There are always rebels and mavericks in organizations, nonconformists, contrarian and deviants. They may be tolerated, ignored, embraced or disregarded. How an organization treats these people, says a lot about its culture.
Ignoring them means that they will survive, up to a point, and then either will leave or will be dismissed.
Getting irritated by them, misses the point. Wasting energy ‘discussing them’ does not get you anywhere.
Rejecting them fully means a collision leading also to nowhere, perhaps their exit.
Learning from what they do is smart, particularly from the type called ‘positive deviant’. They ‘deviate from the normal way’ of doing things but achieve good results, so they can teach you a thing or two on alternative ways
To give them a space and a role is very astute.
These are choices…
But there are two types of rebels. One is the ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. Many of you, younger generations and perhaps not into movies, would have never heard of the 1955 film of this title, by the then iconic James Dean. These Rebels Without a Cause seem to be rebels (or mavericks, or contrarian) for the sake of it. They may even enjoy the visibility and airtime given to them because they are ‘different’. A great deal of the contrarian pool in organizations is of this category. In some places they also fulfill another role: the trophy one. ‘Look how diverse and open we are, we have people like Tim, or John or Anna. That shows how different and avant-garde we are’. But Tim, or John or Anna don’t do much, really, other than rebel. And the organization may not be that avant-garde either.
‘Rebels With a Cause’ are different. They want to change or improve things, see beyond the present and apply their contrarian energy to something worth. They pull people around, engage others and are not content with the status quo. They are extremely valuable. Leaders need to make room for them.
If you have true rebels, give them a cause. The best cause is the cause of the organization, its goals, its vision, its future, not an external cause.
Give all rebels a cause. At the very least, it will be a test, for them, and for you.
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