Change Management: Four Attitudes Towards Change

By Harvey Robbins

There are four attitudes toward change, created by leaders, with which an organization can be managed. They run the gamut from maintaining control (Old Age management) to distributing control (New Age management). Four points can be designated to demark four attitudes about control.

1) Pummel. Terror. "Do what I say or you will die." The bad old days. This time-honored method seeks control at any cost and can be used to force either change or non-change. The worker is a slave. The leader says, "My way or the highway". It's a very tense and stressful environment…and it's created solely by the leader.

2) Push. Distress. "Do what you must do or the enterprise will die." This is conventional motivation, the deliberate use of fear to galvanize positive action - the burning platform from which people must jump (change) or perish. Push uses force, like Pummel, but it is not brutal force. It encourages people to act by loading them up with negative information. In the hands of some, this is the big lie. The worker is a rat in a Skinner Box. The environment is just as tense and stressful as under Pummel, but the pressure is now not created by the boss, but by the information the boss is providing. Kind of like hitting people with bricks.

3) Pull. Eustress. "Do what you must do to achieve the future you dream of." Imagination, inspiration. It is less control than a willingness to lead coupled with a willingness to follow. Pull is Push plus empowerment - workers motivate (scare) themselves. The manager is a human being with no power to coerce; the worker is a human being with free will. A kind of fear is involved. Urgency might be a better word for it. This is the hardest way to achieve change, but the way with the best long-term results. It combines both the tension of a perceived threat combined with an exit strategy…a way out of the stress. A step by step process towards a future positive state.

4) Pamper. Torpor. "Do what you feel like doing." This is the realm of entitlement, the supposedly good new days. Pamper is Pull minus accountability. Zero fear, maximum empowerment, slack performance, scant measurement and evaluation. The worker is a child. The first two are related, characterized by fear, manipulation, and disrespect for the worker. The second two are also related, characterized by an acknowledgment of the worker's humanity. The first and last categories are the extremes, but these extremes are common. Anyone who has been in many different organizations knows that a lot of them operate on these extremes of sadism and permissiveness.

The best hope organizations have for making successful change lies in utilizing a balanced combination of the middle, more temperate two - Push and Pull. Push to get people's attention and start them thinking. It gets their attention, like the impact of a two by four to the forehead. Then it is combined with the Pull where people are rallied to follow the escape plan out of the pain. Pull to leverage people's knowledge and creativity to put the change over.

About The Author:
A world class speaker, author, and educator, Dr. Robbins focuses on transformational leadership by providing leadership skill training, team building / team leadership training, management development training, and executive coaching. See more on

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