Tag Archives: change-resistant

Overcoming Newton's Laws

Like many companies in many industries, and practically every human being I know, the insurance world can be change-resistant. We fight natural laws even as we recognize the very need to adapt and grow. When it comes to adopting technology — a topic I hope to explore in future contributions here — change is particularly difficult.

So how do you get your organization to change, to adjust, to transform? How can you promote and ensure a change in direction or propel a faster change? A few key lessons found in Newton's Laws can shed light on some good answers.

In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton published his work, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, what we commonly call Newton's laws of motion. I am sure you remember Newton's laws of motion? Here's a layman's version (with apologies to Sir Isaac):

  1. First law: A body (mass m) in motion stays in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force (F). Picture a big boulder rolling down a shallow slope, just enough slope to keep the boulder rolling but not enough for the boulder to gain speed.
  2. Second law: A body will accelerate if pushed in the same direction as it is moving, i.e., F = ma (we'll need the formula later; I know, you were told there would be no math). Same boulder, now rolling slowly so you catch up to it and push it from behind, causing it to go faster.
  3. Third law: The forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal and opposite. This means that whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force -F on the first body. F and -F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Our boulder example again, only this time it runs into another boulder, which causes the first boulder to slow or stop and the one it hit to steer off in the opposite direction of the hit.

So that's what you already knew. What I bet you didn't know is that Sir Isaac Newton spent a lot of time at Edward Lloyd's coffee shop in London (Lloyd's of London). Sir Isaac was a professor, after all, and was nothing if not observant. For years he listened in on the conversations of insurance professionals as they talked about their businesses while sipping his nonfat vanilla lattes. He soon postulated the three laws of business:

  1. First law: A business (mass m) will remain on its course, good or bad, profitable or unprofitable, forever if no new forces act upon it.
  2. Second law: The larger or older a business is (big mass m), the more force (change agent F) it will take to accelerate its course.
  3. Third law: If a force (F) is exerted on a business (mass m) to try to change its course, expect some pushback (-F).

Sound familiar? Think about your own organization. Now do these “laws” ring a bell?

It is important to note that I love the insurance business and have been studying the industry from the inside for 34 years. That said, I do think Newton's laws of business have a stranglehold on our industry. While there are exceptions, many companies are in a “state of uniform motion,” and too many companies struggle to change course. Still others try but are forced to give up when change is not well received by those affected.

So what can an organization do to overcome Newton's laws or, in reality, use the laws to their advantage? Let's tackle them one at a time.

First Law in Action
Insurance is cyclical: soft and hard markets, profitable and unprofitable cycles. The common response is, “That's just the way it is, and we can't do anything about it.” To change speed or course requires a strong desire and some planning. It also requires an understanding of your mass m (your “boulder”, i.e., your company).

As Davenport and Harris state in Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, you must know what you are really good at; that is, you must know your distinctive capability. So how do you get a deeper understanding of who you are as a company? How do you discover what you are really good at? You do the analysis — identify your team's talents and limitations; understand what your profitable and unprofitable clients “look like”; determine how and where you make money (or not); pin down your processes; know what additional corporate assets you have to work with; and so on.

Use all the technology tools available, including data analytics, descriptive and predictive modeling, and sometimes, outside help. You really need to understand the composition of your “boulder” and the nature of the landscape it is rolling down, including the other boulders (competition) that you may run into.

Second Law in Action
“We have always done it this way.” It pains me to even write that statement. In a young organization, you don't hear this statement that often, if at all; everything is new. There are no “habits.” Brand new companies are more like a handful of pebbles thrown down the hill than they are boulders. The smaller the mass m (the company), the less force required to change its course; Newton's second law of business.

And generally the larger and/or older the company, the greater the mass m = greater force required to change course. So if you hear, “We have 2,000 claims people scattered across the country; changing will be impossible,” ask yourself, will it really? Sure, change will be hard, maybe really hard. Therefore, F just needs to be larger, making the achievement that much more rewarding.

Here is where talented leadership is very important. Gain a following first (a big part of being a leader), paint a clear picture of where and how fast you want your boulder to roll, and people will get behind and push. Once the momentum picks up, you may encounter many competing forces; therefore, put some governance in place so the most important projects get everyone's attention. And have strong project management to keep the force applied in the right direction. Strive for quick, small successes so people “see” progress. People in IT will help you; they are trained in the discipline of managing projects and portfolios of projects.

Third Law in Action
You have taken a good assessment of your company, you have good leadership in place, and you have charted a new course and speed. You initiated projects with governance in place to assure they are the “right” projects. Everything is rolling along, but Newton's laws are still present. Now the troops start pushing back.

People tend to know the third law best. Proactive collaboration with your teams goes a long way to overcoming human pushback. When people participate in the process and know what they are doing, -F is minimized. Business intelligence and analytics can help here, too — even something as simple as who is using what technology and how often. Metrics on adoption are great.

Eight Steps For Leveraging Newton's Laws Toward Positive Change
Changing course isn't easy. The larger or older an organization is, the harder the course change. Quality change management is worth its weight in gold (even at today's price), and these eight steps can help.

Step 1 — Understand your “boulder.” Get outside help if you aren't really good at introspection. Analyze past history. If you buy into Newton's laws, your history will repeat itself unless acted upon by an “external, unbalanced force.” Today's technology provides unprecedented capabilities to study historical data in ways that were not possible (or at least were really hard to accomplish) just a few short years ago. There are so many ways to gather data and analyze the buyers of your products. Make sure you know your current business and your market.

