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Tempered Radicals: How People Use Difference to Inspire Change at Work Hardcover – August 15, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Tempered radicals" may not sound like the type to start revolutions or topple corrupt governments, but in the corporate world, it is often these quiet change advocates that get the ball rolling and policies changing. In her thoughtful study of employees whose differences place them outside the mainstream organizational culture, Debra Meyerson uses this term for those who want to succeed in their organizations without compromising their ideological beliefs and personal lives.

People who hope to "fit in without selling out" operate on a fault line, says Meyerson. While contributing to their companies' success, they support agendas that are often at odds with the dominant culture. This can involve their social identities, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, or their philosophical values and beliefs, such as a concern for social justice, environmental sustainability, or family-friendly working conditions. They are not radicals in the sense that they want to enact a marked departure from the traditional, but tempered radicals in that they both challenge and uphold the status quo, working "within systems, not against them." Seeking to map the space between conformity and extreme radicalism, Meyerson conducted in-depth interviews with almost 200 people in three very different organizations (though both interviewees and companies were given pseudonyms, the companies are easily identifiable). The result is an insightful look at the way these people effect change, including the varieties of ways to stay true to oneself (through psychological, self-expressive, and behind-the-scenes resistance), how to leverage small wins, and how to organize collective action. There's also a lengthy chapter on the difficulties these tempered radicals face, from the psychological stress of constantly straddling a duality to the incremental lures of co-optation. Having taught in MBA programs at both the University of Michigan and Stanford University, Meyerson is an accomplished business professor; this book shows her to be a methodical researcher, sensitive interpreter of results, and well-organized and fluid writer, as well. Tempered Radicals is sure to be a beacon of inspiration for those wanting to make a difference from within and an inspiration to those who might have assumed that changing one's environment means changing one's job. --S. Ketchum

From Publishers Weekly

Meyerson, a professor of organizational behavior, offers insights into how people who have encountered difficulty at work because of politics, personality, ethnicity, etc. can alter their workplace behavior. With real-life examples from unnamed companies, the author shows that the key to success is in making the appropriate response, based on timing, stakes, likelihood of success and consequences of failure. Pitched toward managers and human resource professionals, the book includes a number of intriguing, practical approaches that should help employees navigate sticky situations.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harvard Business School Pr; 1st edition (August 15, 2001)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 221 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0875849059
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0875849058
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.19 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.25 x 1.25 x 9.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

About the author

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In 2010, when I was a professor at Stanford, I suffered a severe stroke. I lost all movement of my right arm and leg; even worse, I lost all ability to communicate. While I won my struggle to survive, much of my identity – as a Stanford professor, a speaker and writer, an athlete, a mother and a wife – was taken from me. My mind was working but I was trapped inside a broken body, unable to do what I used to do. And maybe even worse, I couldn't tell anyone what I was experiencing. With hard work and a lot of help I regained enough mobility to again be independent, and have recovered some ability to speak. But I have come to accept that I will never again have all the capabilities I once had.

Years later, I'm still slowly recovering more of my abilities and am continuing to rebuild my identities. I've found few resources to help with the emotional piece of this journey, and have heard the same from many of my fellow survivors. That's why I wrote Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves after Stroke.

As a professor, I studied and taught about how small, everyday actions can disrupt what’s normal, chip away at the status quo, and create positive change. That work led me to write Tempered Radicals, first published in 2001. ​Now, in a very different context, I live by the message I previously taught. With small, deliberate efforts, and a lot of conscious choices, I continue my slow recovery, discover more about myself, and shape my new identities.

Debra Meyerson's work has appeared extensively in the Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Research in Organizational Behavior, Harvard Journal of Law and Gender and other prestigious publications.

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