Anyone in the HR business can relate to this, having been assigned to a project that, as it turns out, everyone has an opinion about, from the janitor to the board rooms. In one of my previous posts (When Good Turns Bad) I have discussed handling good intended but bad advice based on uninformed reasoning. But what if others start voicing their opinions, in full disregard of a careful alignment process, in a manner that can only be described as ballyhoo and hysteria?
Big HR projects have that tendency of evoking very heated, emotional discussions. They often touch the core identity of an organisation, reaffirming or challenging existing principles and values which are deeply rooted in the organisational culture. Some principles may have been forgotten, but once contested they can arise as a phoenix to inspire and guide as before.
These kind of projects prove a challenge for leaders to channel opinions towards a meaningful result. No doubt, every single comment has value. Question is, how much value should you give it? Or isn't that the key question?
I have learnt that opinions come in different shapes and depths. It is quite tempting to judge them on their value and dismiss them if they do not seem to bring you any. More than once have I been frustrated by people who have shared their opinion not hindered by any lack of knowledge, and wrapped with a fair share of value judgments. My default reaction has been until recently to educate the uninformed, militantly separating fact from fiction. Little did I understand that I was missing the point entirely.
Very few people are truly evil but many people partake in mindless behaviour. Uninformed or unsubstantiated opinions are easily read as inconsiderate, impolite or even narcissistic. As true as this often may be, it stands to reason that the underlying motives are those of disengagement. People feel they lose control. And when things change in an organisation, everyone has their own pace of understanding and acceptance. Such a development comes with emotions, silent or expressed. Those leading the change need to recognize and embrace it.
I have just read an article (The Missing Link of Change: Suspension) by a contemporary thought-leader, Lolly Daskal, discussing the stages of grief as a model for understanding emotional responses to organisational change. What I seem to have been missing all these years is to actually comprehend how people process change, to understand the process of emotional development. Addressing that process with tongue instead of ears, trying to knock out the critics with arguments instead of truly listening will strangle any re-engagement at birth. So the key question is: How to create space for people to re-engage?
How do you deal with ballyhoo and hysteria?