Step 2 — Recognize that Newton's first law of business exists and that change requires hard work and good, strong leadership. It fact, leadership is the most important aspect needed for changing course. Effective leadership at the top is a must, but it's also a required factor of others who lead people in your company.

Step 3 — Determine your new direction. Use what you learned in Step 1 to establish the speed you want your boulder to go and in what direction. Once you know in which direction to head, you must figure out how to shove your boulder with the right amount of force. Typically, you must shove it hard to get it to change course, pick up speed, or both.

Step 4 — Recognize that talented leadership can exert a significant force. Talented leadership involves cultivating a following of believers, so that the third law is minimized and your team will eagerly follow the new course. It means painting a clear picture of where you want your boulder to roll. Your team must know the “destination” so they can help move your team, department, and company toward it.

Step 5 — Get governance in place. When an organization has bought into change, really bought into it, then there can be many competing forces. Governance must be strong so the “right” forces affect the direction of the company. Governance helps by identifying which way to “push” and ensuring the right amount of force. Remember the first real law: the force has to be unbalanced. If competing projects cancel each other out, the boulder will keep rolling in the same ol' direction, at the same constant (probably slow) speed.

Step 6 — Establish strong project management. A new course is set; the proper force is applied, and is applied in the right direction. Now the change must be monitored. Leadership should be kept informed. Course corrections may be required. It's all part of good project management. At my firm, we are huge Agile Methodology zealots (that's redundant). Breaking the work into manageable chunks and keeping people informed are great ways to accomplish what needs doing. It also helps to address the third law. People like to “see” progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Step 7 — Don't forget your people. People are subject to Newton's Laws too. Make sure you have human change management in place. Proactive collaboration with your teams goes a long way to overcoming human pushback. Train early and train often. When people participate in the process, know what they're doing, and understand what's expected, then -F is minimized.

Step 8 — Assess and amend. It is so easy to get off course, since there are many forces F and -F exerting influence on your company, both internally and externally. As you work to change or accelerate course, Newton's Laws will always be in play. Making adjustments as you go is critical to success.

Conclusion
Change is inevitable, whether you're changing your boulder's course or letting your competitors' boulders get in the way. But change can also be fun.

Over the course of 34 years, I have been called many things; one of the good ones is a change agent. I hope this article will help you change your organization in many positive ways. When you think about change, remember Newton's Laws and let them guide your actions. Embrace change. You can make it happen.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 3

Turning The Corner
Admittedly, Part 1 and Part 2 of this series may be a bit discouraging to the solution-seeking reader. But as a wise professor states, “There is no implementation without, first, evaluation.”

So what has our evaluation revealed?

First, the dysfunctional nature of the average hardnosed worker employed in traditionally change-resistant work sectors is representative of his greater employment family, both labor and management. It is not the portrait of an isolated employee or two. The nature is systemic, as are its crippling effects.

Second, the extent of potential behavioral dysfunction in hardnosers is staggering. The research data points past the occasional whimsical, inane antics of the passive-aggressive worker who simply annoys others. It directs us to the darkly devious behavior of someone, or a bevy of someones, who is self-destructive, emotionally unengaged, and constantly looking to jump off the ship after lighting the fuse that may blow it up.

Third, management has largely failed in its attempts to wrestle control of the workforce away from hardnosers. Traditional quick-action employee management strategies lack the foundational understanding of both the cause of defiant behavior and the dysfunctional team dynamics that it creates.

Last, management has often chosen the wrong method to seize control of hardnosers. The preferred tactic has been to tighten control through the repeated issuance of compliance standards. Such “what to do” and “how to do it” standards stiffen the hardnosed worker’s resolve to reject management’s ploys.

Engineering consultant Kevin Sorbello fittingly compares the change-resistant workforce to a dysfunctional family in which “those making the rules unconsciously see themselves as adults in charge of children.” Conversely, he notes that workers of lower rank see themselves as being “treated like children by unfit elitists. The fact that this scenario is so ubiquitous,” he says, “is disheartening.”

In light of this stark portrayal, what can be done to heal a defiant and dysfunctional employment family?

Capitalize On Dysfunction
One word points us down the right path. It keeps cropping up [five times above]. The word is dysfunctional. There’s a reason it is our key word.

Dysfunction brings with it opportunity. The same weaknesses that define dysfunctional workers are the ones that open the door for us to help them personally and to improve the cooperative nature of the entire workforce.

But this can’t happen until we acknowledge several hard-to-believe truths about the nature of hardnosed workers. These are beliefs gleaned by the author after four decades of listening to, observing, profiling, and helping dysfunctional people.

1. Hardnosers really want to improve.
They are really not into self-flagellation, though they expect it to happen (defeatism) — they’d rather have the opposite: success.

2. Hardnosers are stuck and need a push.
They really don’t know how to solve their own problems, nor why they are stuck in a defeatist rut.

3. Hardnosers want simple honesty.
They will not trust you until you first demonstrate to them your complete honesty.

4. Hardnosers desire compassion, not charity.
They innately sense the difference — one is considered condescending and offensive to them; the other is acceptable.

5. Hardnosers respond best to old-fashioned “tough love.”
They desire hard boundaries, particularly those that help them achieve hard-to-reach goals.

6. Hardnosers want you to earnestly listen to them.
They want to tell you vital information about themselves — their real and felt needs — that enables you to help them mature.

