A Guide for Mavericks, Renegades and Rebels in the Workplace

When you’re at work, are you–

Asking questions that annoy others? Frustrated by the lack of openness to new ideas? Waiting for others to conclude what you already know? Impatient at meetings because everyone is so slow? Upset at the injustice you see that no one else seems to notice? Bored? Avoiding office politics? Providing guidance and supervision for your bosses? Seen as lazy but actually doing more work in less time?  Ready to leave the job once you’ve mastered it? Wanting to change the way things are done? Idealistic and optimistic? Misunderstood and misdiagnosed? Seen as a maverick, renegade, or eccentric??

Maybe, that’s because you have a rainforest mind.

Take heart, dear renegade.

You are not alone.

There’s a growing movement just for you. A tribe of smart rebels finding and supporting each other. Let me introduce you to them.

I found them one day by mistake when I was googling myself. Yes, I admit it. Googling. Myself. There was a blog post written by Carmen Medina. She mentioned a piece I’d written about counseling gifted adults. She was intrigued by the story of Susan who at age seven was reprimanded by her teacher for completing her reading workbook in one night; for working ahead. Carmen hadn’t thought of herself as gifted, but couldn’t help seeing herself in Susan.

I wanted to know more and found Carmen and Lois Kelly‘s website. And, more recently their book. See if you can relate to these quotes from the book:

“Rebels ask hard questions, don’t take things at face value, and don’t accept that things have to be the way they’ve always been. We are also often the ones who can see the future coming and pick up on subtle indicators of change before others do. Above all, we’re people who want to create positive changes, not just whine about what’s not working. We’re an oddly optimistic bunch, believing in what’s possible while many of our coworkers give up.”

“…pushing new ideas too fast. We can’t help it, or at least we can’t control it until we become painfully aware of its impact on the workplace and on our careers.”

“…Executing the same types of processes and programs over and over again bores many of us.”

“We keep talking, thinking we’re educating our bosses while they just wish we would shut up.”

“…asking provocative questions, sharing our observations, questioning assumptions, suggesting alternatives–and quite possibly alienating that person because we’re coming on so strong.”

“Learning to manage our emotions so that they don’t manage us may be the most important practice for rebels to learn.”

I’m guessing that you’re nodding your head. Finally. Someone gets it.

Their book, Rebels At Work, is a wonderful guide. It provides very specific ways to help you navigate within the system, change things and stay sane.

And finally, Lois and Carmen end with this:

“Crank it up, dear rebels. The world needs us everywhere.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


To my bloggEEs: What are your experiences in the workplace? What suggestions do you have? What questions? Let us know what you think of Rebels At Work. The book is written particularly for folks working within large corporations but I think it also applies to you if you work in a smaller setting or are an entrepreneur. For more of my thoughts on navigating career paths, check out my webinar. And thanks, as always, for reading.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

33 responses to “A Guide for Mavericks, Renegades and Rebels in the Workplace”

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  4. singlemoeder Avatar

    As always so true. I had several jobs on the side when i was in school and later on, studying. Responsible jobs. And there awkward or conflict situations. I knew I was right and my boss then was wrong or rude etc. Since it happened a few times everybody assumed it was me. Reading your post, I realised they couldn’t stand it if i had better ideas or quicker ways. Never crossed my mind.
    I have been my own boss for 15 years and I totally recommend it 😃

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad it was helpful, singlemoeder. I, too, like my autonomy quite a lot!

  5. James A. Avatar
    James A.

    Wow, I think I answered yes to every question in the opening paragraph. I get so bored at work sometimes that I don’t do any for a few days, do my own thing, then have a big spurt to catch up for a day and everybody thinks I’ve done such a great job.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the comment, James. Maybe you’ll find the book and website helpful.

  6. Anna Avatar

    “Waiting for others to conclude what you already know.” That is my favorite line, and so, so true!

    Your description fits me at work completely. When I was first out of college, I would get bored with a job within 6 months even though it was in my chosen field. As I got older, that timeframe became 90 days. Working in large corporations, I have learned how to fly under the radar and not rock the boat (speaking up too much can have detrimental consequences). I have intentionally started contract employment so that I don’t have to deal with as much politics, misperceptions or judgments. Of course, I can’t influence change very much now, but it’s much less anxiety for me. I still have some issues with the politics and boredom, though, and I am often making up my own independent projects outside of work to keep my mind active. I’ll take a look at the book and website you reference. When you describe the rainforest mind at work or as a parent, you describe it so eloquently and accurately. That is priceless to those of us who often (almost always) feel misunderstood and alone. Thank you!!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Keeping your mind active is essential, Anna. Thanks for your comment and feedback. I hope you like the book.

