5 Ways to Be a Rebel at Work

Do you regularly feel pressured to conform at your government workplace? If you answered yes, you are not alone. According to Francesca Gino, Behavioral Scientist, Harvard Business School Professor and author of the book, “Let Your Workers Rebel,” 49% of us feel the pressure to conform at work.

She claims conformity undermines our sense of individuality, dilutes talent, lowers commitment, diminishes engagement, reduces job satisfaction, negates self-improvement, stymies performance, lowers autonomy, increases burnout and escalates the likelihood of looking for another job.

She recommends six steps for the creation of constructive nonconformity-behavior that deviates from organizational norms, others’ actions, or common expectations, to the benefit of the organization.

Do I Have an Opportunity to Be Myself?
Can I bring my full self to this work setting including all my beliefs, biases and behaviors that define who I really am? Not only can I bring my full self to work but can I be my full self at work? Am I authentic in the workplace? Am I allowed to solve my own problems? Do I have autonomy, mastery and purpose?

Am I Playing to My Strengths?
Can I grow in this job through what I am good at? Do I have an opportunity to display this side of me every day? Does my supervisor realize how my strong suits are different from the upsides of my colleagues? Does my leader understand I may produce the same results as my teammates but in a different manner?

Question the Status Quo
Learn to recognize and reject conformity pressure. Have an answer for the granddaddy of them all status quo drivers, “That is not the way we do things around here.”

Find comfort in being a jerk in the workplace when the need arises. There is nothing wrong with being argumentative, egotistical, aggressive or headstrong when the situation demands it.

Know what you stand for, what you will not stand for and who do you stand with.

Create Challenging Experiences
Am I being stretch in this job that helps me reach the ceiling of my success rather than being stuck to the floor of my weaknesses? Are these experiences separating me from my colleagues in a way where I know I am getting incrementally better? Am I embracing these new challenges at a high rate of speed? Do I understand how my marginal improvements are moving the organization forward?

Foster Broader Perspectives
Is my workplace culture a place where questioning and curiosity is the norm? Can I take reasonable risks and not be viewed as an intruder? Is bad news embraced or discouraged? Is dissent welcomed or squashed? Are different beliefs accepted? Are people comfortable with having their views challenged? Are employees skilled at seeing their workplace from the perspective of others who do not look like them, talk like them or act like them?

Find the optimal balance between conformity and positive deviancy in your workplace. It will give employees permission to be who they really are and ensure that their organizations leave an indelible mark on the universe.

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I’ve been doing everything in this article by being my authentic, autistic self. My previous position demanded the conformity I wasn’t capable of showing and I was punished for it. Deviations from the party line were regularly punished or ignored. I don’t see how this article helps workers trapped in that situation. I was trapped for years by my autistic inability to find other work and need for the money.


This article poses a great number of questions we can ask ourselves in our workplaces, but offers absolutely no help in determining what to do with those answers. I don’t feel like this article lives up to its title. This doesn’t cover “5 Ways to Be a Rebel at Work”, it covers “4 Ways You Know You’re Being Stifled at Work, and 1 Justification for Being a Jerk”. I really don’t feel like this article is truly helpful in the workplace at all. In fact, I find myself more frustrated for having read it and being left with fewer answers than I started.

Cheryl Swyers

What about the other 51%. Conforming to a job that one interviewed for, which most likely had expectations presented to them at the outset, is a crucial portion overlooked in this article.
“Find comfort at being a jerk in the workplace.” I can’t believe this is being passed along for success. Always consider the source before making a decision.

Profile Photo richard regan

Have you ever thought about the possibility that if there were more jerks at the USPS, this agency would not be on the verge of bankruptcy? Conformity has served the USPS well.