It is difficult for some skeptics to embrace these beliefs. It is easier to adopt the attitude of one Cleveland-area business owner who believes that “most employees with bad attitudes come that way and it is not up to you to be a social worker.” To him, any alternative to improving the quality of workers other than perfecting the hiring and firing process is “silly,” even if personnel turnover costs are astronomical.

Safety officer Ken Malcolm at Safety & More P/L begs to differ. He says, “Hardnosed negatives can become hardnosed positives.” The key, he says, is trust.

Malcolm states that trust does not exist because “the past experiences [of workers] have not been good.” He suggests that workers have rarely been exposed to managers “who put value on worker input.” Perhaps they once worked for a grumpy guy in Cleveland. More likely, they’ve been jaded by repeated exposure to the Cycle of Rejection described in Part 2 of this series.

Agree with it or not, the path to profitability involves helping hardnosers cure their dysfunctional behavior, a task that starts with listening to what they say about themselves and about control-minded authorities.

Listening For Needs
Within the well-worn contentious discourse proffered by hardnosers is an easily recognizable admission of their foibles.

  • I have trouble accepting authority of any kind.
  • I am emotionally cold and uncaring.
  • I often say the wrong thing in the wrong way.
  • I don’t trust anyone enough to give them my loyalty (everyone is out to get me).
  • I am not a good team player.

You can also hear their pleas for help.

  • Help us accept authority, not persistently fight back.
  • Help us live emotionally healthy lives, not crawl into an emotional shell.
  • Help us develop better interpersonal skills, not alienate others.
  • Help us bond with each other and the company, not be disloyal.
  • Help us be better team players, not self-interested individuals.

These needs should sound familiar — they directly correspond to the “snapshot” of a hardnosed worker described in Part 1 of this series.

A hardnosed worker is a self-destructive, emotionally self-centered, uncontrollable person who would rather cut-and-run than commit.

From this snapshot, the human needs that it reveals, and the failure of traditional means to change hardnosed behavior, you know that there is only one action plan — one line of attack — that will result in positively changing a resistant workforce into a cooperative one. But, like the hardnosed Cleveland businessman, you might have trouble admitting it.

You have to help them develop the relational skills that they lack.

But don’t let this series tell you the obvious, though it bears repeating. Let the desperate general manager from Part 1 of this series say it. He’s the one who in 1992 initially linked the characteristics of a juvenile delinquent to the antics of his hardnosed employees. The assistance he sought from a troubled youth expert is as difficult as it is simple.

“I simply want you to help my people treat each other as people,” he asked.

He knew the problem pointed to a lack of interpersonal skills. So do you. And so do the perpetrators, who secretly want your help.

But how do you provide assistance without risking further rejection?

Using Safety To Change People
Job safety is the only joint partnership with management to which the hardnoser has ceded a modicum of control and cooperation. It is the only “face saving” venue in which he consents to [non-craft skill] personal development. To him, change for safety’s sake is grudgingly agreeable.

With safety training comes the opportunity to change the hardnoser, if the correct approach is utilized. Felt needs should be front-and-center — the odor of command, control, and compliance should be reduced.

John Bennett, VP of M.C. Dean, urges us to remember that “it is not about the system, regulations, nor policy or procedure. It is all about the people.”

Ill-conceived training strategies in which personal development is added-on to standard compliance training rarely work. Hardnosers are stubborn, not stupid. They can sense a convenient manipulative end run by management. Ever hear them call leadership training “charm school?”

To achieve human change requires a more carefully crafted safety training strategy than most organizations currently employ. Such a strategy demands a more need-sensitive safety management system.

What is recommended here extends beyond simple supplements to standardized compliance training programs. What is needed is a radical redesign of safety thinking in dealing with a sub-culture of resistance.

Above all, one hard-learned lesson about securing cooperation from defiant people must be remembered. You must meet their felt needs before they will fully give you what you want — compliance and control. If safety doesn’t do this, you remain stuck in the sink hole of opposition, forever containing resistance rather than correcting it.

Life Skills Are Felt Needs
A felt need is simply anything people consciously lack and desire. As noted, the hardnoser consciously but quietly desires self-improvement, particularly in life skills.

One example is the need of supervisors to learn practical leadership skills. As new supervisors quickly rise from the lower ranks of organizations, many supervisors suffer from the lack of leadership development inherent in on-the-job training.

Joe Johnson says that new supervisors are likely to be “given a ‘white hat,’ put in charge, and sent out in the organization with instructions to make things happen safely.” But of the leadership creation process, Johnson asks, “What ‘tools’ have these individuals been provided to insure he or she will be a good safety manager?”

In addition to leadership skills, other life skill needs that are likely felt by hardnosers of all ranks include:

  • Interpersonal communication skills (all aspects)
    • Accurate listening skills
    • Accurate shaping of the message to the listener
    • Accurate delivery of the message for acceptance
    • Accurate use of reflective listening, clarification
  • Relationship building
  • Behavioral awareness and pattern recognition
  • Anger management/tolerance/empathy
  • Team building
  • Critical thinking and decision-making
  • Coaching and mentoring

Under the confines of employee development and safety training, we have regrettably postponed meeting these needs until it is too late, after the worker feels under-appreciated. Properly, these are the needs you should start meeting at the beginning of new hire orientation.

What Do I Do?
The practical answer to the initial question — What should I do to change hardnosed workers? — is as basic as it sounds complex.

