Tempered Radicals: How People Use Difference to inspire Change at Work

  • Meyerson D
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All types of organizations - from global corporations to small neighborhood schools - have self-identified tempered radicals. They occupy all sorts of jobs and stand up for a variety of ideals. They engage in small battles, at times operating so quietly that they may not surface on the cultural radar as rebels. By pushing back on conventions, they create opportunities for change within their organizations. They are not heroic leaders of revolutionary action; rather, they are cautious and committed catalysts that keep going and who slowly make a difference. Tempered radicals operate on a fault line. They are organizational insiders who often succeed in their jobs. They struggle between their desire to act on their different agendas and the need to fit into the dominant culture. They use several strategies to create change that run the gamut from very quiet and cautious to more explicit and strident. Tempered radicals who seek to elevate corporate social responsibility to the institutional level should be alert for new political opportunities or threats. They also need to know if there are available structures for members to organize themselves, and if they can frame the opportunities and threats in a way that appeals to the group's interests. If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, the time may be ripe for a tempered radical to take closely held social and political values and catapult them on to the corporate agenda.

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  • Debra E. Meyerson

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