If you can’t change the people, change the culture…


There’s a number of these quotes flying around:

If you can’t change the people, change the people.

If you can’t change the people, change yourself.

None of these are satisfactory, if we change the people, I feel like I would have failed in my approach to improve existing peoples approach in the workplace.

If I change myself, then its simply lowering my expectations of what it means to do your job to the best of your ability, not a good approach in my eyes.

So, piece by piece, perhaps we can change the culture…

Getting the Balance right

Part of changing the culture is getting the balance between change and comfort right. There is already a predetermined way of doing things which your colleagues are used to, and changing this fast makes people uncomfortable. There are a number of psychological tools we can employ to begin change:

  1. Present the benefits of the change clearly.
  2. Approach them in such a manner that at the end of the discussion it feels like their idea.
  3. Show the negative impacts of not making the move to gain sympathy.

If one of the above has been successful, then the idea has been planted in someone who isn’t yourself, you are recruiting an army.

Finding like minded people

There is a good change that you are not the only person who wishes a particular process or behaviour could be improved. Raise support through email lists and water cooler conversations. You may even strike up a conversation with someone who can make your life in initiating the change much easier.

Be relentless

Blasé workers and procrastinators and two major blockers you might find in your quest to apply improvements in the work place. You could bypass them and try a manager if they are in the way, but it would be better for everyone to involve them in the process. There can be a few strategies here:

  1. Include them in the need for change, and allow them to take credit for applying it. After all the main reason its being done is to make your work life better.
  2. Take over any work they would otherwise have to do themselves, including responsibility so all they need to do is sign and the work is done.

Don’t make any enemies

This one should go without saying, but its inevitable that there will be a strong character in your way, and the best way to get your changes pushed through is to swallow your pride and befriend them. You would be surprised how often an unpleasant veneer dissipates after minutes of friendly conversation.

Little by little

Your encounters with people, bit by bit has hopefully improved the workplace and the culture. Before you know it, you’ve changed the people as a by product.

Most of all, good luck and don’t give up!

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