The Advancing Leadership Blog

What to do with your Non-Conformist Employee

How have you managed your Non-Conformist employee thus far? You know, the anti-social guy who works in Bermuda shorts. The guy who is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of innovation, but can’t talk to customers, or even his fellow employees? How have you managed this employee?

The maverick employee puts many leaders in an awkward position. While they are often critical to continued innovation and your creative process, their inability to work with their fellow employees, and their difficulty in following direction often makes them a nightmare.

Mavericks are known for being independent thinkers, excellent decision makers, and are said to be excellent with problem solving. But the non-conformist doesn’t always fit this mold. They can range from being eccentric team players, to borderline hermits. Non-conformists, as the name would imply, often have their own idea of behavioral etiquette.

So, how do you deal with this non-conformist and make them apart of your business, and your team?

Company Culture

What does your company culture say to your employees? Does it function around processes and hierarchies, or is it more independent teams openly collaborating? What do you emphasize?

If you don’t know, then it’s impossible to direct your non-conformist employee. In fact, it’s impossible to direct your employees in general.

Develop, or re-develop your company culture with mavericks in mind. Encourage both independent work, creative feedback, but also emphasize teamwork. Work with your non-conformist to improve upon the areas they suffer in.

It may be helpful to open up communication as a cultural emphasis. If your non-conformist feels like they can discuss their issues with you, it may help them to feel more comfortable in a team setting.


Teamwork is critical to the functioning of most businesses. Even if someone is doing great things for your company creatively, if they can’t function in a team, or even shun teamwork from their creative process, your business could be in a lot of trouble.

Work with your maverick to improve their teamwork abilities. Encourage them to brainstorm in a team environment. Ask them to build off of other people’s ideas, instead of shutting them down. If it can’t be done in house, send them to team building workshops.

Independent Consultant

If teamwork is really not working out, keep them on as an independent consultant. This is only if they are incredibly valuable to your business, and your process. Work with your maverick as a consultant on issues of creativity and innovation.

Making a few concessions for your maverick isn’t always an issue, but don’t bend over backwards for them. There can arise a time where your other employees feel undervalued and unappreciated. If you make too many concessions for your maverick, your other employees will begin to expect the same treatment.

If it ever gets to that point, your position of leadership is in jeopardy.

Company Values

No matter what, your maverick has to work within your company values. If not, no matter how significant you believe them to be, they are not worth your time. Your values are what define your business. They are the guidelines through which all of your employees must work.

If your maverick is unwilling to follow your company values, they have to be let go.

Be clear about your business’ values, and ensure all of your employees are aware of them. Set up criteria to emphasize their importance, and uphold standards of acceptable behavior. If your maverick doesn’t follow suit, it may be time to let them go.

Don’t Be Afraid to let them go

It can be very detrimental to good leadership to have rogue who challenges your position day in and day out. There must a come a time where they go up for review, and the pros and cons have to be weighed. Don’t feel black mailed by their talent. If it’s compromising your position as a leader, it’s important to make the right decision.

Is your maverick affecting your business? Your customers? Your employees? Its may be time to let them go. At some point, it doesn’t matter what they are producing, if they won’t let you run your business in a way that is beneficial to both your employees and customers, then they have to be fired.

It may be hard, but it’s for the best.

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