Tired of mediocrity and negativity at work? Jana Raver, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business, offers five strategies to give you the power to inspire organizational change.
By Alan Morantz
When we think of deviance, we typically think of social outcasts who behave in some abhorrent way outside the norms of society. From an organizational perspective, deviance is also typically associated with such behaviors as slacking, not upholding the norms of the organization, unethical conduct, and even incivility and harassment.
But there’s more to deviance than meets the eye. And, there can be great benefits to going against the norm, especially when the norm isn’t overly positive.
According to Jana Raver, Associate Professor at Smith School of Business and E. Marie Shantz Faculty Fellow in Organizational Behaviour, the positive norms that we hope to find within organizations such as active engagement, growth, achievement, honesty, and benevolence, aren’t always as prevalent as we’d hope. “Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.
“Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.
When you’re able to demonstrate positive behaviours by acting in a way that’s outside of the norm, you have the chance to expose the standards that are actually dysfunctional. “This type of behaviour has been linked to improved job performance ratings, recommendations for rewards, and actual rewards including raises and promotions,” Jana says.
Smart companies realize that encouraging constructive deviance saves money and increases innovation. Research has shown that it exposes dysfunction and unethical behaviour, allows for social change, encourages growth and learning, and improves group decision-making.
But it’s not always easy. “If you sit back like a disengaged, apathetic employee who will simply tolerate mediocrity,” Jana says, “then you’re not going to be able to make that positive change.”
“So, dig deep inside,” Jana says, “and be the change you want to see. You can choose to take action and be a constructive deviant to uphold the standards of what you believe in.”
You can hear more of Jana Raver’s discussion on constructive deviance in the workplace in this Smith Business Insight video, Building a Better Deviant.