of receiving prescriptives. Unsolicited feedback presumes acceptance of our opinions, a point that Cole-Whittaker makes in “What You Think of Me is None of My Business.” Leo Buscaglia describes an incident of his own presumptuous behavior that resulted in a swift blow to his mouth. After striking him, his Japanese companion screamed, “Don’t walk in my head with your dirty feet!”
We must tread lightly when offering others our advice. External practitioners especially will receive poor reception if they talk at other people, as if they alone possessed all the answers. Give and take forms a collaboration which occurs when both parties feel like they’re contributing.
Resistance to proposed change happens when recipients feel trampled by an overbearing and autocratic style. In An Experiential Approach to Organization Development, Brown describes several tacks that consultants can take to enact change. Typologies include the Cheerleader, who emphasizes considerate behavior, the task oriented Analyzer, who takes the bull by the horns (and, sometimes ruffles client feathers), the Persuader, who compromises opposing party objectives (not fully uncovering issues that would lead to consensus), and the Pathfinder, who solves matters in a collaborative fashion which fosters trust.
Pathfinders induce functional conflict, in which multiple viewpoints are both encouraged and explored. This style is enhanced through team building activities that encompass marginalized parties – those not frequently solicited for their advice. Connective activities can include a liaison (who speaks the language of both parties), off site/social gatherings to bond employees through eliminating hierarchical barriers, and town hall meetings in which workers can voice their opinions.
“The OD practitioners operate on the notion that assisting the client instead of taking control will lead to a more lasting solution of the client’s problems” (Brown, 2011). Enduring change must therefore achieve buy-in from every organizational level – including top management.
One person who’s consistently asked for their opinions precludes peers, making them appear less important. As interventionist, don’t give one single person the soapbox. An individual who shares their opinion decidedly shuts down coworkers reticent to speak, and provides a one sided, stilted solution to problems requiring multiple opinions. The crux is to expand perception so that proposed measures receive more positive reception. In sociometric analysis, there should not be a high degree of “isolates” in the communicative network. Gap analysis that reveals a small contingent of highly connected peers calls for greater integration. If done correctly, the result will be employees who feel like owners. According to Brown, “A mature relationship is characterized by a condition of interdependence.”
In united action meetings proceed effortlessly of their own accord, whereas one member’s contributions flow seamlessly to the next. This synergy is impossible if the firm acts in an individualistic fashion.
Cole-Whittaker, T. (1979). What you think of me is none of my business. La Jolla, CA: Oak Tree Publications.
Buscaglia, L. F. (1982). Living, loving, & learning. New York, NY: Fawcett Columbine.