7.1 Case Study 1: Resistance to Change

Victor is the head of a division in a state agency. He has been in his management position for 15 years and has worked his way up to his current position. Throughout his career, he has seen many people leave and join the department. He has stayed because he enjoys public service and working with familiar faces in the agency. He also knows that he brings his many years of experiences in a public agency to the table when solving problems. His personality fits the working environment of a state agency; he likes working with the familiarity of rules and procedures.

Victor is proud of his service, but he is really looking forward to his retirement, which, for him, is not coming soon enough. Within the last few years, lots of changes have occurred on a department level that is also changing much of the familiar procedures, rules, and norms that Victor has been accustomed to during his 25 years in the department. Some of these changes include hiring younger staff, reorganization of job responsibilities, performance plans to increase staff competencies and skills in new areas, and recent layoffs to help balance the budget.

As part of his attempt to make his mark on the division, and to bring in past experiences that he thinks can be of value, Victor proposed numerous ideas for the division at a staff meeting. His staff—which, in recent years, has become increasingly more diverse in demographics and cultural backgrounds—suggests improvements and changes to his ideas. They are not so sure that his changes are the most appropriate given the overall strategic directions of the department. Furthermore, they are not sure how they can implement strategies when the ideas call for outdated resources and technology. Some of the younger staff members are more vocal and mention recent trends and practices in strategic thinking that could be more beneficial to accomplishing the division goals.

Victor views these suggestions as attacks directed at him and as resistance on the part of the staff. He feels like every time he makes a suggestion, he is thrown a curveball from one of the younger staff members. Why is this happening to him now? He knows he has to manage this. He cannot let this type of dynamic go on for an additional five years—or could he?

  1. What cultural assumptions fuel Victor’s perspective as a leader of a state agency?
  2. Where does Victor’s motivation to lead come from?
  3. How would you describe Victor’s self-concept and the influence of it on his leadership?


Victor has several cultural assumptions that can be broken down into different cultural levels: individual, team, organizational, and national cultures. His assumptions and beliefs may include any of the following: working hard will get you to the top, everyone must obey rules and procedures, and you must have experience in order to know what you are doing in a job. This could be why he feels attacked when his younger employees make suggestions. It is also important to note that Victor may have been raised in a homogenous culture that did not allow him to interact with others who did not share his same cultural values and belief. Victor can benefit from learning about his self-concept and how his values contribute to his management. By doing so, Victor helps his team to understand him more.

CI Model in Action

  • Acquire: Victor has a lot of knowledge about working in public sector organizations. His tenure in a state agency makes him very familiar with this type of culture. But he lacks knowledge about what is unfamiliar to him, particularly around generational issues. He knows what areas of his work frustrate him; now, he needs to acquire information that help him understand why it frustrates him. To improve his cultural intelligence, Victor would need to develop a plan that helps him to become more familiar with the different cultures in his work team.
  • Build: To build his knowledge in cultures, Victor can develop strategies that help him connect his current cultural knowledge to the new knowledge he wants to gain. For example, he identifies that the characteristics of a younger generation are new to him. He can put together a plan where he monitors his communication with the staff to gauge whether he is really understanding what is going on. It is important here that when he builds new knowledge, he is aware of the skills he has and what he lacks when working with a younger generation.
  • Contemplate: Victor’s self-efficacy is an issue in this cultural situation. He has a few years left before retirement and considers giving up. He needs to make a shift, changing his attitude from one of frustration to a positive perspective. He can do this by visualizing the positive end results and reminding him that he can and should keep trying. He needs to put in place a plan where he can monitor his internal motivation toward the issue.
  • Do: It seems in this situation that change will be difficult for Victor because he is set in his ways. Victor can be mentored and coached to think about change and its impact on his situation by asking himself: What is changing, What will be different because of the change, and What will he lose? Using these three questions he will learn to identify the change and behaviors that need to change, the potential results of the change, and what beliefs and values he will need to discard in the process. By identifying specific areas of change, Victor can transition better.