Can you rebel within the lines and have productive and positive relationships with your employer and co-workers? How you do manage not becoming completely stifled or crushed by organization culture so that you don’t feel as if you’re tap-dancing all day? On the other hand, how do you express individuality without striking fear into the hearts of organization’s leaders about your lack of respect for the climate that they believe is central to success?
Talk about a tight rope! While it is certainly not an easy thing to do, it can be done with focused attention on when, where, and how to buck the system. The key is to be strategic and genuine! Going against the grain should be an outgrowth of who you truly are rather than just an excuse to be contrary. This being said, I don’t believe it is wise to test the organization on every side. The trick is to study your organization enough to identify the nexus between its culture and your personal points of contention. Then, pick one! One!
You are not a robot and some degree of non-conformist behavior works for you in that it will boost your reputation for being authentic with your peers and higher-ups. Further, the freedom to express defining parts of who you are may actually improve your sense of engagement because you feel respected. On the other hand, there are some non-negotiables that go with boundary-pushing:
- YOU MUST DO YOUR JOB WELL!
- You cannot be cynical in your rebukes of organization culture. Cynicism will mark you as combative and possibly as doing more harm than good. Additionally, you must be able to clearly articulate your perspectives when discussions arise (Trust me, they will come up).
- You must actively build relationships so that perceptions of you are well-rounded. You want people to know your overall demeanor and the quality of your work so that the conversations that take place behind your back are not lopsided. Yes, some people are going to say you’re brave, others will say that you’re foolish, and some will say that you’re just a trouble-maker. Accept that gossip as unavoidable whether you’re a conformist or not; but be approachable and build allies.
- Your conversation and actions cannot focus solely on your rabble-rousing behavior. Sometimes, rejecting the status quo can stroke one’s ego. Don’t let “self-centered” become your moniker. Be genuinely interested in others, celebrate their triumphs, and be committed to helping them succeed.
As you look for ways to be you and stand out, consider the suggestions below. Overall, you don’t have to feel as if you’re “owned” by your job; it’s really a matter of perspective and choosing your battles.