Organizational weirdness, again

It is really painful when the OW Factor ratchets up to a ten. Remember: the OW Factor, a completely made-up rating, stands for Organizational Weirdness Factor, with ten being the highest and zero being the lowest possible score. I invented it when working years ago in an environment where there was enormous dysfunction, the most I’d ever experienced in a 30+ year career, and I used dark humor to help keep me sane. It is still relevant years later.

Usually when there is workplace dysfunction, there are complex reasons for it. Common contributing factors include low morale, lack of clarity about lines of responsibility or job definition, poor communication, ineffective management, and favoritism toward one or two people. Repeated, major, disruptive, and poorly planned and implemented change is another common factor.

Perhaps the most significant and venomous reason for dysfunction is deep-seated insecurity on the part of one or two people in the organization. This insecurity manifests itself in multiple ways, such as excessive attempts to make oneself look good at all costs, saying one thing in public and a completely different thing in private, criticism and suspicion of anyone else, a highly controlling nature, and loud and frequent complaining about other people in public and in private. Another aspect of this insecurity is a tendency to make statements that are sometimes wrong and a bitter resentment if their statements or their authority are at all challenged or even appear to be contradicted. Yet another aspect of this basic insecurity is extreme territorialism and defensiveness.

I deliberately used the word venomous previously because this type of behavior and personality literally and figuratively poisons any workplace. This type of behavior needs to be thoughtfully and empathetically confronted and curbed for the health of the overall organization. What is especially bad is when management panders to one(s) who complain the loudest in an attempt to placate them, rather than do the hard work of remediating bad behavior. It is like Neville Chamberlain declaring peace in our time after meeting with Hitler before the outbreak of World War II, and we all know how that turned out. Appeasement doesn’t work, and it can create excessive damage to everyone else who has to work in this environment.

Another insidious aspect of how this situation is sometimes handled by management is deploying false equivalency. By this I mean, equating a person’s bad behavior with that of another person, especially if there is obvious conflict between the two. In other words, a manager says, “Well, you’re both wrong and both doing the same things!” This can of course be true, but it shouldn’t be a normal, default response. Instead, care should be taken to observe and be as objective as possible in order to arrive at a thoughtful decision. Inaction and avoidance of dealing with the problem are two other common responses, and those don’t work, either.

Organizations rife with insecurity are especially harmful and should be avoided at all costs!

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