About the book


What might happen if you were more successful at creating change at work?

If your boss took your ideas seriously?

If your organization finally made that new idea real?

How might your job, organization or life change?


Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within gives you the tools and practical skills to lead change at work, with or without positions of authority. You’ll learn how to:

  • Bring ideas forward in positive, influential ways
  • Earn a reputation for having great ideas (vs. being labeled as difficult or a troublemaker)
  • Help your organization do more meaningful work
  • Be authentically who you are versus trying to fit your work style to someone else’s style
  • Find more meaning and joy in your work – or know when it’s time to quit
  • Avoid dumb mistakes — and learn about the authors’ mistakes and what they learned the hard way
  • Learn essential skills, like conflict, strategic communications, organizational politics
  • Take better care of yourself at work so that you don’t burnout while pushing the boundaries
  • Not be stymied by the conformist pressures of large organizations.

Every day people in all kinds of jobs at all kinds of workplaces reach the point where they say, “Enough.”  While every rebel’s reason for stepping up differs, almost all start with the same uncomfortable realization: “I have to do something about this.”

Download Introduction and Chapter One



Rebels at Work is the essential guide to rocking the boat. From the trenches, Lois Kelly and Carmen Medina outline how to gain credibility, pitch ideas, navigate politics, manage conflict, and maintain sanity. This lively, accessible book is full of practical wisdom for making sure that you don’t become a rebel without a job.

Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

In Rebels at Work, Lois Kelly & Carmen Medina bust the myth that passionate and rebellious types will only thrive in small organizations.  This valuable handbook is chock-full of charts, guidelines, stories and advice to help people make positive change in big companies – and to have fun doing it.  It is an indispensable guide for both rebels and those who manage them.

– Diane Hessan, Chairman, Communispace; CEO, Startup Institute

At GovLoop we have 150,000 innovators trying to improve government from the inside, doing the difficult work of changing bureaucracy. Rebels at Work is our new playbook for making big changes in government. Lois Kelly and Carmen Medina’s clear tips and strategies are essential for navigating large organizations and getting things done.

Steve Ressler, founder and president, GovLoop

Rebels at Work is a brilliant guide for change activists who want to rock the boat and stay in it. As rebels at work we are too often marginalized and our great ideas go unheeded. Yet we are actually the salvation of our organizations. I love the fact that the authors are a living embodiment of what can happen when rebels get activated in a positive way. This book gives power to rebels at work everywhere. There are a few bosses out there who should be very scared!

Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS IQ, National Health Service, England

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Reading “Rebels at Work” for your book club?  Here’s a discussion guide.

  1. Good Rebels, Great Work

What might be possible if I become a more effective rebel at work?

  • What makes you want to learn about being a more effective rebel at work at this time?
  • If you were more successful at creating change at work, how might your life change? How might your work change? Your organization?
  • What stops people from creating better ways to work? What stops you?
  • What might be possible if there were fewer bureaucratic or work politics problems in your organization? What is allowing those problems to fester?

2. Gaining Credibility

What can I do so that more people listen to my ideas and take them seriously?

  • What’s most important to your boss? What is she afraid of? What does she need to make decisions? What annoys her? How might you build a better relationship so that she would support your ideas and guide you on how to make them real?
  • Who are your greatest allies at work? Who would you like to have as an ally? What steps can you take to develop that relationship?
  • What is the best way to create a rebel alliance at work? Who shares an interest in the ideas you’d like to see move forward? What’s the easiest way to start talking about these ideas and support one another?
  • Are you considered trustworthy? What might you be able to do to improve your reputation so that people take you and your ideas seriously?

3. Navigating the Organizational Landscape

What do I need to know about how things work at work?

  • Which people at work know how to get a new idea approved and funded? What makes them successful? What can you learn from them? How might you get to know them better so that you can learn more from them?
  • What kinds of new ideas do people pay attention to in your workplace? What proposals usually get dismissed?
  • What is most valued in your organization? Is there a way to link your idea to that?
  • What influential Bureaucratic Black Belts (BBBs) are most likely to resist or discredit your idea? What is most important to these people and how might that affect how they view your proposal? How can you get to know and understand these individuals so that you can better work together?
  • What are the three most important things for you to learn about navigating your organizational culture?

4. Communicating Your Ideas

How can I get people to understand my idea and lend their support?

  • What important problem or opportunity does your idea address?
  • How would things be different if the idea succeeds? How would people feel as a result of these changes?
  • Suppose your boss says that she will approve your project today if you can briefly explain the most important milestones on the road to success. Could you respond?
  • Who might want to support the idea and get involved? What’s the best way to connect with these potential first followers? How might you go about getting 10% of the people in your organization behind the idea?
  • Are you communicating in a positive way that attracts people to your cause?
  • What signals and cues are most helpful to you in gauging whether people understand, support, or dislike your change ideas?

5. Managing Conflict

How do I navigate disagreement and controversy in a positive way?

  • Think of someone you know who is especially good at remaining calm and positive when work conversations get heated. What does he or she do well in these situations?
  • If you were better at having difficult conversations, what would be different for you at work? What might you be able to accomplish?
  • What would help you better deal with controversy and conflict? What two or three practices might be most valuable?
  • How might you improve how you guide conversations during controversial meetings so that you achieve your meeting goal?
  • What questions are most useful to use when you’re discussing controversial issues?
  • The risks are formidable when you get into the conflict stage. Is your idea worth what’s at risk to you? How do you know?
  • Have you anticipated the tough questions?

6. Dealing with Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

How can I manage my emotions so that they don’t lead me into trouble?

  • What fears hold you back from leading change at work? How realistic are these fears? What might you be able to can do to reduce the risks associated with each of these fears?
  • What’s your give-up line? What is happening around you when you start using it? Now that you know what it is, what can you do differently when you hear yourself start to say it?
  • What hidden assumptions might be blocking you from achieving what’s especially important at work? How can you test those assumptions to see if they’re really true?
  • What are your strongest character strengths? How might you use those strengths to increase your confidence and effectiveness?

7. Caring for Your Rebel Soul at Work

What can I do to take care of myself and prevent burn out?

  • What warning signs tell you that you’re in danger of burning out? What is especially important for you to pay attention to?
  • What practices might help you become more resilient? More positive?
  • What friends can provide you with clear guidance and honest, caring support?
  • How will you know it’s time to quit?
  • What questions will you use to find the right boss? The right organization?

8. If You Are a Rebel Boss

How can I be a better manager of rebels in my organization?

  • When you think about rebels, what biases come up for you?
  • What might be different if you viewed rebels as allies?
  • If you asked your employees what 3 things are most important for the organization to accomplish this year, would they be easily able to name them?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how safe do people in your organization feel it is to disagree? What could you do to make it safer for people to have honest conversations about issues important to your goals?
  • What habits are you developing so that new ideas are not an event, but part of how you and your team work?
  • Who are the rebels in your organization? Are they doing the right work?
  • What kind of coaching do team members need from you to learn how to sell new ideas to the organization?