Dysfunctional Organization Cultures And Falling Corporate Empires

ganesh article on Culture

Ganesh Subramanian from IIM Trichy writes why without transparency in communication organizations would invite doom. 

A friend of mine called me up a few days ago seeking some suggestions to come out of the problems that she finds herself in, in her company. She works as a recruitment executive in a firm. She said that a week before her recruitment, the firm had rolled out offers to candidates who are joining a multinational firm, which is a client of this recruitment firm. Despite slogging for a week and achieving targets which have never been achieved before, there was little appreciation for the work done. Forget appreciation, there wasn’t even a mention of the work in the subsequent team meetings by her boss. To complicate matters, the recruitment team was asked to report to a lady who is supposedly well known to the boss. Now this lady is new to the business of recruitment having moved into this role only a few months back and behaves more like a school teacher than a team lead. In this scenario, my friend was contemplating quitting her job and she says that the organization culture is bad beyond repair.

In another example, a CEO of a firm is known for his frequent outbursts of anger, shouting at his subordinates, in front of others. The CEO’s behaviour has percolated down to the individual business units as business unit heads shout at their subordinates because the CEO shouts at them. The funny part is that this organization had a 360 degree appraisal system for assessment of performance. No wonder that the employees of the organization are scared to death when it comes to rating their superiors.

These two examples set me thinking on how organization cultures can make or mar organizations. Organizations such as those mentioned above fall into oblivion and get into a very bad cycle because nobody knows how to change this bad culture. It is very obvious that the cue has to come from the top management. The behaviour and the culture of the organisation have to be driven by the CEO and carried on by the business unit heads.

For sustainable growth of organizations, there must be transparency in communication, freedom and autonomy in work and more importantly an environment where everyone feeds off each other’s growth which in term helps them grow. The HR in the bad-cultured organizations become the scapegoat in the whole process as employees blame the HR for anything and everything little realizing that HR in such organisations do not have the power to overhaul systems in one go and they are mere spectators in the whole game.

To conclude, top management must be proactive in setting the right environment for a thriving organizational culture and must give the HR department the full freedom to maintain the culture, suggest changes for betterment and even change it.

6 thoughts on “Dysfunctional Organization Cultures And Falling Corporate Empires

  1. S Venkateshwaran

    Very True. Dysfunctionality tends to occur in those organisation more often than not, where the Boss is either a self made person who thinks that he / she knows how to run the business, or has an aggressive approach to business more out of the need to over achieve. I have worked in an organisation where the Boss was so stern that he would keep pushing people in all directions. Every day would start off with meetings in which all the heads had to participate. This would go on for an hour (discussing the activities of the previous night in terms of production targets etc), followed usually by two or three in depth meeting with selected departments and finally followed by end of day meeting to review what was supposed to be done in the day. At the end of it all, he would rave and rant because work did not happen. To ensure this, he would make all the Heads stay back late.

    The irony was he wanted a strong HR team that would “fearlessly” tell him when he was wrong. Quite obviously, when that happened, the poor guy was out of work the next week. Highly emotional, and rigid, the person would shower abuses which would put a rickshaw driver to shame.

    The only group of people who were able to work with him, were, not surprisingly, those who could flatter and and live up as his ego alters, who also used the same technique of imposing themselves on the poor “lower the line” persons. Not surprisingly, attrition was very high; but this did not affect him, even though others in the company knew the reality but choose to keep quiet.

    Based on my observations, some of the traits of a dysfuctional Manager I would think are:

    Tells you to do something you don’t want to do, but blames you when it goes wrong.
    Says He / She wants you to take responsibility, then publicly overrides your decisions.
    Loves to be in front when there is a big audience otherwise will send sub juniors to attend a customer.
    Intimidates with aggressive words and posture, knowing that you will never confront but becomes a pacifier when confronted. .
    Handles meetings as though he is the only speaker.
    Revels in the invention of creative curses for just the right occasion.
    Verbally approves new requisitions, later denies doing it.
    Gets too personal in his berating.
    Rides you mercilessly while pet employees can do no wrong.
    Always right: when confronted with mistakes, blames them on someone else.
    Fiercely protective of pet projects.
    Highly compulsive and obsessive about minute details.
    Displays a good understanding of the “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop” routines and generally practices it.

  2. Nagamani

    Hi Ganesh

    Firstly, let me thank you for bringing up this discussion. It is high time this issue is highlighted in the public domains.

    The article is a true picture of what is happening in many SMEs these days. Two extremes: apathy or freewheeling seem to be the trend in such companies forcing employees to quit. I have been a part of both such treatments in the last couple of years making me wonder if I should bother to continue work at all. I know that every organisation has some problems, but if the basics are wrong then it is very demotivating. And moving on to another job is no solution for the employee, it only creates one more problem – handling the job hopper’s tag!

    I think the labor laws in our country need to be looked into very seriously so that prospective employees know what they are getting into. It is good to introduce some certifications and compliance systems before an organisation starts hiring staff for its functions. Else this kind of ill treatment will continue which is very detrimental to the industry as a whole. The problem will percolate deep down and have more serious repercussions than we imagine.

    Nagamani Tanikella

  3. Pingback: S Venkateshwaran On Dysfunctional Organization Cultures And Falling Corporate Empires | Mission Sharing Knowledge

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