I was hired to create a new function within the company. I’m running into both overt and covert resistance. My manager is unsympathetic and, I believe, does not feel we need the function I’ve been hired to create. Even though I’m the expert, no one is listening to me. I’m afraid I’m going to fail. Help! M.P., Philadelphia, PA
It’s not surprising you’re running into resistance. Our brains are designed to keep us safe, and any change is perceived as “dangerous.” My guess is you’ve been focused solely on creating the new function and not investing any energy in selling in the need for, and benefits of, this new function. It’s a common mistake and a natural assumption. I’m sure you’ve been in companies where there was resistance to management initiatives. It appears you have landed right in the middle of that type of situation.
To succeed, it’s time for a reset. Put your fears and assumptions aside and approach your task with an open and curious mind. Talk to the stakeholders and those employees who will be affected by your new function to understand their POV, and in particular, their concerns and fears. You are getting input—not selling or correcting misperceptions at this point. Everyone needs to be heard. Thank them and ask if you can revisit with them once you’ve gathered everyone’s input. Be honest and say you think you started off on the wrong foot and want to course correct.
Figure out what the key business issues are. Why is there resistance? Who/what function will be negatively impacted by the new department? Is your vision aligned with expectations? Then look at the potential political implications. Will someone lose perceived power? Is the person who hired you polarizing? What are you actually dealing with in this situation?
Get people to empathize with the situation you’re in and ask for advice on how to best navigate it. Use your experience to craft a path forward with an emphasis on proactively communicating what you’re doing and why. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to make up reasons for what is happening—tell everyone upfront what’s going on. Build support for your initiative by your inclusiveness and willingness to address concerns. Good luck!