Denial and Reality

In a world that is constantly changing there is pressure to adapt. Often we can get by with small, controlled adjustments. Occasionally we are called on to make deeper changes.
It is normal for us to resist the process of deep change because it requires the surrender of control and the risk of making mistakes. When we receive feedback that suggests we need to make deep change, we tend to engage in various forms of denial. We distort the messages we receive insisting that the world still fits our past images and categories. This process is normal.
Instead of flourishing in an expanded awareness of the changing environment we move towards the stagnation that is associated with a restricted awareness of the changing environment. At such moments we are internally closed to the external messages that require change and would give us life.
This is an individual tendency. We all do it. It is also an organizational tendency.   When there is something at stake it is natural for a group or organization to practice denial. We have seen major companies collapse for this very reason.   One of the greatest responsibilities of a leader is to continually engage reality and help others to do the same.

5 comments on “Denial and Reality

  1. While resistance to deep change, whether individual or organizational, may be a natural response it can also be a learned, cultural behavior. I have worked for companies where people “don’t like” change, have “always done it this way” or it makes them “uncomfortable” and they are permitted to resist the most basic changes. I have also worked for those where employees get excited by a new challenge (the bigger the better) and welcome the idea of being part of large-scale transformation that makes a difference to the entire organization. These attitudes were inherent throughout both types of organizations from the top down.
    Part of the problem with resistance and denial is how change is introduced. It is often initiated with a negative connotation; we need to “fix” something, thus giving the impression that the current method is wrong or broken rather than presenting it as opportunity to grow or improve. Even when disinclined to change people are generally more receptive to opportunities than reprimands. The primary focus for change should be results; better customer service, increased value, employee engagement, job satisfaction; the deliverables. It has been my experience that leaders who effectively project change in a positive manner, regardless of scope, inspire the engagement of those around them and are met with less resistance.

  2. Have you explored the concept of professional vulnerability? Brene Brown has become known for helping people in their personal lives embrace vulnerability.
    As I have explored the connection between personal growth and organizational growth the two go hand in hand. Even Chris Argyris in one of his writings from the 50’s addressed the need to be more authentic in work if true change was to happen.
    To reach authenticity one must be vulnerable. To be comfortable with vulnerability an organization must have a climate that I’ve seen termed, “high trust.”
    I would be interested to see CPO explore the topic of professional vulnerability or be referred to research that might already exist. I can be reached at

Leave a Reply