Across the country, employees of every age, background, ethnicity, orientation, and gender are walking away from their jobs in search of more meaning and more peace. Or just because they’re fed up with sacrificing their time and the other dimensions of their lives for dental and a 401(k). They’ve been leaving bosses like you holding the bag, with no idea how the work will get done.
I know that’s made it hard for you to do your job. Leading a team must feel like running an Ironman, and now it’s even more difficult because you’re constantly hemorrhaging talent and spending all your time recruiting just to keep the trains running. Well, I can’t help you solve the whole problem, but I can offer advice that applies to keeping people like me—the Rare Breeds.
You know who we are, even if you call us something else. We’re who you’ve always said you’re desperate to hire: People who don’t just punch a clock, but stride in bursting with hot-blooded passion, obsessive drive, and audacious ideas. You’ve never quite known what to do with us because we’re bright, restless, sharp-tongued, and never quite fit into the company culture. We’re opinionated and non-traditional. We clash with the décor and the status quo. That’s why you hired us, remember?
But here’s the other thing about us: We’re whip-smart, insanely creative, and care passionately about the world around us. Turn us loose, and we’ll make your company stronger. Of course, there’s a catch.
Take it easy, we’re not after more money or paid sabbaticals. Those are nice perks, but they’re not what we need. You see, being a Rare Breed is lonely. We’re misfits. We don’t fit the mold, we shatter it. We speak uncomfortable truths. We see norms and niceties for what they are: Straitjackets that serve no real purpose other than to keep people safely locked in place and frozen in time.
As a result, people at the top dismiss us as provocateurs and troublemakers. Our superiors see our turbulent minds and high EQ, call them “vices,” and advise us to dial them back—to become more like everyone else. We’d rather hit the bricks than blend into the faceless mob just to make you comfortable, so we throw up two middle fingers, resign, and try our luck somewhere else.
The thing is, we really believe this could be our place. We said yes to working here because we thought this was where we could matter, do big things, and make a difference. Instead, the opposite has turned out to be true. Instead of a swashbuckling spirit, we’ve found mostly red tape and a culture of fear that homogenizes us, holds us back, dims our light, and burns our energy. It’s exhausting.
The thing is, you need us. The apple cart needs upsetting. Mediocrity and safe thinking kill innovation—and eventually, companies—and they’re spreading like a virus in the halls and conference rooms. We’re concerned you don’t see that. Whether you see it or not, a reckoning is coming. Soon, you’ll have to choose. Will this company be a daring, dangerous leader, or a cowering, ordinary also-ran?
Rare Breeds are the difference makers, the dream makers. So, do you want to keep us? To turn us into assets? To win our everlasting loyalty? It’s simple:
Let us own who we really are and stir up good trouble.
Don’t slap our wrists and bite our heads off when we speak our minds. Encourage us to break the rules. Reward us for pushing for change or leading a revolution. We want to do incredible work, but as our authentic selves, without fear of being belittled or excluded. We want to be appreciated for what makes us unique and valued for our defiant, different viewpoints. We’re a living, breathing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, and at the end of the day, we want to be part of a greater mission. To belong. Just like everyone, including you.
Rare Breeds aren’t cynics, and no, we don’t lead to culture carnage. We are starving to do work that fires us up, challenges us, and lets us take risks and feel alive. While businesses all over the country have been asleep, Rare Breeds have changed the locks and stolen all their best people. You don’t want that to happen here.
So here’s what I propose. Talk to us. Connect with us on our own terms, as who we are, and learn what makes us tick. Most important of all, instead of thinking about the ways you can change us to become more like the company, think about how the company and its culture can evolve to become more like us.
Then, give us the freedom to work our way.
If we don’t thrive on regimented morning meetings, let us skip them. If we want to work until 3 am because we’ve got an idea in our teeth and want to shake it like a pit bull, order us takeout. If we’re just not feeling the dress code, get rid of it.
You don’t have to remake every facet of the organization in our image, but how about meeting us halfway? We could be part buttoned-down corporate, and part seat-of-the-pants entrepreneurial moonshot—a business Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
That’s one way things can change. The other way…well, you won’t like it as much. You see, like millions of others during the Great Resignation, Rare Breeds crave a transformed career experience. We want to feel respected not just for how we contribute to the bottom line, but for our values, and for being leaders willing to speak up for the game-changers and rule-breakers. Sorry if that sounds “extra”, but it’s true.
Eventually, if we can’t be seen and welcomed by organizations like yours, we’ll go somewhere else. Without us, the culture will stagnate. Innovation will wither. Conformity will breed mediocrity. We’d love to stick around and be part of a new era, but we won’t if it means we have to hide who we are and be less than what we’re capable of being.
This moment in history isn’t a trap for your business. It’s an opportunity. This is your chance to be a headlight, not a taillight, one of the brave ones lighting the way. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Rare Breed, it’s that if you want to be bold, you can’t surround yourself with terrified people.
I hope you’ll accept the challenge.
[your name here]
Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger are founders of Motto and authors of Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different.