Blockers and How to Handle them

How we love to label people, it makes them so much easier to understand! We all do it because our brains are designed to use this kind of short-cut to prevent information overload. However, there are dangers in this strategy as peoples’ personality is different from their behaviour. It is the difference between who we are, as opposed to what we do. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, we usually focus on results and actions, which are behaviour based.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) teaches us that all behaviour serves a useful purpose, but that doesn’t mean that is can’t be self-harming too. When people feel threatened, out-of-their-depth, or otherwise stressed, they can easily tend to various forms of blocking behaviour.

Rather than trying to manage the effects, it is more productive to understand, and where possible, remove, the triggers.

“Stress is like an iceberg. We can see one-eighth of it above, but what about what’s below?”

A model developed by Professor Stuart-Kotze suggests that people have one of 3 main orientations:-

  • Action: taking the initiative, focus on results & personal achievements
  • People: Investing in people, delegation, coaching and supporting
  • Systems: systems & processes, co-ordination & strategy

Each of these ‘types’ has their own blocking typical response, which behaviour tends to be induced by stress.





Showing Frustration, Annoyance, Pressuring

Avoiding conflict, Compromise

Avoiding responsibility & involvement

The Action oriented tend to feel:-

  • Frustrated
  • Low self esteem
  • Loss of control, or
  • Inadequate

People oriented managers:-

  • See situations as win:lose (and don’t want to lose!)
  • Avoid conflict

System oriented people fear:-

  • Failure
  • Being challenged
  • Responsibility
  • Feeling trapped

Whilst people are unable to change (fundamentally) who they are, they can change what they do, (especially if they can see that it isn’t working!)

What you can do about this? The following list may help.

  • Help them to find out what they are really feeling?
  • See if their actions are designed to prevent/delay them dealing with the situation
    Get them to identify the root cause for their behaviour (your role is to gently challenge & probe)
  • See if the cause is within their control or not? If it is, then get them to change the situation, if not review what can be done.
  • Assess who benefits from the behaviour. If they are the only beneficiary, the organisation is probably loosing out.
  • Give them feedback, from you and from others affected by the behaviour.
  • If possible, measure the behaviour.
  • Institute penalties for continuing it and rewards for breaking it. These don’t have to be huge or serious but they do help reinforce the change.

“People change for two basic reasons: they feel the heat or they see the light”

Remember, it isn’t only other people who exhibit these behaviours… do any of these ‘shadow’ behaviours seem familiar to you?

As leaders we all have very busy calendars, and it is often easy to write off these kind of behaviours / people as “just how they are”, but they have a negative drag on the whole business. Helping people recognise them, and do something about them is a short-term investment of your time with a long-term pay-back. Also, focusing on removing some of the stressors in your environment can have a big pay-off.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw


Leave a Reply

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.