Facing a Naysayer, a Sally Stubborn? Then Isolate and / or Neutralize.

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
  Benjamin Franklin, (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790), one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, noted polymath, leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat


In addition to the lengthy description of Mr. Franklin noted above, it seems as if he also was an expert in organizational change. Those ‘little expenses’ can add up quickly. The little expenses I am referring to have more to do with time and energy than with money. And I can tell you from experience that organizational change – actually, any change – requires many people’s time and energy to work.

So what do you do if you have a naysayer who will not accept an organizational change that needs to occur and is already underway? Let us call this person Sally Stubborn. With Sally, you have two options: isolate or neutralize her.


Decide if Sally is needed during and / or after the organizational change.

If so:


Schedule time with Sally to listen actively to her point of view about the change. (I will bet you may be able to find a nugget of truth in her concerns.) Ask her for recommended solutions to her concerns. Ask her if she wants to lead one of these efforts to address her concerns.

Find an ally – how about Coleen Cooperative? Coleen is at the same level as Sally and she is an engaging leader in the organizational change strategy and execution. Ask Coleen for assistance and / or guidance in dealing with Sally.

Encircle Sally with people who are excited about and engaged in the change. Attitudes can be infectious. 

Determine a plan with dates and expectations to help Sally succeed. Decide at what point you want to include Sally in building this plan.


Work around Sally. This can be an effective strategy if you have other change champions or willing participants on the bandwagon. Especially others who are at the same organizational level.

Develop an exit strategy for her. If you have tried all of the above to no avail, inform Sally that she needs to get with the program or she runs the risk of having to explore other options outside of the company. Sometimes you will have to cut bait with energy-draining employees who simply will not cooperate.

There are other options to consider, but this is a solid starting point. Whichever path you choose, consult a select few about your concerns with Sally before making your decision. Sally may simply need a little push, assistance, validation that she is being heard, or some one-on-one time with someone she trusts who will listen then explain why changes are occurring. And guess what? These options do not have to cost you a penny.

You and your team’s time and energy during an organizational change are precious. Use wisely.


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Sandra Schwan

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