    2. Reina Avatar

      Yup. This is why I avoid corporations. I also avoid very small companies because they have the exact opposite problem: they’re more open to new ideas but there is too much proximity (so everyone knows what you’re doing and you’re being watched more closely) and people (especially older men) still get threatened so they try to hold you back.

      I stick to medium sized companies, “best of both worlds”. My current strategy includes finding an ‘in’…. planting a seed that will open up possibilities that will allow me to flourish and execute my own goals behind the scenes while also pushing boundaries little by little on the surface.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Sounds like a great strategy, Reina. Thanks for sharing!

        1. Reina Avatar

          Thanks for the reply Paula. I’m afraid I was getting ahead of myself, but what else is new? I frequently feel the need to fast forward with life and don’t have much patience for the slowness of normality. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a bit defeated at the moment but here I am, with my tail between my legs…. maybe the whole giftedness thing got to my head.

          My current job search has been teaching me a lot. You know how we tend to be idealistic? Yeah well, it hit me pretty hard: the realization that 1) the world isn’t going to meet our vision and if we want it to come true we’ll have to do it strategically and by making allies with people we don’t necessarily care for, 2) it doesn’t care about us and caters to a specific type of person (hint: not the gifted ones) and 3) I will most likely never find a perfect match or live the perfect life I imagined (full disclosure: I imagined not having to deal with “normal” people, and this led to an ongoing partly self-imposed isolation that hasn’t done me much good!).

          In short: I realized I was wrong.

          I’m young and never had a full time job. I’ve already graduated college and spent a year getting up to speed with some of the latest skills needed in my field, working on personal projects so I can improve future prospects instead of being undervalued, underutilized, and treated like a child like in my last part time job. After doing all that (it was tedious), now I’ve entered the “job hunting” phase and I realize my vision was all kinds of screwed up in terms of how the “real world” works. I expected sunshine and rainbows, to be honest.

          I kept telling myself “I’m so good they won’t be able to ignore me”. Ahh, well, I’ve been ignored. And the companies that are interested in me… well, I sort of ‘freeze up’ because they don’t check off all of my important criteria and I imagine I’d be miserable just because of that one thing they don’t check off (to be honest, it’s an important thing like the company culture). So I’m stuck. I don’t even GO to the interviews because I get that bad feeling… but I’m afraid I might be rejecting them too soon.

          I have a general question Paula, I hope you can answer in a non counseling way. How do you know if you’re settling? Gifted people have such high standards, but it’s kind of confusing because sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between expecting ‘perfect’ and knowing that something genuinely isn’t good enough?

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            That is a great question, Reina. I’ll have to think about it more. Maybe write about it. My quick answer is that you learn how to tune into your intuition. What is your gut saying? So that you can start to differentiate between what’s right for you and what’s not. It’s quite a balancing act, though. Keeping your high standards but not expecting perfection. Maybe some other readers will chime in.

            1. Reina Avatar

              Thanks Paula. I thought the same thing about intuition (which can unfortunately be trampled on by over analysis, the bad kind). And yes, good call! It’s a balancing act. The most important thing I got out of it is that I must feel safe and grounded in myself. That’s number 1, because all my life up until very recently I didn’t feel safe or like I had an integrated identity (due to a dysfunctional family) so anything outside of my control felt like I, myself, was out of control. That’s when I tend to overthink in a bad way, not the normal rainforest-y way. And that’s when I isolate. Come to think of it… ‘aha moment’ right there: I suppose it’s because I learned to seek safety via physical restriction. Which just means I didn’t have the internal support I needed to go out there and start living in an unpredictable world full of surprises. I do now though, but at times I operate on the old paradigm and momentarily forget all my progress.

              Number 2: whatever non-perfection comes my way, as long as it’s mostly good rather than mostly bad, then I don’t think that can be avoided — alternative options will have different imperfections so it’s a tradeoff. Plus, I’m not perfect either. Thank goodness!

