June 2009
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How can people in an outsourcing respect their manager but hate the organisation

I was thinking about outsourcing change management and the observation that those being outsourced often speak with respect about the boss delivering the message whilst being very hostile to the organisation actually forcing through the reorganisation. It has often happened to me when talking to people being outsourced that some managers or leaders are able to give bad news when it is necessary whilst still maintaining a good relation with their staff.

From a justice perspective, followers, or in this case the ones on the ‘receiving end’ of the outsourcing change, will judge the leadership exercised as to the degree which it is fair. That is leaders can motivate followers by following ‘fair procedures’ and followers can as a result become more supportive of the direction or goals being proposed and exercise good organisational citizenship – even when the goal being proposed is adversely affecting them.

This can be sharply contrasted if you think of a more distributive type of process where the person affected by the change only sees the instrumental issues – how the change is materially affecting them (loss of income or job for example). What this forces us to consider is how people apply different yardsticks when looking at an organisation’s position and how this can inform us why a person could simultaneously ‘respect’ the person who is communicating the bad news whilst keeping this distinct from poor justice perceived at an organisational level – or from another person or department elsewhere. I.e. is it seen as fair what the company is proposing as articulated by the manager compared to the way it is actually carried out at a company level. For example an outsource in order to gain cost advantages over an incumbent workforce would I suspect be judged adversely in a distributive justice sense, whereas a correct and fair application of the selection of the people affected by the outsource, as done by the manager, could be seen as procedurally fair if done with integrity – you would probably hear things like ‘he’s only doing his job’ or ‘he has no say in the matter’ but never the less ‘he’s a good chap.’

You could also take another view more directly related to identity and leadership: followers internalise the leaders perspective and construct an identity congruence to the leaders (buy in to the vision) and the issues around Identity in terms of the organisation (letting go and the processes involved in breaking the psychological contract) and constructing a new identity with the new organisation in outsourcing or ‘downsizing’. These types of processes also affect those left behind – i.e. be distanced from the organisation as a consequence of a poor outsource process. These sorts of processes could also help us ‘explain’ a differential response to the different players within an organisation (respect the manager but despise the organisation) – this is seen a lot in downsizing or outsourcing organisations people leave and organisation with a bitter taste in the mouth. It should not be forgotten that poorly outsourced people are probably lost as customers for the rest of their lives!

What this means is that the response of workers to an outsource can be greatly affected by the way messages and procedures are actually executed. A fair and equitable approach delivered by a well trained and respected manager can actually help in reducing resistance to change – in effect stopping causes of resistance at source.


How to do a Force Field Analysis – a practical guide

How to do a Force Field Analysis

Purpose of Tool

It can be used to identify those forces that both help and hinder the solution to an issue or problem so that the positives can be reinforced and/or the negatives eliminated or reduced. It can also be useful as a way of thinking about a difficult negotiation, or interpersonal relationship such as getting your daughter to do her homework. It is based on field theory which suggests that a current situation in an organization is held in quasi stability by a set of restraining and promoting forces that are at balance. By changing these forces we can change the state of the system and affect change.

Tip: In general it is often the case that senior managers wish to strengthen the promoting forces (the shout louder approach) but evidence from years of use show that the most effective way of using a force field analysis is in minimizing or eliminating the restraining forces first before considering strengthening the promoting ones.

Why use Force Field Analysis

* Easily understood and simple to use
* Presents the positive and negative side of a situation so that they can be easily compared
* Forces people to think together about all the aspects of making the desired change a permanent one by ‘locking in’ those aspects that promote stability.
* Encourages discussion and agreement on the relative priority of factors on both sides of the ‘balance sheet’ – this discussion and searching for consensus is an important benefit of the approach
* Can stimulate an honest reflection on the real underlying roots of a problem and its solution

When to use

Anytime really when you or your team faces a problem or where you need to move things along and understand what is preventing progress.

How to use

1. Establish the goal or desired situation and write it at the top of a sheet of flip chart.
2. Draw a line across the centre of the page representing the situation to be moved.
3. Along the top draw arrows representing the restraining or ‘pushing down’ hindering forces preventing progress.
4. Along the bottom draw arrows representing the motivating or ‘pushing up’ helping forces.
5. Rate the relative strength of these forces by making the arrows larger for those forces you consider more important.
6. The breakdown of the forces can then be used to explore how to reduce the number or strength of the restraining forces then increase or strengthen the helping or motivating forces.
7. Write down the actions and create and action plan to make the changes to the forces.

Skills Required

There is no special training for this tool – just good listening skills and the ability to capture comments and help the group to distill them into an action plan that minimizes/removes the negative forces and maximizes the positive forces. Force Field Analysis is best run by someone who has been involved in the topic under discussion or is familiar with the subject area.

Materials required

A flip chart and pens are required. You can also use ‘post-it’ notes instead of arrows and use a brainstorming technique such as a nominal group to derive a comprehensive list of forces before as a group posting them to a main board for discussion.


This tool has a long history and still maintains its utility despite its apparent simplicity. Use it when your team is blocked in some way or you need to see the wider picture in a change programme. It is an essential tool in the armoury of a consultant and despite its simplicity is a profound way of looking at an organisation.