Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Vinegar Vera’s

Welcome to the matriarchs of the shadow side, a group of people skilled at undermining any change initiative.  Ignore them at your peril because they certainly won’t ignore you. 
Your shiny new change programme is ready for launch.  It’s going to vastly improve the way you approach your business.  Everyone has been consulted and is apparently on board.  Naturally there will be people with reservations, some will want to see how it goes before they fully subscribe to your plan - this is to be expected.  Then there are those whose sole purpose in life is to undermine.  It doesn’t really matter what it is, they are against it, or can see why it shouldn’t be allowed to work, they are organisational luddites.
If only it was this simple.  It’s easy to handle sledge hammer wielding detractors because they make a lot of noise.  The Vinegar Vera’s are master ‘well poisoners’.  They don’t reveal themselves, ever.  When you talk to them they will be as nice as can be to your face, but then, as soon as you turn away...  You might suspect their motives but they are astute at slipping away into the shadows.  
They operate in small cells or cliques, recruiting followers from the ranks of the disaffected.  Picking them off one at a time as they reveal an opinion or misgiving about what is happening.  A little comment here, an observation there is enough to prize the lid off a can of worms.  Then they stand back and watch the mayhem.  Stirring occasionally when necessary to re-agitate discontent...
Don’t panic.  Already you are thinking about who are your Vinegar Veras.  Once you become adept at spotting the signs, narrowing down the possible ringleaders, you are in a position to deal with them.  There are now two courses of action:
  1. Befriend a Vinegar Vera.  Spot the waverers, work on them individually.  Personal attention makes them feel listened to and valued.  Bring them back ever so gently to your side.
  2. Bring them into the open and force them to declare their hand.  They will either voice all their issues publically which makes them easy to address or they will reveal to your assembled audience their lack of support thus undermining their undermining.

Don’t ever think you don’t have a Vinegar Vera problem; they are all around, skulking in the shadows.  Be afraid, be very afraid.
NB.  (It is their matriarchal, nurturing behaviour rather than their gender that distinguishes this group, you can have male Vinegar Vera’s)

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