Picture this – an ailing enterprise is being rescued by a white knight or a country being torn apart by internecine quarrels is being protected by the international community. But wait, not everyone is playing ball and there remain stubborn factions that are not saluting the new flag. Even at the depths of despair some people seem hell bent on protracting their agony.

Seems illogical doesn’t it? Stand back now and apply some lessons from the field of social psychology by asking two, simple questions:

  • What groups exist in the old order? Where do people have a shared sense of belonging? Look beyond the obvious, as social identity isn’t always something that’s writ large!
  • Which groups are going to benefit from the new scheme of things and which groups are going to lose out in relative terms at least?

If there are no barriers in moving from a low-status group to a high status one, then people tend to move as individuals. If you’re already in a high-status group by the way, you are likely to want to stay there!

Problem is, there are barriers to movement for many people and it’s here that trouble can begin.

If your group identity is pretty secure and you aren’t being threatened, there’s less of a problem and you could feasibly carry on as a member of a benign faction, not doing much to support the new world, but not getting in the way either.

The real danger lies in you feeling like you belong to a low-status group whose very existence is under attack and where there’s little hope of you crossing over to join the elite. Keen to protect any sense of status and identity you have, you will become competitive, antagonistic and probably openly hostile.

So, tread with caution – whether you are enforcing a no-fly zone or acquiring a new organisation; the process of integration is rarely simple.

Next time – how to improve performance management