Let's look at some of the reasons why certain faculty might resist or sabotage your ideas and efforts in your school. Each of these (and any others that may surface) must be addressed in your planning and implementation stages. Some common reasons for resistance are as follows:
- Some teachers feel they do not possess the adequate skills to help with your idea or implementation. Complicating the matter further for the principal is the fact that many of these teachers are reluctant or embarrassed to admit this feeling of inadequacy - so it is far easier to simply refuse or resist.
- Several teachers (even in today's technological world) are not yet convinced of the benefits or value of a certain implementation to support teaching and learning. As with anything, if someone does not believe in its value, why would the person support the program or concept?
- It is not uncommon to hear teachers express concern and personal fear that a new idea (such as technology) may soon begin to replace faculty. In an earlier chapter, I shared my personal experience with technology implementation and noted that a certain resister (and saboteur) was the local teachers' union (internal threat), some of whose members believed that teaching positions might be in jeopardy if technology programs were implemented.
In Moss Kanter's insightful book, Evolve (2001), she discusses her list of reasons people resist change in the early stages of implementation, and the importance of leaders to work around them. Though her reasons are not related to schools and principals, I think they are very appropriate to share with you here:
- Loss of face: Fear that dignity will be undermined, a place of honor removed; embarrassment because the change feels like exposure for past mistakes.
- Loss of control: Anger at decisions being taken out of one's hands, power shifting elsewhere.
- Excess uncertainty: Feeling uninformed about where the change will lead, what is coming next a sensation like walking of a cliff blindfolded.
- Surprise, surprise: Automatic defensiveness -no advanced warning, no time to get ready.
- The "difference" effect: Rejection of the change because it doesn't ft the existing mental models, seems strange and unfamiliar, and challenges usually unquestioned habits and routines.
- Can I do it?" Concerns about future competence, worries about whether one will still be successful after the change.
- Ripple effects: Annoyance at disruptions to other activities and interference with the accomplishment of unrelated tasks.
- More work: Resistance to additional things to do, new things to learn, and no time to do it all.
- Past resentments: memories of past hostilities or problems that were never resolved.
- Real threats: Anger that the change will inflict real pain and create real losers.
At the risk of boring you with the management/leadership dichotomy we are all so familiar with, I think there is a parallel here. I suspect what Moss Kanter is getting at is the fact that the principal must not get to wrapped up in the management of change to the exclusion of dealing with the more human side -leadership through respecting and understanding what people feel and believe about issues. In addition, what are their fears and why do they feel threatened with the implementation?
The "nature of the beast" is that so much of what principals do on a daily basis is so naturally impersonal and technical it invites a neglect of the more human side of change. The principal must be careful that she/he is not consumed with the management side of our jobs at the expense of working through (not around) teachers' fears and emotions.