To change a hardnosed work force, you should implement a hybrid training program that simultaneously combines traditional safety-related training subjects with topics that develop the character of the hardnoser in their expressed area of needs.

The key is seamless simultaneous integration. Safety and human development should be taught at the same time, not as separate courses.

To avoid the Cycle of Rejection discussed in Part 2, the hardnoser must not feel that personal manipulation is the purpose of the training, nor should it be. Yet he should also walk away with a sense of obligation to practice (note: different than “comply with”) what is taught.

To make a life-changing combination of safety and personal development training workable requires two organizational commitments.

1. The organization must improve its quality of training.
A higher level of training is required, as is a better quality instructor skilled in safety, communications and human development. Revised curricula must be employed. Cattle-call training must be replaced with a caring personal attitude.

2. The organization must meld its safety and operation cultures.
A unified work culture is required, one which leaves hardnosers no wiggle room for discarding their training lessons under the excuse of “safety behavior” versus “operational behavior.” Operations cannot be allowed to deprive the hardnoser of training’s human development gains.

John Bennett underscores the mistake of trying to create a safety culture within an existing company culture in order to change people. He states that the tactic “is incongruent with the overall mission of the company.” Bennett suggests that “building upon the existing culture and simply inserting the safety aspect” is a more sensible way to build a unified work force. “Involving people in a sincere way,” he says, “will produce better results than were heretofore imaginable.” The hardnoser agrees wholeheartedly.

The Essentials
For the best results, a hybrid safety training program should immediately focus on the greatest needs of the hardnoser: interpersonal communication skills, emotional openness and honesty, and relational teamwork. All these needs share a common denominator. They point to the hardnoser’s fundamental lack of behavioral understanding.

Rarely are hardnosers properly educated about behavior — they do not bring such knowledge with them to the job. Most struggle with discerning why people do what they do — many ascribe the wrong motive to other’s behavior. It’s easy for hardnosers to fall into the Cycle of Rejection.

As explained in Part 2, answering the why question is vital to securing the hardnoser’s cooperation. If you desire to tear down the walls of resistance in your work force, here’s what you need to know.

  • If you help the hardnoser understand his unique behavior temperament and its affects on him — why he is prone to repeat certain behavior patterns — he will call you a friend.
  • If you show him why others act as they do because of their unique behavior temperaments, he will call you a good friend.
  • If you teach him how to build productive relationships with others despite their differences in temperament, he will call you his best buddy.
  • If you do none of the above yet try to change him, he will think you are simply attempting to control him. We’ve seen where that leads.

It is essential to integrate a simple behavior paradigm into every aspect of safety training. Uncomplicated behavior assessment profiles like the DISC or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® can serve this purpose. These are accurate, easily integrated “tools” that produce the type of behavioral understanding needed by hardnosers and non-hardnosers alike.

But this is no shill for the traditional haphazard use of behavior profile tools to soothe the ruffles of an agitated work force or as a guest speaker’s play toy. This is a call to deeply interweave two narratives — safety management and human development — on a consistent basis to meet the targeted needs of employees.

This author will attest to the instant magic brought by behavioral self-discovery through platforms like the DISC or MBTI. One unforgettable incident occurred when the cigar-chomping director of one company’s division first saw the results of his DISC self-analysis. The director’s cigar dropped from his mouth as he stood up, staggered about the training room with his analysis, and shouted, “This is me! This is me! This is freakin’ me.” Presto.

But that momentary magic is useless unless it is converted into tangible results while sustained within a framework of a safety training program that is designed to simultaneously control and change lives.

To do this requires a bold commitment from executive managers that are tired of butting their heads against behavioral barriers. Let the general manager mentioned in Part 1 remind us again that the alternative, letting hardnosers drag the company down, is “not an option.”

What this commitment looks like in practicality, and the results that it can accomplish, will be the subject of Part 4 of this series.

Bibliography

“Focus On Teamwork, Attitude Improves Quality And Safety.” The Waterways Journal. April 25, 1994: 41-44

Newton, Ron. No Jerks On The Job. Irving, TX. PenlandScott Publishers, 2010.

Riddle, Glenden P. An Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Stress Camping Through The Use Of The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Exam. Research Project. Dallas Theological Seminary, December 1978.

Taylor, Robert. Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Manual. Thousand Oaks: Psychological Publications, Inc., 1992.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 2

Righting The Ship Wrongly
For torturous purposes, let’s say that you are an executive manager who has inherited the type of hardnosed workforce described in Part 1 of this series.Your laborers are largely emotionally repressed, unsympathetic, narcissistic, uncontrollable and prone to permanently go AWOL. Ditto for your supervisors and managers. Collectively, your work force constitutes a change-resistant barrier that thwarts every attempt at achieving continuous improvement.

As risk strategist Greg Pena suggests, you set about to correct the obstructionist nature of your workforce. Otherwise, your best management efforts are “doomed from the start.”

Which quick-action strategy do you choose?

  1. Create and enforce more rules designed to secure better worker behavior?
  2. Implement a system of rewards and awards designed to reinforce good behavior?
  3. Pursue an aggressive program of quality assurance that requires strict behavioral compliance and reporting?
  4. Institute a behavior observation program that results in establishment of improved work procedures and oversight?

This is not a trick question.

Damage Control

To begin, you might start by quickly doing what others have traditionally done in similar situations.

  1. Assess where the most “damage” is being done by the most resistant workers.
  2. Speed headlong in pursuit of the holy grail of gaining control of those workers.

