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The Borg

OK. I'll admit it. I am a Trekker!

And I do mean an old school fan: A James Tiberius Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy kind of fan. The original Star Trek television show, while not infused with complex or even meaningful plot lines, evokes within me a warm memory of family time. Being the middle girl between two boys, I sometimes felt left out because "I was a girl". But during an episode of Star Trek, scrunched up on the couch with my dad and my brothers, I felt like one of the tribe. Not the only girl; not the middle child; but an actual tribe member. Primarily due to watching that show, I discovered that I really liked science fiction and fantasy, and still enjoy it today. So, Star Trek was a win-win for me.

In one specific episode of Star Trek, the crew of the Enterprise landed on a planet inhabited by the Borg. The Borg tried to change the crew (as they had done with other lifeforms for millennium) by forcibly assimilating them into their "collective". If you don't remember the episode, you have probably heard the famous line that came from the scene and is widely used:

"Resistance is Futile."

Those words pricked my memory this week as I assisted some colleagues in a really interesting training on providing Strengths and Needs based feedback to produce positive change. The trainer brought up the concept of resistance and the line from Star Trek popped into my head. The concept of staff resistance and even family resistance is not new to me, and I have even taught on the subject. However, listening to my colleague discuss the subject I found myself mulling over the word and thinking about different facets of the meaning.

Resistance is Futile.

The thought of resistance continued to resonate with me throughout the evening and I decided to write about it. focusing on not our client's resistance to change, but our own. Think, for a minute, about a time when you were approached by a superior/manager and asked to change the way you practice your vocation. What was your first reaction?

Perhaps you were surprised to be presented with the need for change. After all, if it wasn't broke, why fix it? Did the initial surprise give way to a feeling of annoyance that you were being instructed to make the change? Or did you jump to self-doubt, thinking that you had been judged as not measuring up to par resulting in a change mandate? There are so many reasons we feel negatively when confronted with change. And those big feelings can lead us to taking a conscious or a not-so-conscious stance of Resistance.

In a nutshell, Resistance is a behavioral reaction to our own emotions around facing change.

Change is uncomfortable. Even when it is a good change. Change often requires a re-examination of things we believed or even knew to be true. Most of us are comfortable in the way we operate. We believe certain things, handle things in a certain way and feel a sense of safety in our current functioning. Because that's what we know. That is how we do things. It is "mostly working". Therefore, change can be intimidating. We want to be proficient in the things that we do. But when we are instructed to make a change, the fear of being unsuccessful in that change can also cause us to experience those big emotions that lead to resistance.

So what's wrong with resistance? We don't want to be drawn into the Borg Collective! I do want to emphasize that I am not talking about resisting injustice or concepts that go against your belief system. We absolutely have the right and the responsibility to stand up against changes that contradict our character. I am talking about resistance to new initiatives or ways to make a bigger impact in your career. That type of resistance is not only futile but can also lead to consequences in your career.

How can you address your own resistance when faced with inevitable/required changes so that you can be the most successful?

  1. Be aware, by your words or actions that you are being resistant: passive aggressive behavior, vocal outcries of the change or even little whispers of discontent to your colleagues.

  2. Be open to yourself and aware of the emotions lurking behind the resistance: What are you feeling? Just being present and accepting of your feelings about the change will help you to become more aware of why you are experiencing this resistance. Remember, those emotions are normal but by being aware of them, you can better manage them.

  3. Be able to verbalize your concerns to the right people and listen for the "why" of the change. Sometimes change is necessary due to valid reasons and not "about you personally." Assertive expressions of feelings and content are very effective communication skills when discussing difficult or emotional concepts.

  4. Give yourself permission to learn and not hold expectations of perfection that are unattainable and can lead you on a downward path.

I have heard the saying, "The only thing in this world that is constant is change". You are going to face it yourself sooner or later in your social work career. How you navigate that challenge becomes more important when you realize that every small success you achieve leads you on towards bigger things.

Angela McClintock

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