in teams making an example of someone can create change resistance

One manager said “Sometimes you have to make an example of someone to show people that the change you want is going to happen.”

The managers nodded.

I was frightened and asked,

That may be a good technique. I’m worried about those that stay and the message you send when you cut the persons head off in public. What kind of collusion and hidden mistakes and sabotage are you creating by doing that?”

The managers nodded…

It is not an easy answer.

Sometimes there should be negative reinforcement for not doing your job


There needs to be positive reinforcement for doing your job.

AND when is comes to people changing how they do their work there has to be support and clarity and opportunity to Unfreeze, Move, and Refreeze.

One area of change we fear Fear of punishment for incompetence
  • If it takes you a long time to learn the new way of thinking and doing things, you fear being punished for your lack of productivity. In the computer arena, there are amazing cases is which employees never learn the new system sufficiently to take advantage of its potential because they feel they have to remain productive – so they spend insufficient time on the new learning. – Edgar Schein

Fear invites wrong figures. Bearers of bad news fare badly. To keep his job, anyone may present to his boss only good news. – W. Edwards Deming

If you want change to happen you must increase trust in management, the systems and organization to support the person as they go through the change.

Change within work has the capacity to attract trust and repel trust based upon the clarity and reinforcement given during the change.

Towards the end of the meeting a manger asked “how do you implement the changes. Taking them from the abstract discussions to the concrete work that has to change?”

I did not have a good answer at the time…here is what I think. 
  • Step 1. Develop a shared language of the change and what “done” looks like;
  • Step 2. Shorten your time frame to the lowest time-span of work;
  • Step 3. Lower learning anxiety by offering coaching, development, informal trainings and almost imperceptible shifts towards the change.
  • Step 4. Find what is working and highlight PLUS do more of it.
  • Step 5. Follow-up and continue to share the message of what “done” looks like;
  • Step 6. Measure your desired results and share the metrics;
  • Step 7. Adjust the processes as needed – while staying within the change desired.

What would you add?

Does the above do enough to drive out the fear of punishment for incompetence?

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