Whenever we hear the term “deviance” we immediately think of people doing the wrong thing – counterproductive work behaviours, as they are known in psychology research. This is understandable, because bad behaviours have a massive effect on people’s wellbeing and organisation outcomes such as productivity.

But what about the other side of deviance – positive deviance? People are being positively deviant if they do things which are more positive than most people at work (eg Cameron 2008):

  • Helping colleagues
  • Solving problems
  • Optimistically challenging the status quo
  • Being supportive
  • Focussing on solutions rather than emotions

Improvement of corporate culture intrinsically requires positive deviance. You can’t move your culture forward without someone breaking ranks and doing things better. Here are two tips for creating more positive deviance in your workforce:

  • Recruit for it. Select people who are smart, honest, emotionally stable and highly conscientious. These are the ones who are more likely to be positively deviant. Click here to find out how to assess this in future leaders and staff.
  • Lead for it. Ensure that your leaders are optimistic and positive, empowering in their leadership style, supportive of staff and focussed on their staff improving their skills and confidence. Click here to find out how to assess whether your leaders are doing this.

Cameron, Kim S. (2008) “Positively Deviant Organizational Performance and the Role of Leadership Values,” The Journal of Values-Based Leadership: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 8

Andrew Marty