“Now I have to work with people I don’t trust.” This was the statement of an audience member at a speech I was giving last week. We were talking about a major organizational change and he was sharing his experience of the new structure. It was immediately obvious that how he was thinking about the change was increasing his resistance to it.

“Have to” versus “Choose to”

The expression, “I have to” is exceedingly common in our vocabulary. “I have to work with sales on this project,” “I have to fill in my paperwork,” “I have to go along with my boss.” This one phrase says so much about how you’re viewing organizational change. As soon as you frame it as “I have to,” you tell yourself that you have no control; you emphasize your powerlessness. You put yourself in the camp that says the change is being done to you. And that’s when you start to resist it.

“I have to” is powerless. “I have to” reduces your sense of self-worth and self-control. “I have to” fosters resentment. My favorite insight about resentment comes from Nelson Mandela (who knew plenty about the topic). He warned us…

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

When you frame organizational change as “I have to,” you swallow poison. You being annoyed about change doesn’t undo the change. It doesn’t punish the person who devised the change. It just makes you more miserable.

I’m offering you an alternative. Each time you say or think I have to, stop yourself and replace “I have to” with “I choose to.” Because that’s the truth. Ultimately, you are not being forced to do anything. You are deciding that, after weighing the costs and benefits of a course of action, you are going to proceed.

And this doesn’t need to be Pollyanna crap. You can be straight up with yourself. I choose to because I don’t want to get yelled at. I choose to because it’s faster, or easier. I choose to because I trust it will work out in the end.

Take the sales example. Imagine your boss has asked you to work with the sales team on developing a new marketing campaign. You might think sales has nothing to offer or that they’ll take your project in the wrong direction. Your inner monologue becomes, “I have to work with sales,” which suggests that working with sales is a big drag. Once you’ve got that in your mind, you’re going to, intentionally or inadvertently, openly or covertly, act as an adversary and set off a vicious cycle.

Instead, be honest with yourself about why you choose to work with sales.

  • I choose to work with sales because they have the customer relationships and I don’t.
  • I choose to work with sales because they have more influence than I do in the organization.
  • I choose to work with sales because my boss told me to and this isn’t a battle I want to fight.

Instead of making yourself the victim and someone else the villain, make yourself the hero of the story. I choose to make this change.

Further Reading

What to Say to Someone Resisting Change

5 Practices that Bolster Trust

Tsunami of Stress



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *