cynical rebel glasbergen

dr rebel: the rebel in our team has become very cynical. how can we improve the situation?

the word ‘rebel’ has a negative connotation. when you search for synonyms, you’ll find suggestions like disobedient, unmanageable, alienated, disaffected, fractious, recalcitrant, restless, turbulent, unruly, and warring.

rebellious behaviour is often associated with a troublemaker. someone who always stirs the pot, who annoys others with their countless questions, comes up with dumb ideas, whines, and makes cynical jokes.

and it’s true. you’ll probably find these types in your organisation. but they weren’t always like that. they have become that way. while all rebels start as constructive contributors, they may show more destructive rebel traits over time when they feel they are unappreciated and ignored.

it’s a vicious cycle. the more destructive rebel traits someone starts to show, the more others will avoid them, the more frustrated the rebel gets, the more cynical he becomes, and so on…

here is an overview of destructive versus constructive rebel behaviour:

destructive constructive rebel behaviour

remember that people are not born cynics. they become cynical.

if you create a context where rebels can thrive, their behaviour will change from destructive to constructive. give them space and let them ask their questions – it will prevent the team from failing. and don’t discard their ideas immediately, but be open to their suggestions. be curious and figure out why the rebel thinks like this – you’d be surprised about their reasoning and deep thinking about the topic. it may lead to a great new opportunity for your team.

rebels may not be like you. understand their ‘operating system’, and they will move mountains for you!

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