7 Ways to Deal with “Rigid Inflexibles”

We had an inflexible support-person, where I worked years ago. She freaked out at the hint of change. The guy who I replaced in the organization told me she was satan. She felt the same about him.

frustration with someone

When “Rigid Inflexibles” run the show:

  1. Fear of offending them controls interactions.
  2. Tough conversations go one way.
  3. Innovation and progress slow or stall.
  4. Violating the “rules” is a capital offense. Throwing people under the bus may become a means of control.


Organizations need “rigid inflexibles” even if some think they’re satan. You don’t need the dark-side of their strength. But without them, instability and inconsistency escalate.

Appreciate the stability “rigid inflexibles” bring to organizations. Sure, they stress themselves and others. They complain about missed commons. But, they’re great at following procedures and delivering consistent results.

“Rigid inflexibles” love systems that prevent failure.

7 ways to deal with inflexible bosses:

  1. Adapt to them. They won’t adapt to you. No one likes to be changed especially an inflexible boss. They’ll lash out like caged animals if you pressure them.
  2. Admire their strengths and say so. Say, “Your personal consistency brings stability and consistency to our organization.”
  3. Accept, embrace, and answer their discomforts or fears. You’re crazy if you tell them it will be ok or things will work out.
  4. Give them time to mull things over. Don’t spring stuff on them.
  5. Establish rituals and routines. Avoid adding stress to their stressful lives.
  6. Employ the 3 to 1 rule. Say at least three positives for one negative.
  7. Get on their team. Help them succeed.

Bonus: prepare them for new ideas by talking about problems not solutions. Ask things like, “What are we losing if we don’t take action?”

Frustration with someone seldom changes them for the better.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of “rigid inflexibles?”

What are the best ways to deal with a rigid inflexible boss?

Check out “Focus” by Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins for great insights on preventers and promoters. I use the insights in “Focus” every day.