You do this because you’ve been taught that lack of control is the foundational cause of rebellious behavior. Control is considered a weapon. To heck with human resource management laws and employee management policies. They are slow, ineffective weapons of change. You need something that works quickly.

So to gain instant influence, you deploy whichever of the quick-action strategies (above, a–d) that you think will give you the fastest results. Each approach promises control; all are known quantities. Together, they constitute the bulk of management’s current wisdom in wrestling control from hardnosers.

The strategies are as follows.

a. Control By Directive — create and enforce more rules.
This is an old tactic closely associated with authoritarian or directive leadership style — it is dependent upon the strict use of the chain-of-command for enforcement. The strategy involves using rules and regulations to achieve (by demand) behavior compliance — control. It is the attempt to regulate and regiment behavior.

b. Control By Incentive — implement a system of rewards and awards.
This is a popular method of gaining control because it seems to “make the most sense” when it comes to worker motivation. It is based upon the belief that workers will be motivated to better behavior if they receive objective rewards, incentives or other strokes of positive reinforcement. Typically these take the form of safety awards, cash rewards or financial incentives that depend on the utilization of performance evaluations, merit ratings, or periodic reviews.

c. Control By Quality — pursue an aggressive program of quality assurance.
This is an old but evolving strategy, currently masquerading as the GRC (Governance, Risk & Compliance) movement. It promises the possibility of simultaneously achieving quality assurance, risk control, regulatory compliance, and behavioral control — with a dash of ethics, integrity, and maturity thrown in — if only we pursue the perfect quality assurance processes. This strategy started as the ISO quality certification process in which rigid paperwork and reporting processes are utilized by managers as an accountability tool.

d. Control By Observation — institute a behavior observation program.

This is a relatively new approach to gaining control of worker behavior. It is known by its popular name, behavior-based safety. In this approach, workers are trained to make intense and frequent observations of common work tasks in order that they might consult together and develop better methods for carrying out the work task. Workers are also taught the basics of how to communicate with each other when feedback is given on performance of work tasks. They are typically required to submit observational reports to authorities.

You don’t need to look hard to find assistance in whichever line of attack you choose. Professional pundits and practitioners of each stratagem are plentiful. So you select a plan. And it initially appears to work.

But its effectiveness in providing you anything other than short-term victory is sadly wasteful — your plan does not consider the characteristics of hardnosed behavior described in Part 1 of this series. None of the traditional control strategies do.

Eventually, you join the ranks of the frustrated transportation manager (Part 1) who implemented a safety training observation program, improved his operational policies, and led his organization in the ISO 9000 certification process — all to little avail. He still couldn’t control his hardnosers.

Changing the emotionally insular nature of rejection-prone people is hard. But as the manager stated, “The alternative, letting them continue to drag our company down, is not an option.”

Rejection On Demand
The fundamental mistake made by a majority of managers is assuming that control is the main issue, that control reduces resistance. And while control certainly occupies a high priority, the real issue is how it is obtained and why it is necessary to sustain it.

The tendency is to forget the lesson learned by all authorities. Any attempt to gain and maintain control of people in the wrong way ultimately results in the rejection of the authority.

Historian Page Smith states it this way. “The whole course of history indicates that one of the most potent bases of common action is a common sense of unjust subordination.”

Unjust. Fair or not, that’s how the common hardnoser views your attempt to gain control of him when you employ any of the well-intentioned strategies listed above. Setting aside the perception of justice, the hardnoser makes a valid point. Many times management demonstrates that it doesn’t know how to gain control, nor bother to explain why it is necessary.

What? Is Not The Question
Tom Slattery, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at POET Plant Management, pulls no punches in holding management accountable. “The way management and safety people talk to and treat the workforce,” he says, “is largely responsible for the ‘bad attitudes’ in the workforce.”

Slattery cites instances in which management says it wants one thing yet subtly rewards the opposite, essentially abusing its control. Placing himself in the mix, he says, “We do not follow through on promises, ask for true employee participation, nor explain the ‘why’ behind policies.”

In the realm of change-resistance, telling someone what to do and how to do it without telling them why they are doing it — why it is to their benefit to do it — is a cardinal sin. As Slattery emphasizes, telling them poorly adds fuel to the fire. It is the equivalent of assuming the listener has no needs other than the need to obey the management. Part 3 of this series explores the depth of the disdain created by this assumption.

Any child knows that asking an uncaring parent the why question (in a response to a command) almost always solicits the brusque answer, “Because I said so.” Yep, that really works.

Ignoring the need of workers to know why they must relinquish autonomy in order to follow the lead of management will provoke resistance from even-tempered people, much less needy hardnosers. Yet historically, that’s what management has done.

In the attempt to gain control of hardnosers, we’ve employed a lot of ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’ tactics without first considering the felt needs of the worker. Management asks for the rejection it anticipates.

As a result, a Cycle of Rejection develops. Most organizations that spawn hardnosers are guilty of entering this 6-step cycle. As illustrated below, the black colored steps represent management; red represents workers.

The 6 R’s Leading To Rejection

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Frequently the cycle of management missteps — the six R’s — that reinforce an ever-increasing change-resistant work force is as follows. If the object is control, this is how not to get it.

Revelation — Often using poor and impersonal communication, management tries to educate the worker with bits and pieces of the performance puzzle, most often “what we want you to do” and “how we want you to do it.” These are typically the minimum requirements of compliance — the policies, practices, or procedures that the worker is expected to obey/follow.

