Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sick Organizations

I was coaching a manager on a problem the other day and as he revealed items about the culture of his organization, it became apparent that a major culprit was not in the room.

Some organizations are sick. Upper management routinely sends messages that inadvertently - or perhaps not so inadvertently in some cases - tell employees that they are easily replaced, their co-workers are rivals, management distrusts them, customers are adversaries, and that there is a big gap between what is proclaimed and what is practiced.

In many cases, the illness is so severe that the patient is delusional. Various "problem employees" are identified, but the organization's problem is not noticed. (It reminds me of the old Jackie Mason line that his mother didn't know how much he drank until one day he came home sober.) The leadership of the organization is so steeped in poor practices that the executives think treating people shabbily is normal, wise, and "all part of the game."

Unfortunately, this is one of those occasions where getting the patient to the doctor is a major challenge. If the consultant suggests an examination, he or she may be suspected of trying to run up the bill. If an executive or manager does so, the person is accused of weakness or disloyalty.

In the meantime, the employees suffer and, year after year, the managers lose less touch with reality. Perhaps saddest of all, they lose touch with their humanity.


But Seriously Folks... said...

Michael, great post. My organization is not incurably sick, but there is a hellava lot of denial round these here parts!

DF (Eclecticity)

Michael Wade said...

I once suggested to an executive in one organization that they put up a sign in their conference room that read: "We are not as bad as some people think we are, but we are not as good as we think we are."

Anonymous said...

After 3 years working in public service, I am sure that this organization is sick. The virus is called political leaders.