              Number 3: I don’t want to rationalize a bad decision, so I’ve decided to be upfront about the pros and cons rather than twist the cons into something positive, and do what I’m going to do anyway, cons be damned (as long as they don’t actively get in my way… then again, I tend to zoom in on them far too much). I feel light instead of heavy now. This means I’m on the right track no matter the outcome.

              You’ve helped so much. If only I had figured this 10 years ago.

              1. Paula Prober Avatar
                Paula Prober

                It’s never too late, Reina! I’m so glad that you’re here!

  7. the glimmering girl Avatar
    the glimmering girl

    OMG. You weren’t kidding about how apropos this post was to our conversation.
    Always nice to be reminded I’m not alone in these experiences!
    You are wonderful.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Actually, R, this isn’t even the one I was referring to…read the next post, glimmering girl!

  8. D Avatar


    So much of what you write about I love. It speaks to the misunderstood population we seek to serve. Today as I read this article you touched me in such a deeply personal way I had to reach out and thank you! It is exactly what I needed! Even if we know better, being labeled a “control freak” can make you feel defective. When our actions of constantly questioning, learning too much too fast and failing to restrain ourselves when we let everybody know “Your doing it all wrong!” lands us in hot water, branded stubborn and not a team player, we feel defeated not gifted. Bless you for sharing and encouraging those of us who think and learn differently to feel valued for our differences rather than punished.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for letting me know, D. It’s always so helpful to hear specific feedback.

  9. Natalie Avatar

    I usually do annoy people at work by getting it finished quickly.

    As always like reading something I could have written


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Natalie.

  10. Kamala Quale Avatar
    Kamala Quale

    Good one! I liked it. Writing from your new house must be agreeing with you [😊]

    I’m back from Florida. It was nice to get away. Good and stressful both to be with my folks.




    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Kamala. Glad you’re back. Let’s get together soon!

  11. Kristi Avatar

    I’m reading the autobiography of Anthony Trollope and this describes him pretty well, too, in his office work. He was a failure in school, his first job, and in writing at first (his first two novels and a play). I love his novels and am glad he persevered.

  12. Kristi Avatar

    When I practiced law, I was fortunate to work with partners who liked that I was always asking questions and making suggestions. But when I went in-house for a biotech company, the same traits annoyed the hell out of my boss and another key person. I didn’t stay there long. I think it’s very important to get to know the culture of a company/firm/etc. before starting work there.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That makes sense, Kristi. Get to know the culture as much as possible. The book is a great resource for ideas for changing the culture, if you have to stay in it.

  13. KtCallsita Avatar

    I needed this over a week ago! I just returned from a conference where one of my touch points in my panel was the difficulty of moving the iceberg of entrenched volunteers to bring them to accepting new ideas and adjustments to the program to insure quality for remote events. Then again today, the frustration of talking to my office-mates trying to share the changes we need to be adapting to. I’m ok playing the long game, but we need to all acknowledge that our goal is to change not continue to fight the system until we are no longer in compliance with the parent organization – resulting in deconstructing our program and frantically rebuilding on a massive scale (something I really would rather avoid).

    Oh and I totally blew an interview two years ago, because I talked about “…Executing the same types of processes and programs over and over again bores many of us.” Except I phrased it as “Wanting to be in a dynamic and changing program where it didn’t become routine.” – yeah that didn’t do me any favors that day, even if it was exactly what is needed for that program. I also get to enjoy the guilt of walking away and watching it all crumble from a distance – and no I don’t enjoy any of that, because it is a program to help children and they all deserved so much better! (The program is amazing, I’m still doing it, just somewhere else – in this case it’s the politics of adults and the resistance to dynamic administration that is the downfall, not the program itself – although it does have some necessary challenges.)

    As always, your posts are a blessing to me – repeatedly reminding me that I am not alone and that what I experience is also the struggle of others working to improve this world.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Those are great examples. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

  14. sknelson Avatar

    Once again, nail hit on the head.

  15. litebeing Avatar

    I could have used this book over 20 years ago! Your excerpts sound just like me except substitute stubborn for lazy 🙂 Thanks fro sharing it here. I agree also about emotional management. Very important but so challenging with those of us who are passionate, sensitive, and often frustrated or disillusioned.

    peace, Linda

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Linda. Yes, emotional management. Not easy. Peace to you, too.

  16. Atlas Educational Avatar
    Atlas Educational

    Descriptions like these make me smile and cry. Thank you. Always, Paula. You always “get it”.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Lisa. I always appreciate hearing from you.

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