“Tempted as we are to remove outsiders or misfits from any team at the first sign of rebellion, it’s unlikely to be our best move,” says Robert Kelsey. “Many outsiders are often highly-talented individuals, though with psychological issues.”
Self-confessed outsider, Kelsey is the best-selling author of several books which address the insecurities of outsiders and how employers can help workers who struggle to fit in.
“It’s wasteful to spend our time hunting and removing misfits, although that’s exactly what too many team leaders and HR departments do,” he said. “Instead of spotting and removing misfits, however, team leaders should understand them and learn how to foster their best traits.”
Kelsey offered these tips to HR managers who want to help employees fit in:
1. Explain the big picture
“Outsiders are poor at obeying orders,” says Kelsey. “Yet this isn’t always intransigence. It’s just as often due to a poor understanding of the context of the situation.”
Kelsey suggests ensuring all team members – especially outsiders – have a strong handle on how the current work will affect the long-term goal.
2. Develop strategy as a team
An outsider will be integrate more successfully if they can buy into the team’s goals, says Kelsey, ensure that happens by having them help formulate them.
3. Establish team roles
“Outsiders are prone to clash with anyone they’re working alongside,” argues Kelsey, “so the more you can carve out specific tasks for outsiders to undertake the better they’ll be at execution.”
4. Encourage creativity
“Outsiders are brilliant at thinking outside the box – especially when encouraged to do so,” says Kelsey. “Let them loose on the inventive bit and the results could far exceed your expectations. Not only that, their enthusiasm will become infectious.”
When you’ve nurtured a close-knit team that works well together, it can be easy to assume an outsider will wreck the dynamics – but don’t write them off as a troublemaker, says one industry expert – go out of your way to help them assimilate instead.