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When Managers Rebel

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When Managers Rebel

Palgrave Macmillan,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Thought-provoking analysis of why managers sometimes choose rebellion over conformity

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This is not a book about workers rising up against abusive employers with pitchforks and torches. It’s about highly respected, dedicated young managers who like or even love their jobs, but who rebel when they feel their employers have driven them to the breaking point. Organizational sociologists David Courpasson and Jean-Claude Thoenig explain how managers reach such pivot points, and what trouble ensues when they do. In their view, such apparent trouble generally amounts to a constructive challenge from managers to their superiors that says, “I object to what you’re doing, but I’d like to suggest how to fix it.” The book’s real-life case studies (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) show how managers in varying situations rebelled in different ways. Although the authors offer little guidance on how to realize the positive outcomes of these rebellion scenarios in your own workplace, getAbstract thinks this book will help middle managers better understand how they can solve problems by embracing constructive resistance and rebellion – and yet escape career death.


Rebels with Causes

When managers feel that they are at a breaking point, their companies can find themselves dealing with “rebellion, revolt, protest,” and more. A rebelling manager’s superiors may assume that he or she is going through a tough time at home, not getting enough sleep, or crumbling under too much work. They can be tempted not to take rebellion seriously. But they should. Managerial rebellion has more substantive grounds than stress or even pay raises. Such rebellions occur for an entirely different reason: disagreement over “the way the top executives run things.”

Managers who rebel are not malcontents. Typically, they are respected, contributing players who are getting established at their firms and who generally enjoy their jobs. They rebel because they reach a point where their employers’ expectations interfere with or infringe on their private lives, beliefs, or values, or the company trespasses on a “forbidden zone” of privacy. The ensuing revolt can lead to resignations, but nearly all manager revolutionaries start by offering better solutions or encouraging change. Here are a few real-world examples of such “creative rebellion”:

The Rebellions...

About the Authors

Consultants David Courpasson and Jean-Claude Thoenig are organizational sociologists. Courpasson, a professor at the EMLYON Business School, edits the research publication Organization Studies. Thoenig is director emeritus of research at University Paris-Dauphine.

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