Response — The worker responds negatively to poor communication and perceived command-and-control tactics — they remain largely unresponsive to performance expectations. The worker equates poor communication with perceived neglect of both his real and felt needs. He begins to develop an attitude of skepticism/pessimism towards management.

Rationalization — Based upon the worker’s non-response, management perceives a resistance in the worker. Rationalizing that the only way to accomplish its desired performance goals is to use more direct commands, they resort to directive leadership methods designed to seize control of the sources of resistance and to force worker compliance.

Regimentation — Upon rationalizing that the worker will only respond to authoritative command structure, managers put forth a regimented series of operational rules and regulations — more specifics about what to do and how to do it — designed to force the worker to shape up (comply).

Resistance — The worker resists management even further, thinking that management is overbearing and taking away his ability to conduct his job as he sees fit. The process of addressing performance management through poor communication skills and mistaken tactics results in an increasingly change-resistant hardnosed worker.

Repeat — Management redoubles its effort to control the worker without rethinking its strategy. Nor does it stop to analyze the nature of the resistant worker and his felt needs. Repeated failure to do so leads the worker to forthrightly reject any and all attempts by management to seize control. To the worker, management becomes an unjust usurper.

Management’s inclination to simultaneously consider the steps of Rationalization and Regimentation are why they appear back-to-back in the cycle. As management becomes more entrenched, determined to win the control war, the gap between the two steps narrows. It becomes easier to rationalize that more regimentation is needed.

Duck & Cover
What the Cycle of Rejection illustrates is the futility of thinking that command will result in the control of hardnosers. Quite the opposite. But while it’s folly to follow this path of thinking, there is an even more damaging option to choose: doing nothing.

An operations manager whose supervisors had long been on the road to rebellion had this exact strategy in mind — do nothing — when he sheepishly asked the author, “You aren’t going to stir the pot, are you?”

The manager was worried that a few forthright words from the author’s keynote address to the supervisors would enflame the emotions that lay, he thought, comfortably submerged below the thin surface of civility. Yet his boss, the business owner, wanted a permanent solution to his hardnosers’ resistance. He wanted to take back control of his workforce. But no one knew how, much less why. Part 3 of this series will show you both.

Yes, the pot will be stirred.

Bibliography

“Focus On Teamwork, Attitude Improves Quality And Safety.” The Waterways Journal. April 25, 1994: 41-44

Newton, Ron. No Jerks On The Job. Irving, TX. PenlandScott Publishers, 2010.

Riddle, Glenden P. An Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Stress Camping Through The Use Of The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Exam. Research Project. Dallas Theological Seminary, December 1978.

Taylor, Robert. Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Manual. Thousand Oaks: Psychological Publications, Inc., 1992.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 1

Our ‘Troubled Kids’
The tone of the general manager’s phone call to the author of this series of articles revealed the deep defiance to authority that he sensed in his workers.”Are you the camp program that helps troubled kids?” he asked gruffly.

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Good. I have some for you — they’re my employees.”

The manager was desperate enough to ask help from the author’s wilderness camp program that rehabilitated troubled youth. But he was also sincere in the belief that the hardnosed behavior of his employees closely resembled that of juvenile delinquents.

He proceeded to state that most of the drivers in his transportation company were acting irresponsibly, dragging morale down to a level that affected safety performance and caused high rates of personnel turnover. Nothing he had tried seemed to stop their dangerous immature behavior. He needed help, and he needed it soon, before one of his truckers precipitated more than a crisis of immaturity.

The complaint sounded familiar to the author. Hundreds of juvenile authorities, unable to control their charges, sought to place troubled youth in his “tough love” camp program. Each sounded as desperate as the manager.

But was the manager simply a grump who was reaping the just “rewards” of his poor employee management skills? Or when he placed the call to the author in 1992, was he in the vanguard of recognizing a disturbing trend sweeping through the labor force?

To find out, the author agreed to help the manager. What he uncovered, and what we should do about it, forms the body of this series of articles.

A Hardnosed Sub-Culture
“Hardnosed” may be too kind of a term for those workers whose uncompromising obstructionism often place people, property and the environment at unacceptable risk.

Safety and risk control managers use a more crude expression — jerks. Even cruder? Unprintable here.

Politely, they are labeled stubborn or change-resistant. Universally, they are acknowledged as the single greatest threat to the success of risk and safety management programs. Their leverage is powerful according to Gregory Pena, Sr. Vice President at Risk Strategies Company.

“If an employer can’t effectively engage the sub-culture (of resistance) that exists in most companies,” he says, “then their best safety efforts are doomed from the start.”

Despite widespread recognition of the problem, until now its cause has largely remained debated.

Veteran HSE manager Jim Hall views it as a decades-old struggle. “There are many older workers who are hardnosed and probably have been that way for decades,” he says. To Hall, the real problem is “how do we convert those that have had the hardnosed attitude for years?” He mentions the reluctance of such workers to give up the enjoyment they seem to get out of confrontation and “trying to push around supervisors, management, and the HSE persons.”

Others agree with Jack T. Moorman, CSP, Director of Health and Safety at Lee & Ryan, who states that “the most frustrating problem we have is the new employee with experience gained from another firm.” Moorman believes that new workers bring a prior attitude of non-compliance with them — what he calls “safety baggage” — making it difficult to address their behavior.

