Insider-Outsider Dynamics

ImageThe Will to Power and Acceptance have been themes of civilization since the Garden of Eden.  How does this figure in the workplace?  What most people refer to as “office politics” is largely a case of Insider-Outsider Dynamics.

In Washington, DC, this topic was implied around town with the saying, “It’s not WHAT you know; but WHO you know.” How could this be a popular saying in a nation that touts meritocracy?…because subjectivity prevails.  Even the DC newspaper, the Washington Post, made a subconscious play at this with their slogan: “If you don’t get it, you don’t GET it,” – meaning: If you don’t purchase the newspaper, you are not knowledgeable (worthy of informing).



Insiders are those who feel support, stability, and security from being in a group, who feel like their skillsets are optimized, and who feel that their contributions are valued.

Here are three examples of Insider profiles, and Insider Change Agents:

Unintentional Offender These Insiders need to be affirmed for what they consider are their positive intentions.  They lack insight on other perspectives. Tony HaywardImage After 11 Americans died, approx. 82K birds, and innumerable marine life perished due to the BP oil spill of 2010, then-CEO Hayward infamously said, “I’d like my life back.”
Intentional Offender These Insiders need control. They fear loss of power and despise ambiguity in the status quo.  Schadenfreude (literally “harm-joy”) is their aim. (Outsider-turned-Insider):

Adolf HitlerImage

It is estimated that 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust; 6 million  were Jews; 1.1 million were children.


Avoider These Insiders need to feel secure.  They fear loss of social risk, so they purposely stay away from the Outsiders. Rock HudsonImage Hudson married a straight woman to conceal his sexual orientation.  (Current actors are reputed to do the same.)
CHANGE AGENTS These Insiders need to feel like their contributions are constructive.  They fear loss of credibility, and it is overridden by the strength of their uncompromisable integrity and undeniable talent. Frank SinatraImage


Bob DylanImage

Sinatra refused to perform unless his co-star, Sammy Davis, Jr, was also permitted to take the front entrance.

Dylan wrote a protest song for boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.  The lyrics allege racism led to a false trial and conviction.



Outsiders are those who want to have a sense of identity and understand that their contributions are not always valued, which typically leads to sub-optimization of their talents.  This stifles their sense of identity, leading to adverse reactions.

Here are three examples of Outsider profiles, and Outsider Change Agents:

Fighter These Outsiders wish to be recognized for their effort to make systemic changes in the face of adversity or barriers. They fear loss of identity by conformity to the Insiders. Malcolm X


He espoused black supremacy, advocated segregation, and vented anger.
Separatist These Outsiders wish to feel that their uniqueness is valued.  They fear loss of identity by conformity to the Insiders. Lady Gaga


Gaga’s thematic expression is of individuality, equality, and freedom. Her fashion and songs, like Born This Way, are manifestations.
Assimilator These Outsiders wish to be accepted by the Insiders.  They fear rejection by the Insiders. V. Stiviano


Stiviano stayed with bigot, racist Donald Sterling in exchange for gifts* and proximity to fame. (* Gifts include $1.8-million duplex, Ferrari, two Bentleys, & Range Rover).
CHANGE AGENTS These Outsiders need to feel like their contributions are constructive.  They fear loss of credibility, and it is overridden by the courage to take the risk to disrupt the status quo for the sake of inclusion. MLK, Jr.



Mahatma Gandhi



King advanced Civil Rights using nonviolent civil disobedience.


Born into a wealthy Indian family who sent Gandhi to London to study law, Gandhi became an Outsider both in England and in South Africa before using nonviolent civil disobedience to lead India to independence.


UNINTENTIONAL OFFENDER.  Attrition. Brand damage. Stock slump.  E.g. Conservatives misinterpret Disney’s support for gay rights as an attack on their beliefs.

INTENTIONAL OFFENDER. High attrition.  An ugly culture.  Stock failure.  E.g. Annual lay-offs to perform the corporate version of “ethnic cleansing.”  And, Enron which took McKinsey consulting advice to fire 40% of its senior leaders, and make the remaining 60% re-apply.

AVOIDER. Groupthink.  Failure to leverage diversity; empower talent base.  E.g.  Colleagues who cast a blind eye when co-workers are unjustly made redundant or are falsely accused of business inefficiencies.

INSIDER CHANGE AGENT. Maximum organizational benefits, as Insiders give Outsiders a voice.  E.g. The independent thinker who suspends judgment until fully hearing and listening with both heart and mind, and then calmly share his/her viewpoint.

FIGHTER. Hostile environment.  Reinforced stereotypes.  Causes are not explored.  E.g.The stereotypical “angry, Black female” when she openly raises the issue of discrimination in a work environment that is in denial (See Blog: 5 Stages towards a Global Mindset).

SEPARATIST.  Factions. Withdrawal/Avoidance.  Absenteeism.  Attrition. E.g.Employee refuses to spend time with the supervisor, due to fear of further victimization/mismanagement.

ASSIMILATOR. Loss of innovation. Inauthentic leadership.  Instable work environment.  E.g. Corporate women who feel they must talk/behave like men to succeed; and, denigrate other women who do not.

OUTSIDER CHANGE AGENT. A more inclusive environment, as Outsiders manage to be heard.  E.g. The independent thinker who steadily carries forth a conviction that s/he is not stripped of the choice to be happy and that each of us can make a difference.


Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Be the change!


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG.  Visit us at

©Rossina Gil, 2014


“Oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster entered food chain in the Gulf of Mexico”. 20 March 2012. doi:10.1029/2011GL049505. Retrieved 1 June 2012

TMC.  Training Management Corporation, Princeton, New


About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on May 4, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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