Published: September 01, 2009
In the workplace, do you consider yourself a constructive deviant, a
destructive deviant, a little of both or none of the above?
to research by a University of Tampa professor, some of the most
valuable individuals in an organization are both constructive and
In a presentation at the Academy of
Management Conference in early August, Bella Galperin, an associate
professor of management, argued that deviance — defined as voluntary
behavior that violates organizational norms and can threaten the
well-being of an organization — can be constructive and functional for
organizations, and employees who fail to follow the organizational norms
can be the roots of successful innovations and champions of change.
who break the rules and cause harm to the organization are also your
organization’s potential change agents. They will break the rules to
increase the well-being of your organization,” Galperin said.
organizations have focused their efforts on identifying and reducing
destructive deviants — potentially aggressive and dishonest employees.
The costs associated with dysfunctional behavior in the workplace have
been estimated in the billions.
But, developing constructive
deviance may help secure a company’s position in the new economy, and
spur innovation. This is especially true today, with the increased
importance of the nation’s “creativity economy.”
“While it is
important for organizations to make active efforts in decreasing the
occurrence of deviant acts and preventing destructive behaviors, it is
equally important for organizations to focus their energies on
identifying the constructive deviants,” Galperin said. “These
individuals can be change agents and bring innovation to your
Galperin realizes this is counter intuitive, as
destructive deviants in the workplace can be difficult to manage and can
burden morale. But, the goal is to be able to identify deviants and
effectively guide and supervise such employees.
“Successful management of deviance may lead to the development of trailblazers instead of rogue employees,” Galperin said.
who also researches ethnic entrepreneurship, cited both Bernie Ebbers,
former Worldcom CEO, and Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, as
destructive and constructive deviants, respectively. Both transformed
their companies to reach new heights and both deviated from the
mainstream. However, today one is revered, and one is serving time in
Galperin has published articles on workplace deviance in
The International Journal of Human Resource Management, the Journal of
Applied Social Psychology and Academy of Management Best Paper