An article on the BBC website asked the question “Are you a ‘disruptive talent’ like Sir Richard Branson?”. This led to my asking myself the question just how do you tell the difference between disruptive employees and Richard Branson?

A British Success Story

Branson is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most successful businessmen. Having started his enterprise selling records it now encompasses airlines, health clubs, care homes, media, holidays and, of course trains.

However, Branson, by his own admission has said that he would make for a disruptive employee. He is quoted as saying that his manager would have to “accept that I might not do things exactly as he’d like me to do them”.

Branson went on to say that “If you don’t deal with me well, I’m going to go off and set up my own business and I’ll end up competing with you. Look after me, respect me, and accept that I’m a square peg in a round hole.”

Whether that scenario is a likely one will depend on the nature of your organisation. Nobody is going to worry too much about someone leaving to set up in competition if you are in the public sector… But how do you determine if you have someone working for you with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit or whether they just aren’t a team player?

Dialogue is the Key to Handling Disruptive Employees

Dialogue has to be key to this. “Disruptive” can be looking at things in a different and possibly totally new way and a willingness to question things, often for the benefit of the organisation. Alternatively it can be doing things totally recklessly without benefit to the organisation. Disruptive behaviour is inevitably going to have an impact on those around the individual in question and it is important to determine whether this will have positive knock on effects or not. So make sure that you have an early conversation to establish where on the spectrum they are, any problems (and benefits) and highlight the knock on impact of their actions (both negative and positive).

If you are able to confirm that the individual has the organisation’s best interests at heart then, maybe, it is worth trying to put the unique entrepreneurial skills to work as a force for good within the business.

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