Is Your Rule-Breaker Like Herbie or Christine?
Everyone knows the rules. Cars are inanimate objects. They are not alive. They cannot think for themselves. They cannot act for themselves. They must be driven. Those are the rules.
Uh... don't tell Herbie or Christine those rules. Herbie will ignore you. Christine will kill you. But that's the way it is with "that type" of person. We call them rule breakers, loose cannons, renegades, free thinkers. They react. Then we try to squish them. The problem is that we don't take the time to figure out why they are the way they are.
Take Herbie for instance. He's a loveable VW Bug. He helps people. He has feelings. He wins races. He spurs romance. Heck, he even made Lindsay Lohan look presentable for two hours of her short yet disastrous career. The car breaks the rules for the greater good.
Then there's Christine, the evil-possessed Plymouth Fury of Stephen King's imagination. Her rule breaking is based on malice and jealousy. It is based on sabotage and injury and destruction. People who cross Christine wind up dead.
So, which one is your office renegade? Are they breaking the rules because they found a better way to kill the sacred cow? Or are they breaking the rules because they found a way to kill the secretary's career? Is their motivation to make it better or make it badder (yeah, yeah, I know, not grammatically correct... just work with me here, OK)?
I found a great post by what appears to be a now-defunct blog (too bad) on the Dwonder Blog. I suppose even dead blogs have something to say on occasion. Anyway, the author of the blog was talking about avoiding office politics and shared the following snippet:
If you choose not to play, be sure you don't criticize those who do, or the game itself. You'll be labeled a loose cannon or a troublemaker. You'll also be a target for skilled political players who may decide to use you to further their own agendas. It's easy to identify the person who doesn't want to join in as the malcontent who's responsible for badmouthing unpopular decisions. Well, says you, I'm not being negative, I'm just saying that things should be based on merit - the quality of your work, not who you kiss up to. I agree - in principal. It sounds great, but I've never seen a company where there wasn't some element of politics at work.
And so we need to figure out WHY we're labeling somebody as a loose cannon, and if their rule-breaking tendencies actually can add value to the organization and to their coworkers. That should be part of your diagnosis before taking action.
And as for that rule about cars not being alive, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't say anything like that around Gerald. He's really hyper-sensitive about those things.