Resisting Technological Change: How to Identify and Overcome Resistance from Supervisors

Person rolling a boulder up a hill

Ah, the joy of conferences. Whether you attend a large national event or a small state chapter event, you are sure to come back to the library full of ideas. After all, that is the intended goal — seeing what is and isn't working in other libraries. Implementing these ideas back at your library requires getting other workers on board for the change and also requires selling the change to your supervisor. This is part two of our series on identifying and overcoming resistance to technological change at your library. Find part one on overcoming resistance from co-workers here.

Supervisor Resistance Is a Given

You are likely to be presented with some initial resistance from your supervisor. You need to be able to identify forms of resistance and overcome these forms of resistance for your suggested change to be successfully implemented.

The first thing I do is to set up a meeting with my supervisor where I describe what I learned and what I want to implement at our library. When you schedule this meeting, make sure to follow proper etiquette. Be prepared with documentation and resources that will help explain what you want to implement in your library.

There are many cues to look for to identify resistance, but for this article we will focus on silence and compliance. The following examples will help clarify what to look for and how to overcome the resistance.

Example 1: Silence

Situation: You discovered that other libraries are successfully lending Wi-Fi hotspots to patrons, and you believe that this would be a great addition to the services offered by your library. You meet with your supervisor and tell him about the lending policies of the other libraries, the cost per unit, and the response from the patrons. He says nothing and looks at his computer screen the entire time. You ask if he is listening, and he assures you that he is paying attention and will ask questions if he has any.

The resistance: Silence is a hard form of resistance to identify because there are many reasons why a person could remain silent during a meeting. Silence more often than not means that the person is resistant to what you are saying and perhaps so resistant as to not even give you a reaction.

How to overcome: Once you have noticed the resistance, start a dialog by saying, perhaps, "You seem quiet, and I am not sure what that means. Is it the proposed idea or something else?" If your supervisor replies that there is nothing wrong but still isn't talking, perhaps say something like, "Your silence makes me feel like you are not interested." Shifting the focus on how the meeting is making you feel may be the key to opening up a conversation and learning the reason why your supervisor is resistant to your idea.

Example 2: Compliance

Situation: You discovered that other libraries are creating and installing digital signs to advertise events and library services. You meet with your supervisor and discuss the idea of placing one behind the circulation desk, and she says yes without asking any questions. The meeting was fast and successful — or was it? What I call compliance is a type of passive resistance that is actually nonactionable agreement.

The resistance: This one is a bit tricky because it may not be resistance at all. Perhaps your supervisor has already thought about the technology you are introducing and has already worked out the pros and cons. The reason compliance can be a form of resistance is that there will likely be problems down the road when people start asking about the details. They will want to know who is installing or maintaining the technology and where exactly it will be installed.

How to overcome: To avoid the possibility of compliance resistance, it is best to start a dialog to determine if this is the case. All of the details of a proposed project need to be discussed openly in the planning stages before any work starts for a successful project launch.

Dealing with resistance from supervisors can be tricky, but by identifying and taking the initiative to overcome the resistance, our ideas can blossom into successful projects.

About the Author

Roger DonaldsonRoger Donaldson lives in Jackson, Ohio, and is the IT administrator and technical services supervisor at Jackson City Library. He has taken computer networking classes at the University of Rio Grande, has a bachelor's degree in history from Shawnee State University in Ohio, and is currently enrolled in the MLIS program at Kent State University. Before entering the library field, Roger worked in management positions at restaurants, production facilities, and a precious-metal refinery.

Image: NeuPaddy / CC0