by Katharine Newcombe

Attitudes can be the hardest things to change.

Attitudes are deeply ingrained ways of viewing and reacting to the world, and are often set at an early age. We frequently find ourselves explaining someone’s behaviour as ‘just their attitude’, especially when we perceive them to be behaving uncooperatively or negatively.

From a culture change perspective, we identify these types of behaviours as belonging to ‘Resistors.’ Resistors can come from all over the company, at any different level, and can negatively impact any attempt at change by planting doubts in the minds of those undecided or even in those of ‘Supporters.’

The cultural impact of resistor-like behaviour cannot be over-emphasized: negative attitudes more readily breed than positive ones. Good news, though: while attitudes may appear to be set, they can be influenced, and indeed some of the greatest satisfaction can come from transforming a resistor into a supporter.

As with values, the easiest way to get to the bottom of perceived shared attitude problems is to create reliable, regular feedback mechanisms for people to express their thoughts and feelings. Anonymous surveys work well to sound things out, letting people vent freely without fear of consequence. Follow this up with face-to-face discussions like ‘Town Halls,’ focus groups or one-to-ones, creating a sense of inclusion and acceptance.

Once you’ve gathered feedback, make sure you’re acting on it! Even simple things like ensuring you have regular one-to-one catch ups, encouraging leadership teams to be approachable, or publicising shared frustrations will allow people to feel as though they are being heard. Using secure social media tools like Yammer or an Intranet, keep the feedback loop going – the key to changing attitudes is to continually reinforce the positive behaviours and attitudes you want throughout the company, while addressing those you don’t.

Find the other parts of the series:

Consultant’s Cultural Toolkit #1 – Adapting

Consultant’s Cultural Toolkit #2 – Listening

Consultant’s Cultural Toolkit #3 – Values