Sustainability programmes and dealing with the pessimist
All programmes, whether sustainability or not, that require change may encounter a pessimist of some sort. They may be highly vocal or apathetic, but for the team leading the programme, recognising the underlying reasoning for their behaviour can provide helpful insight into your communication strategy and how it may need enhancing.
Many people don’t like change and may be fearful of your programme, but don’t assume they are just being stubborn or arrogant for the sake of it, they’re often revealing personal concerns or fears.
- They may not understand the benefit of the change for the organisation. When we have run recycling programmes the objective is to increase waste separation (so to increase recyclable value) , but many may not understand why we need both and why they cannot all go in the same bin. So you have to explain more about ‘why’ we are doing it than what they have to do.
- They may fear the change will impact on their status quo? Will you new lights mean they cannot see the computer screen as well, or the heating make them feel colder. So you have to explain why this investment will help the environment they work in.
- Maybe they fear your change will could expose them as foolish? This is often the case with property/caretaker staff. Your energy saving programmes can make them feel they have badly managed the building in the past. So you need to explain that you are engaging the people rather than the building and you need to work together.
- Maybe they don’t want to be connected to a failed programme so keep a far until it seems to be working. Finance are often guilty of this kind of behaviour not showing open backing until the programmes is clearly seen as working. So you need to promote the success stories often to draw them in sooner.
Running sustainability programmes you may encounter many challenges like these but don’t be downhearted. Most people are keen to adapt to change if they see the benefits it brings. The key is to make sure you have promoted it sufficiently spending sufficient time on ‘why we are doing it rather than ‘what they have to do’.