“WTF: Threat Rigidity” and How to Move Beyond the Resistance to Change

As predicted, there’s been an uptick in calls to return to the office following the expiration of COVID public health emergency declarations in May.

Employees respond by feeling threatened that they won’t be able to maintain the positive aspects of how they’ve worked the last three years. On the flip side, leaders continue to double down on mandates and push employees to conform. This “clash of contexts” leads to rigidity on both sides that keeps us from moving toward how, when, and where we do our best work.

During ongoing conversations with Digiday Media’s WorkLife Editor Jessica Davies (in my opinion, some of the best work and life coverage), we dove deeper into what comes next when we (hopefully) move past the flurry of these doomed-to-fail mandates. In her article that resulted from those discussions, “WTF is ‘threat rigidity’ and how is it showing up in modern leaders? Jessica examines why some leaders want to cling to what they think worked in the past (a traditional work model that was disappearing well before COVID) rather than rise to meet this moment of opportunity.

“I think that there needs to be an openness to the fact that the way we’ve worked for the last three years was crisis driven. This was not a thoughtful, intentional, planned restructuring of work,” I told her.

“The challenge is that we’re [employees and employers] not meeting in the middle,” I said.  “And that means employees too are exhibiting signs of threat rigidity. ‘[They’re thinking] You’re threatening the way I have worked for the last three years, I don’t want that to go away so I am not listening to you. I’m going to double down and say the way you’re telling me to do it is outdated and no longer applies. I won’t participate.’

“On the flip side, you have the leaders pushing to have people conform to their own understanding of how things work. ‘That rigidity [on both sides] is keeping us from moving forward,’” I added.

I also stressed that, while we can acknowledge there are gaps in learning, mentoring, and sometimes the quality of the work, these gaps don’t require us to go back to the way things were but rather look at how to improve. Only through an intentional and strategic investment in high performance flexibility will people start to leave their entrenched positions and move toward reimagining how, when, and where the best work gets done in service of the business and its people.

Click link to full article.