How to Be a Naysayer

I was recently asked by a stakeholder for advice on how to resist change in a professional way. His company is going through a dramatic change and, though he thinks the direction is a good idea, he disagrees with how change is being executed. While he thinks he is being the voice of reason by speaking up, since he is the only one dissenting he is concerned that everyone else perceives him as simply being a pain in the ass.

His question to me was: How do I express negativity in a way that people listen to my concerns and don’t just write me off as not being a team player?


  1. Examine your true reason for resisting the change. Ask yourself objectively why. Are you only worried about your future at the company, or is there a flaw in the plan? Are training materials inadequate, is communication unclear, were critical stakeholders missed when the change was designed? Once you know the reason behind your negative perspective, you will be able to express it so that others understand your resistance is based on rational thought and not simply emotions–fear of change or a desire to be a thorn in people’s sides.
  2. Frame your concerns in terms of business value. Senior executives will listen if their business objectives are at risk. Find a way to express your resistance in terms of impact on customer satisfaction, customer retention, revenue… Poorly designed changes lose companies lots of money, which is bad for business.
  3. Handle the situation using emotional intelligence. Don’t react to change by announcing that you hate your job, hate your boss, or that you think the change team members and/or executives are idiots. Think about how your words and actions will impact your company and people’s perception of you. Focus your behavior on trying to achieve positive business results from the change–both for you and for your company.

Resistance to change is normal; however, how you communicate that resistance has an impact on whether you are perceived as the brave voice who speaks up when others won’t, or as a pain in the ass who people dread having on their team.

The choice is up to you.

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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