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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Dealing with Organisational Blockers

Dealing with Organisational Blockers

In any business operation, teamwork is imperative to achieve ultimate success. Whilst some employees may work autonomously for most of their role, at some stage they will require the cooperation of the team, or other business departments in order to complete a task or project. For example, an HR Manager may wish to implement a new HR Management system. To get this project over the line, they may need to be able to effectively work with IT, Payroll, Finance and the company CEO.

Unfortunately, any great project is open to failure, especially when it comes to that person known as an organisational blocker.

What is an Organisational Blocker?

An organisational blocker is someone who blocks progress in the business due to a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear;

  • Feeling threatened;

  • Adversity to change;

  • Feeling left out;

  • Being unable to see the need for change;

  • Differing priorities; or

  • Negative personality.

Organisational blockers are those people who are always looking for problems and reasons not to do something. They are so focused on the detail and any potential problems, that they forget about the end goal and what everyone is trying to achieve.

These blockers may be heard constantly objecting to people’s ideas and thoughts, being negative about impending change or openly refusing to budge from their position of objection.

What are the Consequences of Organisational Blockers?

Organisational blockers tend to have an overall negative influence on the organisation and they can seriously hinder the efforts of an organisation to change.

There are a number of consequences of organisational blocker behaviour, these include:

  • Frustration from other employees;

  • Disengagement of employees;

  • Lack of achievement or feeling of not achieving anything;

  • An organisation that becomes stagnant due to not keeping up with necessary changes;

  • Negative workplace culture;

  • A lack of teamwork, cohesiveness and comradery;

  • Decreased motivation; and

  • Increased staff turnover.

Tips for Overcoming Organisational Blockers:

What I’ve found with many organisational blockers that I have come across in the past is:

  1. They are negative, problem focused thinkers in general;

  2. They usually don’t realise/see that they are being an organisational blocker;

  3. They believe that they have the organisations best interest at heart; and

  4. They don’t know any other way to behave.

Regardless of why they are acting as an organisation blocker, it is important to be able to work with and around these people to ensure that your performance is not impacted and that the organisation’s goals are still achieved.

At some stage, every person will need to deal with an organisational blocker during their career. Here are some tips for effectively dealing with these people:

  1. Determine the root cause of their behaviour: If you can work out what the root cause of their behaviour is (e.g. fear, adversity to change etc.), this can lead to greater understanding and acceptance.

  2. Readjust your behaviour/thinking: One of the best tips for dealing with organisational blockers is the need to remember that you cannot change others, the only thing you can do is adjust your own behaviour/thinking. So, at this point you know they are an organisational blocker and you think you know why. How can you interact with them in a different way that can lead to a successful outcome?

  3. Understand the best way to communicate with them: The number one tip is to understand how to effectively communicate with this person. To do this, you should try and gain an understanding of their communication style. I have found that the majority of organisational blockers tend to be either a Reflector or a Theorist style, rather than an Activist or Pragmatist. Activists and Pragmatists just want to get things achieved and will implement new ideas quickly. Reflectors and Theorists like to take their time, think about things, do research etc. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you have more effective conversations with this person, you should adjust your style to match their own. If you know your manager is a Theorist and responds well to facts and figures and someone doing their homework around new ideas, this is what you must get together before approaching them with the idea. See my overview of communication styles here for more information.

  4. Create a plan: Now is the time to develop a plan on exactly what you need to get together to present to the person (based on their preferences) and how you will approach them with the information and what you will say.

  5. Deal with the problem: Do not put the interactions off. They may be unpleasant or feel uncomfortable, but the problem won’t resolve itself. Remember you have planned for this interaction and now you need to implement your plan.

  6. Evaluate their behaviour/reaction: Pay close attention to what they say (and don’t say), their body language and their reactions. These can tell you if the person is feeling uncomfortable with what they are being presented with or, impressed by the work you have done prior to presenting the information.

  7. Allow them time to think about it: Don’t expect an immediate answer. Allow the person time to think about what you have said and the information you have presented. This is especially important if the person is a Theorist or Reflector style. A positive response will be more likely if you allow them this time. You should end the conversation by advising that you are available should they have any questions or if they need any further information.

  8. Keep them in the loop: Once you have their support for your project, make them feel part of “the team” by keeping them in the loop. Regular updates will help them to overcome any fear or adversity to change that they may have, it will also help them to feel more included.

  9. Thank them for their assistance: Even if you feel like they didn’t do much to assist the project, by giving you support instead of throwing obstacles at you, they have greatly assisted. Thank them sincerely for their help with your project.

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