16 Expressions of Underhanded Resistance Pt. 2

The danger of underhanded resistance is you don’t see it coming.

Skillful leaders know polite foot dragging, agreement without follow through, and recurring “confusion” are underhanded resistance.

that failed project began with polite foot dragging

Malicious or innocent:

Underhanded resistance is always malicious, even when it smiles. It may be motivated by insecurities or disagreement, but it has one objective. Keep things the same. Stop change. 

  1. Underhanded resistance is a battle for power.
  2. Underhanded resistance makes things difficult in polite ways.
  3. Underhanded resistance wants you to fail.

 Healthy resistance:

If it’s obvious, it isn’t underhanded.

  1. New ideas should be challenged.
  2. Potential problems should be pointed out.
  3. Alternatives should be suggested.

Invite constructive dissent. Expose underhanded resistance.


Underhanded resistance intensifies with time.

Unconvinced colleagues become skillful predators the closer you get to real change. Nods and smiles turn to wrinkled brows and wringing hands as start dates draw near.

That failed project or knife in your back began as polite foot dragging.


When you’re answering the same question the third time, it’s underhanded resistance. Watch for recurrences of:

  1. I didn’t know.
  2. I don’t understand.
  3. I forgot.

Selective forgetting is underhanded resistance.

Real concerns, not smoke screens:

The goal of underhanded resistance is defeat by distraction and delay. Stop answering questions and explore resistance when you’re circling the same black hole for the third time. For example…

When you hear, “I don’t understand,” for the third time. Call out resistance politely.

Underhanded resistance thrives in the shadows.

  1. Say what you see.  “It seems like something else is going on here.”
  2. Confront reality. “I think you understand. I wonder if you don’t like it.”
  3. Point out the obvious. “You seem to remember everything else, except your responsibilities to this project.”

Listen for more resistance after politely pointing out underhanded resistance.

How might leaders deal with underhanded resistance?

Read part one of 16 Expressions of Underhanded Resistance.

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