S Venkateshwaran On Dysfunctional Organization Cultures And Falling Corporate Empires


ganesh article on Culture

A reader of Mission Sharing Knowledge S Venkateshwaran had this to say on one of our previous articles. Since we thought the comment to be really relevant, we have published it in its entirety. 

Dysfunctionality tends to occur in those organization 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 organization 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 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 dysfunctional 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, and 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.
Ride 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.

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