Five good reasons why every organization needs a troublemaker


Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

When is the last time you crafted a job posting that included the phrase “Must be a troublemaker” under “Requirements?” Probably never, right?

Well, why not? 

Your organization needs a few troublemakers. Here are five good reasons why.


  1. Troublemakers Aren’t Easily Satisfied with the Status Quo
    “If it ain’t broke there’s no reason to fix it,” I’ll give you that. But let’s be honest. The way you do business today varies in some significant ways from the way you did business ten years ago (maybe even five years ago), and in ten, five, or three years from now it will surely vary even more. Complacency, “resting on your laurels,” and waiting until the wheel squeaks before you decide to oil it has never been good business, and it’s definitely not good business in this current global, fast-moving economy. But a troublemaker can be your “secret weapon.” These folks are constantly thinking of smarter and better ways to do things, and who doesn’t need that?
  2. Troublemakers Are Problem Solvers
    No troublemaker worthy of the title is content to simply point out problems. Instead, solving problems is his goal—that’s where the fun is, after all. When a troublemaker has problems to solve (and come on, your company has problems, right?), he’s happy. Solving problems provides the troublemaker with mental stimulation that creates positive energy, and a troublemaker also is motivated by the possibility of attaining that particular type of satisfaction that only comes with a job well done. It’s a win-win, really.
  3. Troublemakers Are Natural Leaders
    Troublemakers don’t sit around waiting to be told what to do. They’re proactive and see potential issues way before most other folks. Sometimes your more contented employees will become annoyed by what they perceive as the troublemaker’s tendency to “borrow problems,” but this isn’t the troublemaker’s goal. He just naturally thinks ahead. Don’t hate him for thinking. Your business needs thinkers, right? 
  4. Troublemakers Take Their Work Very Seriously
    When it comes to The Work, troublemakers don’t like to goof around but instead prefer to resolve issues and generally get things done. Unfortunately, sometimes their focus and serious manner gives others the impression that they’re cold, or mean, or uncaring. It’s not true. They’re just into quality. And standards. And getting stuff done right. I’m betting your organization could use someone with that attitude.
  5. Troublemakers Are Brave
    There’s a lot of talk these days about authenticity and integrity and how much companies need employees who are willing to speak up. Well, look no further than your resident troublemaker! Troublemakers are passionate and opinionated and self-motivated. They’re willing to take a stance because they believe in their ideas and your business. Why in the world wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?

Now here’s the thing. Troublemakers aren’t always the easiest to work with. They’re not the most accommodating personality in the room, and they may rub some people the wrong way.

But they’re committed, smart, and all about improving your business. They care.

And every organization needs employees who care. I’ll wager yours does.

So don’t shy away from hiring a troublemaker or two! Doing so could very well be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. Crystal has a particular interest in issues that affect American workers and toils under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She also partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her via her personal blog,HR BlogVOCATE or at

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  1. 18 daughter naims 14 Sep
    Yes to jesus
  2. 17 Allison 18 Apr

    If its your boss, you will never be right, there's always something to fix. It's true that this personality can be self-serving - it's a bit devious and manipulative. This personality needs to be able to listen to others, take feedback, and admit when they're wrong. Doesn't easily happen, and everyone doesn't always want to argue a point to death.

  3. 16 Crystal Spraggins 23 Feb

    Danielle! Woo hoo, you go girl! I'm soooo glad you have a manager who gets it (and you)!

  4. 15 Crystal Spraggins 23 Feb

    Thanks Joseph!

  5. 14 Crystal Spraggins 23 Feb

    Dear Arnie, no worries. Anyone with good sense can tell the difference between a malevolent troublemaker and the other kind. I agree with Helen that some people get upset with us disruptors because they don't like our questions, but asking questions to figure out how something works to make it better is not causing trouble. 

    I'd also add that disruptors are under-appreciated by anyone benefiting from the dysfunction of the status quo as well as those who are jealous (alas) of the disruptor's talents. It's too bad.

  6. 13 Crystal Spraggins 23 Feb

    Hey Allen, I totally agree that a troublemaker can be THE best employee ever! Keep up the good work!

  7. 12 Clement Chukwudifu 20 Feb

    Dear Crystal, 

    This article is good but there are some grey areas in "Troublemakers' Troubles". Most of them I have met always made troubles for self-gains. They would go after somebody's job, bring the person down with lots and lots of criticisms and eventually take over the job. What happens next? They fail to do the job well or to anybody's satisfaction and they resign and move on to another one. If the "trouble maker" is positive and altruistic, then great things would happen. But if they are self-seeking, then they become very dangerous to the industry.

