Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Dealing with Upper Management who Oppose Change


Most companies have policies and procedure that, if you researched, you will find haven’t been changed in decades.  They may have been progressive when established, but now they more than likely impede growth.  None the less, because they are familiar and routine, they are defended to the death whether they’re efficient or not.  “This is just the way we do it here!”

Working for a pipe supply company located in Bakersfield, California, the owner had a policy which stated every employee must wear a tie because he thought it showed class.  This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal except a lot of our job took place writing orders outside.   And in Bakersfield in summer it’s 108 degrees in the shade.  Everyone always looked like they had just showered in their clothes, but our ties sure looked classy.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get upper management to understand the benefit of employees not having to suffer heat stroke.  This is when I learned to control what I can control and let go of what I can’t. 

Not every upper manager opposes change.  Some will see the benefit of Managing from the Heart and will be supportive.  But even when this is the case, I still must be patient and keep in mind that the wheels of progress turn slowly at times, especially for the “old ship.” It’s easy to become frustrated when things don’t happen fast enough to suit me, but the important thing is to know that they are turning.

Every manager will feel at times that nothing is going to change.  As already discussed, every manager who has true ownership of his department continually monitors all processes in which his staff is involved to produce long-term sustainable growth.  One of the bi-products of this monitoring is an ongoing flow of new ideas which occur during reviews. These ideas help to streamline existing processes as well as those which produce time savings or new products, which can lead to additional sources of revenue.

New ideas are the lifeblood which keeps the department progressive and on the cutting edge. However, getting ideas implemented can be a different story due to the structure of the company and how receptive upper management is to change. This is especially true when something is brand new and has no track record or reference point at the company.

If during the course of monitoring the various processes I or my staff come up with solutions to existing issues or brand new issues, it is only the beginning.  In order to implement these changes, everything must be thoroughly thought through.  Two items which must be thoroughly thought out would be cost, and time and effect, on all other departments. Once this is accomplished, a detailed presentation must be made to upper management that effectively states the reasons for change as well as the process or product to be added or changed.

The decision to go forward from this point is upper management’s and their decision is not always one which is favorable. Sometimes I am told to gather additional facts and do a second presentation. At other times it is clearly stated that the idea or concept is not to go forward, and I need to focus on the current process.  This is always disappointing for me and my staff who believe in the change and have worked on the presentation.

At this point, I have a clear choice to make. Naturally I’m disappointed but I must put this idea on the shelf for the present. As I heard someone once say, “In these situations you either get bitter or better, so choose better.”   I know if the idea or concept has merit it can happen at some point in the future. It is important not to be frustrated by these events and waste energy on what is seen as a set back. This only creates resentment towards upper management, which will eventually lead to self-sabotage.

In reality, this event should be seen as only an objection to the concept by upper management and an objection must be viewed only as a need for additional information. Over time, I can continue to develop the information that will push the process forward.  However, I must not allow this process to become disruptive or defocus either my staff or me.

If the staff was involved in creating the concept, it is especially important for me to handle things properly for my staff will also be going through the same emotion, the same disappointment, as I am.  Morale can plummet so it’s important to sow vision for the desired changes while diligently conducting the current process.  In the end, things do change and concepts do become reality, if we continue to be positive and focus on the future.

-excerpt from “The Manager as Engineer of the Work Environment”

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February 26, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Employee Coaching, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring, Personal Development, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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