Signs of a dysfunctional organization

Though there are many organizations today that can be vouched for as the ‘perfect’ places to work for, there are still many more who just do not manage to make it to that list. Though the scenario from the out side might be ‘picture perfect’, in reality the case might not be so. Most work places fail to be ‘ideal’ for various reasons at times the management is not up to the mark or at times, it is the employees who aren’t good enough. There can be many signs of what makes a workplace dysfunctional. If these signs are not comprehended at an early stage, it can spell doom for the organization as well as the employees.

Communication or lack of it is one of the earliest signs of a dysfunctional organization. The indications of this are increased gossip, more water-cooler/coffee- machine groupings of employees, younger people looking for opportunities to get authentic information from their bosses, employees’ skepticism increasing etc. Let’s face it; gossip by itself is harmless, unless it tends to get malicious and personal. The office grapevine is probably the best way most people hear about organizational news. If this media can be purposefully harnessed, then the flow of communication can be made very productive.

Sure, the boss has the final say, but work should be delegated, with employees taking responsibilities for tasks that do not require the boss’s personal time and attention. The organization will be much more productive and empowered if the top boss doesn’t have to sign off on every little thing.

Lack of delegation of authority can be a big impediment. In such organizations, the entire decision making process is so democratic that most often there are more meetings after meetings but seldom any directions or decisions are taken.

If a workplace is operating without any process in place, where the stress level is very high, and employees have no work life balance and there is no innovation happening, then the workplace qualifies to be a dysfunctional workplace. Over worked employees and avoidable pressures are also signs of a dysfunctional workplace. Such organizations run in constant crisis situation and fire fighting mode. This creates undue pressure on the work force and results in ‘burn out.’ There will be undesirable continuous Fire Fighting.

Meetings conducted without any agenda build employee frustration. The management should conduct meetings with defined goals to ensure constructive input and productive output from its employees.

People are judged by their proximity and perception than productivity or output. For example, if an employee is seen working late hours, s/he invariably becomes the ideal/good worker. In dysfunctional organizations, what matters is not what you have accomplished in a day, but how many hours you were seen ‘working’. We all know at least one person who hangs around until everyone else goes home or shows up at 7 in the morning just to make a good impression with the boss.

Senior management should evaluate the employee’s performance based on achievement of targets rather than how long employees are working at office.

Lack of empowerment is another sign of a dysfunctional organization, particularly promoter driven organizations. Empowerment is not about the signing of financial instruments or purchasing goods/services up to a certain financial level, but taking responsibility for your decision without fear of failure and having the requisite tools to do so. Owning a decision without passing the buck to one’s boss or even ones junior is essential.

Organizations which have successfully overcome the mindset of operating in a blame-culture, have invited suggestions from the employees themselves as to what can be done about this. This has been the beginning of trust development.