Are You a Constructive Irritant? – Good For You!


For years I’ve observed first hand how speaking up and challenging things can sometimes get you in trouble – Dan Trepanier

In 2012 John’s Izzo published a research book that highlights how the opposite is true. People who speak up and challenge the status quo by bringing constructive ideas for change are rated more highly by their superiors and are more likely to get ahead in life.

But there is a caveat because people who finger point and blame are rated poorly so the key is to be what John calls a “constructive irritant”.

“Speak up with ideas rather than blame and always begin by saying here is what I will do.

Those are the kind of people who get ahead. Perhaps in my case it’s what led to the eventual transition from working for one of Canada’s largest charities (and fighting their systems all the way) to launching my own Ingenious Collaborator and Constructive Irritant Consulting Practice where I get to work with people who focus on what matters.

According to John’s research the number one reason people said they don’t step up is because they think “I am only one person it won’t matter if I step up.” So what if I recycle or stop using plastic bags at the store, if I try to do something about work life balance in my company, or if I take a step to improve morale in my workplace. This feeling that it won’t matter if we step up is actually dangerous.

One reason we don’t step up according to John is we forget two important concepts.

  • The first is what he calls aggregate influence, which is that one person’s actions gets aggregated with that of many others and suddenly it has a big impact. The irony is that unless individuals take action there is no aggregate influence.
  • The second is what he calls the responsibility ripple, that when one person steps up it challenges others to step up.

Stepping up is contagious. So one person matters because when you aggregate all those actions together something big happens and when we step up we create a ripple that grows.

When Dr, John Izzo released his sixth book titled Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything! He showed us how stepping up and taking responsibility is good for your career, good for the community, makes your relationships better and just might save the world.

John says “Stepping Up is seeing a need and deciding you are the person who can, should and will do something about it. We live in a time when we face so many problems such as poverty and climate change can only be solved when each of us steps up in our sphere of influence to create change. What’s more victim thinking has become pervasive in our society with everybody pointing a finger at someone else as the source of the problem. What we need are people at work and in communities who step up and decide they are going to create change”

Sitting in the audience at a live event listening to John describe what a constructive irritant was hit me like a ton of bricks back in 2012. OMG he’s talking about me! Interesting enough, at the end of his presentation numerous colleagues walked up to me in laughter stating that I was the first person that came to mind as John explained the virtues of a constructive irritant.

In fact that faithful day was a turning point in a part of my professional self-identity, whereby I finally felt somewhat validated and rather ‘stoked’ that someone had come up with the ‘lingo’ to describe people like me — who are rather tenacious (and at times a tad irritating) in fighting ‘the Borg’ for the underdog and challenging the status quo.  For me it’s all about DOING WHAT MATTERS. – Dan Trepanier — Constructive Irritant!
Go to this site and you will see videos of some of the people John Izzo features in the book

Are you the reason why your therapist needs a therapist? Is it because you complain about everything that’s wrong in the world or specific issues in your community? If yes – GOOD! Just step up and do something about it. Be a constructive irritant you want to see in the world.

You are probably wondering what is a constructive irritant?

You’re not alone on your quest to save the world. You are a piece of domino. Upheave status quo by creating domino effect!

Dan Trepanier

Certified, Personal Wellness Trainer