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.
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.
- Underhanded resistance is a battle for power.
- Underhanded resistance makes things difficult in polite ways.
- Underhanded resistance wants you to fail.
If it’s obvious, it isn’t underhanded.
- New ideas should be challenged.
- Potential problems should be pointed out.
- 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:
- I didn’t know.
- I don’t understand.
- 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.
- Say what you see. “It seems like something else is going on here.”
- Confront reality. “I think you understand. I wonder if you don’t like it.”
- 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.
So – what do you do? – quit or confront – when you know you are meeting with the subtle manipulator?
There are also some excellent explanations of “bias” and thinking patterns that align with the behaviors shared above. There are simply SO MANY reasons for why people do not align to goals and expectations. In my experience, the solutions tend to be along the lines of repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.
And sometimes people simply push back because they are pushed; if they have no sense of ownership involvement (and the idea is not theirs), they tend to stay the course for all sorts of reasons, rationales, and thinking patterns. The bias stuff is outstanding – group process and peer pressure to commit to a specific behavior tend to help some.
And smoking out the thinking is also helpful, but people often do not really know why they do something so they make things up just to be able to answer the questions. Psychologists seldom ask, “Why” simply because people really really do not know.
Fun stuff, this thinking and leadership and change. Ya think?
(Do not ask my why I posted this. I did it because I did it. (grin) )
“Underhanded resistance wants you to fail.”
Not necessarily. Sometimes, underhanded resistance doesn’t want to be tied to your failure. The thing to watch out for is the subtle difference between “working to succeed” and “working to not fail”. If people feel the need to cover their backsides, is it because they feel you don’t care if they all to go down with you?
A former leader of mine accurately identified this approach as, “The Power of Passivity.”