People constitute their world and are constituted by it at the same time. Changed situations lead to breakdown of smooth functioning for your employees. Better to see this as an opportunity for reflection rather than an opportunity to ‘persuade’ them.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about Patricia Benner’s work described in her book The Primacy of Caring on how people deal with growth and loss as they are lived or experienced.
Benner proposes that there are four aspects of our humanness that enable us to grasp situations directly in terms of their meaning for the self:
- Embodied intelligence
- Background meaning
Earlier posts discussed embodied intelligence, background meaning and concern.
Benner calls the fourth attribute ’situation’, which denotes that people inhabit their world, rather than living in an environment. What I mean is that people are constituted by, at the same time as they form, their world. Not only do we create our own world, but it simultaneously creates us. Benner says that this point is often missed because we are so ingrained in an individualist view of the world where we are seen as autonomous individuals, who create the world we live in through our words and actions. Interdependence with other people takes a back seat – more on this here.
Over time, external situations change, and in response the individual also changes. For example, marriage, divorce, widowhood, unemployment, promotion and retirement are all examples Benner gives of how real world situations or contexts change and can impact upon life experience.
No amount of rehearsal or reflection can prepare one for these events because people cannot, in advance, reflectively encounter every taken-for-granted aspect of their being.
However, these changed contexts represent breakdowns in smooth functioning, which can prompt reflection. We can become aware of previously unnoticed background meanings, habitual body understanding and concerns.
This breakdown in smooth functioning is experienced as stressful, as any person involved in organisational change can testify. In situations of change, people’s concerns change and the habitual bodily understandings may not seem to work any more. Taken-for-granted aspects of one’s being may no longer work smoothly. And yet often, leaders respond with ‘persuasive’ messages, rather than attempts to understand what it means for employees whose habitual smooth functioning is breaking down.
Considering this, along with history in the form of background meaning can offer you as the leader of change, the potential for new responses to your employees’ ‘resistance.’ Something more relevant to your employees than a persuasive message.
These new responses you make to your employees have far more potential to trigger the actual organisational change you desire, more than all the programmed key messages and persuasive messages your PR team could dream up.