Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Overcome Your Employee’s Resistance

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers."Voltaire

Don’t try this at home! The year was 1999, and I was a new manager who was having a problem getting my people to embrace the courtesy checks.

During a shop meeting, I was explaining all the reasons why completing the forms was good for the car, the customer, and the company. Before I could finish, “Terry,” my ‘A’ technician, interrupted me by asking, “How does filling out these #$@! courtesy checks benefit me?”

To which I replied, continuation!” With a puzzled look and shrugged shoulders, Terry asked, “What does that mean?”

Now, before I share my reply, please remember not to try this at home! Ok, here’s what I said: “Terry, if you fill out these courtesy checks, you can continue to work here!”

The good news is that after this encounter, I never had a problem with Terry again! The bad news is that it’s no longer 1999!

Then and Now

The “my way or the highway” approach to leadership may not work for you the way it did for me that day! If “you just want to party like it’s 1999,” you’ll have a hard time keeping people!

In ‘99 there was no such thing as LinkedIn. Craigslist did not exist! You sought answers from a real book instead of Facebook!

Let’s fast forward to 2019. Technology has helped to create an abundance of choice for your employee.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.7 million job openings and just 6.4 million available workers to fill them!

Here’s the big takeaway: Your best employee can find another job with one swipe of her smartphone screen!

In ’99, Terry felt lucky to have his job. Today, I would feel lucky to have him!

So, how do you overcome employee resistance in 2019? Keep reading to uncover the details!

Ideas to grow your businessFor more employee management advice and other shop growth tips, join a shop owner event coming soon to your area. Get the details. 

Get Curious

ATI Fundamental #22 instructs us to be quick to ask and slow to judge.

The key to overcoming resistance at your shop is to get curious. In other words, lead with the right questions instead of answers.

When you observe a breakdown in compliance, your instinct is to tell them what you see.

For example, most shop owners lead with the following answers:

  • “You’re not filling out the courtesy checks!”
  • “You’re not asking for Google Reviews!”
  • “The Shop is a mess!” 

The person on the receiving end of these answers will feel judged and may respond by making excuses to defend themselves.

The leader who is quick to ask will respond to the same compliance breakdowns with the following questions:

  • “What do you need from me to start filling out the courtesy checks as we agreed?”
  • “How did you do with asking every customer for a Google review today?” 
  • “How does the shop look to you after last night’s closing?”

You will experience less resistance when they tell you what happened than if you tell them.

As stated in a previous post, remember to avoid questions that start with “why.”

Asking someone why they didn’t do something is the same as asking for resistance! For example, imagine me asking you, “Why didn’t you update the portal last week?”

I’ll bet you just felt the need to resist and defend yourself with answers like, “It rained every day last week!”; “I was busy running parts!”; or “my best tech found one of those 6.7 million jobs!”

Alternatively, you would feel less resistant if I asked, “What happened with the portal entry last week?” or “When will the portal be updated?”

Leading with the right questions instead of answers is the key to overcoming employee resistance at your shop!


So, there you have it. Twenty years have passed, and I haven’t heard from Terry. When I see him again, I’ll be sure to lead with the right questions this time!

Ideas to grow your businessFor more employee management advice and other shop growth tips, join a shop owner event coming soon to your area. Get the details. 

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.