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How to manage an ‘Erin Brockovich’

Indulge free spirits, gain their trust

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

After seeing the movie Erin Brockovich, you think, “I manage someone like her.”

These employees dress scantily, but not blatantly, in violation of company policy. They’re nonconformists who speak their mind freely and impulsively. And they influence co-workers with their strong-willed personalities. Erins wield power out of proportion to their position in the organization. Their independence can prove threatening to command-and-control managers who prefer conformity.

Here’s how to manage flashy free-spirits:

Harness their energy. Outspoken individuals with a distinctive style can serve as natural motivators. Because their colleagues look up to them or at least like their flair, keep these leaders on the right side of the company and give them free rein to lead meetings, test ideas and rally the team.

Appeal to their interest. Almost everyone wants to earn more money or respect. Gently dangle the rewards of dressing differently, and link them to the employee’s career goals or desires.

“If they want to increase their income, tell them they should dress to attract, not distract,” says Sherry Maysonave, author of Casual Power (Bright Books, 1999). “Once they understand that their distracting dress can cost them promotions, they might change.”

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