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Amanda Cupido is an author, TEDx speaker and entrepreneur. She is the founder and chief executive officer of Lead Podcasting and an adjunct professor in the School of Media at Seneca Polytechnic.

It’s common knowledge that social media has the power to influence audiences. But 10 years ago, this wasn’t as clear cut; there were many people within the workplace who rejected the idea.

I witnessed firsthand the resistance to embracing social media as part of a communications strategy for businesses.

I was an early adopter. I was eager to be the first one to download the newest platform or plugin and experiment. After graduating with a degree in journalism, I was part of newsrooms and radio stations that didn’t have social media accounts in the mid-2000s. Off the side of my desk, I created their first Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts.

In 2015 I was working both in a radio newsroom and as a communications consultant. I learned of the app Meerkat, which allowed users to livestream video on Twitter and Facebook. I jumped into action, livestreaming on my personal channels and quickly realizing the power of being live on these platforms and engaging with audiences in real-time. (For context, this was well before you could stream live directly from social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.) I saw great potential for digital storytelling and pitched it to the organizations I was working with, but was met with resistance. No one was willing to integrate it – not even as a one-off project.

At the time I was confused; how could anyone say no to this? I was only able to make sense of it five years later, after obtaining my Master’s in the Psychology of Leadership from Pennsylvania State University.

Research published in Personnel Psychology shows there are two reasons why someone within a workplace might be resistant to this kind of change. Although it was published in 1999, it is still applicable.

The first reason is risk tolerance. With every new idea comes a certain level of investment (even if it’s just time) and predicted return. With digital innovation, the return commonly comes with some uncertainty and likely includes both quantitative and qualitative results. The latter can be difficult to track. This can be tough to reconcile for people who like firm numbers and only place safe bets. In order to help convince people in this bucket, you need to present case studies, historic trends and predictions grounded in data.

The second reason is they don’t see themselves in the idea. This is usually rooted in a lack of self confidence or control. Let’s go back to the livestreaming example. If team members or leaders don’t understand how to run a livestream, or what their role would be in it, then they will resist. If you were to take the approach of showing detailed graphics and research to people in this bucket, it will likely dissuade them even further and appear even more daunting. In order to reach people who are resisting because of a lack of “positive self-concept,” as the research refers to it, you have to meet them where they’re at. Offer simple explanations, training or tutorials. Provide an idea that features their involvement in the livestream in a simple, accessible way. Cast a vision for how they can be part of the change.

I was able to put this to practice. In 2017, I was working within the communications team of a legacy organization where I was brought on to update their social media strategy. The director who hired me was on board with the approach, but many of my colleagues were not. As I learned more about each individual, I was able to determine whether they needed more research or more empowerment. I provided tailored sessions accordingly. Within a year I was able to successfully launch the new strategy, which led to us tripling our engagement.

But research shows there is a third reason that people might be resistant. It’s simple: there’s a lack of alignment with the idea and an individual’s values. There’s no easy workaround for this; people are deeply connected to their values as it’s seen as part of their identity. Values rarely change.

Given the speed in which new digital tools are becoming available, understanding where your team falls within these three buckets is important – but what’s even more important is reflecting on your own position. Which bucket are you in and how does it change depending on the idea you’re considering?

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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