Some even blame the gains made in modern safety management for a resistance to further improvement. One safety manager says that she “frequently struggles with improving safety, not because our workers are outwardly resistant, but more because they feel they have already evolved so far from the days when safety was not a common part of the culture.”

Each explanation carries weight in describing the genesis of the hardnosed mindset. But until we define the hardnosed temperament accurately and scientifically, its correct cure cannot be prescribed.

Such clarity and correct prescription, formulated since the transportation manager’s call to the author two decades ago, is the goal of this series of articles, presented in four parts. Included will be the answers to practical questions asked by every level of supervisor and manager — insight that should be incorporated into the fabric of any employee and safety management program that involves change-resistant workers.

The four parts of this article series will be:

  • Part 1: What is a hardnosed worker?
  • Part 2: What should I not do when I want to change a hardnosed worker?
  • Part 3: What should I do in order to change hardnosed workers?
  • Part 4: What results can be expected from a training program tailored to a hardnosed work force?

Without accurate answers to these questions, all remedies are speculative. The behavioral barrier presented by hardnosed workers remains intact.

What Is A Hardnosed Worker?
A search for the definition of a hardnosed worker reveals that there has been little research into the personality traits and behavioral tendencies of change-resistant workers. The result is that the declaration of who is (and who is not) a hardnosed worker has been left to individual stereotype. A worker may be a jerk in the opinion of one manager, an earnest laborer in another’s.

Fortunately, the author has been afforded the opportunity to conduct personality assessments on 676 supervisors and managers representing several industry sectors that arguably contain a high percentage of traditionally change-resistant workers — maritime, oil and gas, passenger airline, ship building and repair, construction and manufacturing. The collective findings of the author are reported below, providing an identifiable profile — a recognizable “snapshot” — of a change-resistant worker.

And, fortunately, the temperament of supervisors and managers in these industries is generally representative of that of the line-level workers from which they frequently ascend. As Joseph K. Johnson, ARM, V-P at Brown & Brown of Louisiana describes, “Nearly all managers and supervisory personnel come up through the ranks of most organizations.” To know the supervisor or manager is to know the characteristics of his general labor force. By defining the change-resistant supervisor and manager, we define the hardnosed workforce.

The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis™
The inventory utilized by the author to measure the personality traits (temperament) is the widely-used Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (T-JTA) published by Psychological Publications Inc.

The T-JTA is intended to serve as a quick and convenient method of measuring a number of important and comparatively independent personality variables. It serves as an aid to those who must ascertain and evaluate the significance of certain personality traits which influence personal, social and vocational adjustment.

The core of the T-JTA is 180 questions which measure nine different personality traits in terms of their opposites — nervous versus composed, objective versus subjective, etc.

An individual’s T-JTA results are measured against national standards, or norms, that are revised periodically, then translated onto a shaded profile graph which indicates whether the results for a particular trait are, best to worst, “excellent,” “acceptable,” “improvement desirable,” or “improvement needed.”

Perhaps the strongest feature of the T-JTA is the ability to utilize it as a measure of how the person taking the analysis views himself, providing a “snapshot” of the respondent’s personality and projected behavior.

Sample Population

The collective findings for the 676 managers and supervisors inventoried is reflective of the following breakout.

Participants: 126 managers (example: project managers, superintendents, port officers) and 550 supervisors (example: foreman, lead man, vessel officers)

Description: Managers are those whose job function includes determination of the overall process of job completion. Managers typically oversee a number of supervisors. Supervisors are those who directly oversee the completion of job tasks as undertaken by various line-level laborers. The supervisor may participate with laborers in completion of the task.

Findings

The results of the administration of the T-JTA indicate that on average the 550 supervisors scored themselves in the “improvement desirable” area of the profile graph in 5 of the 9 personality traits measured by the T-JTA. Four of the 9 traits were scored as “acceptable”.

The five traits in which the supervisors rated themselves as “improvement desirable” indicate that they feel their personality is more closely identified with the first description (italicized below) of that trait than the second description.

trait A – more Nervous than Composed

trait B – more Depressed than Light-hearted

trait D – more Inhibited than Expressive-Responsive

trait E – more Indifferent than Sympathetic

trait H – more Hostile than Tolerant

As detailed on the T-JTA profile (Figure 1), these “improvement desirable” traits are found in the lightest of the gray shaded areas of the profile.

Similarly, the four traits in which the participants rated themselves as “acceptable” indicate that they feel their personality is more closely identified with the first description (italicized below) of that trait than the second description.

trait C – more Active-Social than Quiet

trait F – more Objective than Subjective

trait G – more Dominant than Submissive

trait I – more Self-disciplined than Impulsive

T-JTA Profile For Managers & Supervisors
Figure 1

unnamed-1

The findings for the 126 managers are nearly identical to those of supervisors, including scores of “improvement desirable” in the same 5 traits listed above and “acceptable” in the other 4 traits. Three of the five trait scores for managers are numerically identical to those of supervisors. The variance between manager and supervisor scores is only 3 percentage points (out of a possible 100) in 4 out of the 9 traits. The variance never exceeds 10 points on any trait, indicating that the conclusions for managers can be considered the same as those for supervisors.

Interpretation
What the findings from the T-JTA tell us about the personality profile of a hardnosed manager or supervisor, and, collectively, a change-resistant workforce, is the following:

1. A stereotype may be accurately assumed.
A change-resistant workforce is marked by nearly identical personality profiles of its managers and supervisors — in other words, it is inbred in its personality patterns.

