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The Art of Being a Disruptive Employee

It is a simple idea grounded in the laws of nature, moving forward requires friction. Unfortunately, many companies do not have a culture that encourages friction, fail to teach mangers to embrace and inspire friction, or teach managers how to manage friction to keep it from igniting into fire.  Therefore, as one who has been tagged as a “disruptive employee” in the past, I want to offer a bit of advice based on lessons learned. How can you be a disruptive employee while managing not to cause any fires that might scar you career?

I offer the following as best practices for disruptive employees:

  1. Understand and practice deliberative conversation vs. arguing. Arguing involves emotion. Keeping emotion out of a conversation allows you to have difficult conversions and make decisions that ignite changes that impact company success without causing a fire from the sparks that emotion beings conversations that inherently involve friction.
  2. Understand and be able to address the objections (and the obstacles real and perceived) that others may have in situations where reaching your objectives involves obtaining buy-in of them.
  3. If you see friction on the horizon, engage all parties involved that may feel the sparks that are coming and collaborate on how to have productive discussions
  4. Avoid e-mail at the first signs friction makes anyone “feel pain”. You will see this in the tone of e-mails. It is critical that you pick up the phone or have an in-person conversation to keep friction at a productive level and keep personal feeling out of the equation
  5. Listen. You can be provocative and passionate, but do not let this make your colleagues feel intimidated and afraid to share a point of view and/or feel that you are not giving their position adequate consideration.


Jing Wang
Title: Finance director
Company: Honeywell
LinkedIn Profile
(Finance director, Honeywell) |

100% agree. The vital step is to communicate and let all parties to understand the necessity / benefit of the change. Once the the majority of the consensus reached, the people, processes, and morals will flow effortlessly.

Tevon Francis Jr
Title: Accounts Supervisor
Company: FBS Ltd
(Accounts Supervisor , FBS Ltd) |


(Managing Director) |

How Brilliant! Yes, Mr. Ernie Humphrey has pinpointed an issue I have been addressing for years! I run a company in Europe and the UK and presently the USA – I am the CEO or what we call a Managing Director in the United Kingdom and Europe until North America wanted to change MD or Managing Director to CEO or Chief Executive Officer. Since the start of my career twenty four years ago “Disruption” has been a point I have encouraged in the most friendly manner of course. As Disruption keeps companies healthy.

“Disruptive” is a definite negative in the West regardless if it is North America or Europe or the United Kingdom.

Companies would not exist without ‘disruption’ and probably why so many companies have gone into Turn-Around status and therefore why we go through ‘recessions’

Besides the obvious Mr. Humphrey’s comments are spiritual laws. Yes you read it correctly SPIRITUAL LAWS. CFO’s and CEO’s forget ALL THE TIME that Business is a Spiritual Activity.

Howard Mannella
Title: Managing Principal
Company: Alternative Resiliency Services Corp
LinkedIn Profile
(Managing Principal, Alternative Resiliency Services Corp) |

Spot on, appreciate your collecting these thoughts into one place, Ernie.

I might suggest two others:

1. Know when to take disruption private vs. conduct in a public forum. I once had an executive weigh in on a public (email) discussion with a negative view, and that intimidated the discussion. I made an opportunity to discuss in private and air out differences. He went from being a skeptic to being a supporter (of the concept, not me - he always kept it on topic and not personal)

2. Know your Rubicon. It takes some self-examination and self-commitment to know when the disruption becomes a point of integrity, and when you know you are right not to give, even at personal cost. I once lost a job rather than cave on points that I knew would put my organization at risk. I would do it over the same way.

Thanks again!