  8. 11 Joseph Skiff 19 Feb
    I'd be remiss if I didn't also give kudos to Crystal Spraggins for an excellent article that so many of us can certainly identify with. Thanks, Crystal!
  9. 10 Joseph Skiff 19 Feb

    Ow! This hurts in a good way. I have been labeled as  a "troublemaker" myself, but I have always tried to justify my concerns with all of the points developed above. I think we troublemakers look at a problem process as something that can be fixed (or at least I'm going to give it my best shot), because if it is broken and I don't make it better, then I am partly to blame.  The trick is in selling your idea to a stakeholder who can advocate AND give credit where it is due.  I find that I am better at giving credit where due, but not so much at finding someone else who can do the same (maybe that is my fault--I've got to learn to change my approach to include others in my solution). 

    What this boils down to is this: when you see something is broken, stop complaining and fix it; eventually someone else will notice! 

  10. 9 Helen 19 Feb
    Troublemakers are misunderstood and they also come in the female variety.  As indicated, they always seem to upset the status quo.  But one things for sure, they are NOT self-promoters.  They chose their topics and articulate in a strategic fashion.  To Arne's point, perhaps the idea of a "rotten - apple" has do to with the amount of time and energy they spend bumping up again leadership that don't appreciate the unwanted attention of a staffer with endless questions.  Self-promoters we are not, disrupters, yes. 
  11. 8 Arnie 18 Dec

    Just be careful. While I agree that your "definition" of troublemaker in the article is a positive one, we must still be able to discern the difference between your "troublemaker" and the "bad apple" with terrible people skills and whose mission is completely self-serving. That said, I would hire your "troublemaker" in and instant. 


  12. 7 Danielle 04 Dec

    I loved this. It described me to a 'T'. My previous mangement had been trying to get rid of me for years because I was such a troublemaker and never went with the flow of things. Never have and nver will. They hated when I would ask questions. "Oh there she goes again asking questions."

    Finally after 12 years on the job I have a Manager who finally gets me. Wow, it took over 9 managers in 12 years, but then I think, "wait a minute, I am the one who is till here!!"


    As far as recognizing in an interview, well I don't know about others, but I say it as I see it, and I am pretty outspoken in interviews. Diplomatic but still having to say what you think. That is how you recognize the potential in someone.


  13. 6 allen delaune 04 Dec
    Boy, you surely have described my life's story.  I once had an executive refer to me as "Oh, you the change agent."  Having not heard the term before, I asked to what was it in reference and son he described how, Others refered to me as someone always wanting to change things, a trouble-maker, not a teamplayer, etc.  My how those ensecure with themselves have failed to begin to learn anything about me.  I am an offensive lineman in American football by nature.  The most serving, unselfish and unherald position on the field.  We are born that way, were not tought to be that way.  Giving of ourselves is what we will do for the bertterment of many.  Most can not and will not see it that way because it is un-natural to these individuals to undestand why someone would give without expectation of return, self-gain or promotion.  The one thing I can asssure is that if you do have one of us in your setting, do not continue to not engauge and work with this person, as the article states, we can be the best thing to happen to your company by allowing us to help you succeed...
  14. 5 Crystal Spraggins 27 Sep
    Great advice, Peter!
  15. 4 Crystal Spraggins 27 Sep

    Hi Mekala:

    What an interesting question! I find that a "troublemaker" is pretty good at making himself known, lol. This is the candidate who asks a lots of questions (some of them challenging) and is already offering solutions to your problems even at the interview stage. Also, you can find out a lot by asking your own pointed questions. How has the candidate handled challenges/problems in the past? Is there evidence of proactivity? Creativity? Assertiveness? You'll be looking for all of that as well as emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. Good luck!

  16. 3 Peter 26 Sep


    Identify "Problem-Solving Trouble Makers" by looking for what has excited them in their past jobs and even hobbies. Do they get excited about inventing, creativity, innovation, disruptive progress, paradigm shifts, change, etc. Are they more interested in process improvement and discoveries than in their next raise or promotion? Do they hunger and thirst for training opportunities? Volunteer with non-profits? Have they read some business books lately? Here's another job where someone who is ADD could be a star player, because they can jump on an opportunity to fix/improve something as soon as they see it, without asking "Is this really my job, and will anyone be offended if I share an idea???" But don't ask if they are ADD--ask them to tell you about their ideas for products, process improvements or solutions that they would love to implement sometime...And be prepared to listen.  :-)
  17. 2 Mekala 26 Sep

    Dear Crystal, 

    Excellent article. I agree with your opinion. But can you tell me how to identify this person will be the troublemaker when recruiting? Is there anyway to identify them at the recruitment point? 

  18. 1 Mekala 26 Sep

    Dear Crystal, 

    Excellent article. I agree with your opinion. But can you tell me how to identify this person will be the troublemaker when recruiting? Is there anyway to identify them at the recruitment point? 


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