2. The ability to command is a strength.
The “acceptable” personality trait scores are those that support behavioral tendencies which indicate the practice of strong command skills. In particular traits F (objective), G (dominant) and I (self-disciplined) would be expected to be strong in those who displayed good command capabilities.

3. The ability to communicate on a positive basis is a weakness.
The “improvement desirable” personality trait scores are those that support behavioral tendencies which foster inward feelings and communication which is either consistently critical, argumentative, or absent. In particular traits D (inhibited), E (indifferent) and H (hostile) would be expected to be weak in those who suffered the inability to communicate on an open, friendly or non-hostile basis.

4. A tendency to emotionally withdraw creates masking (emotional honesty) concerns.
The change-resistant worker may have a tendency to mask his feelings and thus give verbal feedback which is either intentionally or unintentionally not indicative of his true feelings. Psychological Publications, Inc., publishers of the T-JTA, include several of the “improvement desirable” scores common to change-resistant workers in a behavioral category termed the Emotionally Repressed Pattern. According to Psychological Publications, this pattern “indicates actual suppression of feelings or emotional repression. This score combination describes a deeper and more complete form of emotional withdrawal (than inhibition). In this instance, possibly for fear of being hurt or rejected, or out of defensiveness, the individual does not allow inner feelings either to exist or to find expression.”

5. A strong-willed nature may work against teamwork.
Change-resistant workers may frequently exhibit a self-centered, strongly prejudiced behavior which could hamper their ability to function cohesively in a team. When the presence of their high trait H (hostile) score is added to their low E (indifferent) score another behavioral consideration of change-resistant workers appears. Again, according to Psychological Publications, “Self-centered and prejudiced persons often score low on trait E (indifferent), whether or not they score low on trait D (inhibited). In such cases, a high score on trait H (hostile) is usually present.”

6. A tendency to “fight back” against authority exists.
The non-communicative tendencies of the change-resistant worker, when combined with a strong command presence, make his work environment a breeding ground for passive-aggressive behavior. Since both managers and supervisors operate within the same organizational structure and have the same temperament pattern, the presence of passive-aggressive behavior is widespread. This type of behavior is as likely seen in the manager’s office as it is in the production workplace and is evident in interaction between supervisors and managers.

The AWOL Factor
A final ingredient of the definition of the hardnosed worker must be added, thanks to the United States Army. During the Vietnam War, the Army experienced a higher than acceptable rate of AWOL (absent without leave) cases. Soldiers chose to run away rather than serve.

To better identify potential AWOL candidates, the Army’s chaplain corps conducted a study of the personality traits of recruits and draftees, eventually narrowing the definition of a potential AWOL candidate to an easily recognizable personality profile. The personality analysis used by the Army is the T-JTA.

The U.S. Army concluded that solders who registered a combination of “improvement desirable” or “improvement needed” scores in at least 4 out of the following 6 personality traits warrant attention as “likely AWOL” candidates. The 6 traits on the T-JTA profile are A, B, C ,D, H, and I. As described above, hardnosed workers score “improvement desirable” in five traits. Four of these traits — A, B, D, and H — fall within the “likely AWOL” profile determined by the Army.

According to Uncle Sam, a hardnosed worker is a high risk runaway threat — he is more likely than others to quit the job unexpectedly. In human resource parlance, he demonstrates little employee attachment or engagement. Old-timers might call him disloyal.

The “Snapshot” Of A Hardnosed Worker

In summary, the author’s research indicates that the profile of a hardnosed worker includes four key identifiers.

  1. They give strong commands but cannot communicate their orders in an acceptable manner;
  2. They repress their emotions to the point of masking the truth about how they really feel;
  3. They possess a destructively high ego that stifles teamwork; and,
  4. They exhibit “fight back” passive-aggressive behavioral tendencies against authority.

The U.S. Army adds another element, the propensity to impulsively shirk duty, to run away from commitment.

Hardnosed workers are not skilled in people interaction — they do not possess trustworthy interrelation capabilities. Fighting back against authority is a basic part of their emotional DNA. Running away from responsibility is an equal component of their character.

Reality is harsh. So is the definition of a hardnosed worker.

A hardnosed worker is a self-destructive, emotionally self-centered, uncontrollable person who would rather cut-and-run than commit.

“That’s Not My Guys”
There is a good-hearted tendency of executive level managers to excuse their workers, en masse, from such a stark definition. Or at the most, to limit the description to a few employees. This was the case when the executive vice-president of a large offshore marine support company said, “That’s not my guys,” then apologized a year later when it was concluded that his employees, on average, did fit the profile.

The same is true of the senior consultant for a large utility company who, having witnessed the rancor of the above-referenced marine company employees, said that his utility employees were “better than that.” He, too, later admitted that he was wrong.

“It’s Your Guys”
But what if, as the data suggests, it is your employees, or a past employer’s workers, or the employees of someone you know and care about. What if it describes a company that you insure? What do you do? What advice do you give? How does an organization navigate out of such a mess?

The answers are in Parts 2-4 of this series.

Bibliography

“Focus On Teamwork, Attitude Improves Quality And Safety.” The Waterways Journal. April 25, 1994: 41-44

Newton, Ron. No Jerks On The Job. Irving, TX. PenlandScott Publishers, 2010.

Riddle, Glenden P. An Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Stress Camping Through The Use Of The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Exam. Research Project. Dallas Theological Seminary, December 1978.

Taylor, Robert. Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Manual. Thousand Oaks: Psychological Publications, Inc., 1992.