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The status quo in unhealthy companies – Anne-Cécile Graber – Medium

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The top 10 unhealthy behavior and their origins

The hard truth is:

“It is not enjoyable to work in companies especially when they have an insane culture”

Are you about to start working for a new company? or you are working for one but aren’t sure it has an unhealthy culture? Then, you may appreciate the following warnings.

In order to improve a situation. We first have to be aware of the problems and then understand the secondary gains that result from them. If we want more healthy companies. We must first recognize that there are not. I am not saying that all companies are bad places to work but certain corporate culture enhance the chance to see unethical, discriminatory and unhealthy behavior.

Top 10 of unhealthy behavior

  1. The boss is ALWAYS right, especially when he is wrong.
  2. Employees’ ideas are good, very good but they will not be implemented.
  3. Employees are paid to obey, not to think.
  4. Please do not share in details the department plans to other departments, we are at war!
  5. You will never fully understand who does what outside your team.
  6. The company vision, mission and values are here for the beauty of it, do not dare follow them
  7. Employees will have to fight to prove their worth
  8. Bosses are always in important meetings to decide about the future of the company while employees are facing problems today and do not get support because it is not “strategic”
  9. How can we use the Digital transformation to extract more money from our clients (please do not think about improving the world)
  10. Money, KPIs and goals are more important than an healthy work environment

Hierarchy an old friend

The existence of those problems are in part a consequence of the way hierarchy the hierarchy was built and maintained. The role of the manager come from a time when production workers or blue collars were believed to be unable to organize themselves because less educated than the white collars. At that time, the white collar could manage a production line much more easily because it was “not a complex task”.

Nowadays, the level of complexity at work is increasing quickly. “Nearly 70% [of global executive] admit that complexity is hurting profits”. (Bain and Company). Managers have to take into account information from divers sources and importance. Furthermore, the hierarchy model is now used in companies where employees work in offices and not on production lines.

Managing complexity at work

One person alone cannot deal with the current complexity of the workplace. Managers are supposed to take into account hundreds of information and opinions. They jungle between satisfying the expectations of those higher in the hierarchy and those under them. They sometimes find themselves in situation where the desires of one group is opposed to the desire of the other one. This managing function may seem unbearable but people keep wanting to become a manager for the “advantages” it brings them: status, money and a sense of power. Those advantages grow with the size of your team.

Why does it work like this?

The role of the manager in the current working world is so important that it seems impossible to change it. Everyone of us benefit from this hierarchical system at some level. The manager has power, fame and money. Decisions are taken for employees who do not feel responsible for them and can hide themselves behind their lack of power. Many more secondary gains could be listed. They explain why the hierarchical system is still in place. For now, the secondary gains weight more than the disadvantages of unhealthy cultures.

How to deal with a high level of complexity, then?

Knowing that we won’t be able to change those unhealthy culture from one day to the other. We can think of alternatives that can work in the present system. We could create network of experts and workers. The role of the manager would not be anymore to manage the decision process but to put in contact people with complementary knowledge. The manager will be more a “coach” in the sense that he helps other do their work. For those who know the SCRUM Framework, we could say that the manager is in fact a scrum master. He must ensure that employees have the necessary skills and tools to perform their work. He does what is in his power to alleviate the work of others.

When politics does not serve the company

It is sometimes discouraging to see that internal politics are playing against the company’s interest. Some employees are working against each other in the same company in order to get more budget or justify their existence. Again, secondary gains (more budget, self-worth…) are maintaining this system. The internal politic is a EGO war that people are ready to fight to feel that they exist. Working has become an new way of being. You are your work, job title, and level of seniority in the company. If you lose that you lose who you are and the money that comes with it. Is it really a thing? Are you your job title? Is your worth measured by the level of budget your team got?

Why companies exist?

Some companies have forgotten why they started to exist and ended up running after money because it is at least something you can measure. This lack of vision, mission and purpose is felt in the way people are working against each other. Another flip side of the lack of vision is that entire department are walking around with no clear goals. They do not have a reason to work together and are lead by the secondary gains. By remembering the reason why a business was created you can bring people together again and create more value together. The vision could become the gravity center of the company. People that believe in it will gravitate toward it. Think of all vision lead companies who attract employees willing to make the vision a reality.

Effective communication is difficult

We all know how important communication is but we fail to share information or give feedback to others. In theory we all agree on that but we are limited by our beliefs. We also want less conflict but haven’t learned how to use non violent communication. The following beliefs block a two ways communication: I will not be understood, they do not care about what I need, they will feel attacked if I told them so, We are not at work to talk about ourselves…

Learning to communicate

Communication is something we learned as infant. It constructs our belief system as well as our mental models. We interpret the world through verbal and non-verbal communication. There is so much to discover about the way we communicate and how for example expressing our feelings in a foreign language makes us less emotional because our emotions are linked to the words we learned as children. We need to learn how to communicate differently which means that we need to change our point of view on communication. We must be aware of our beliefs and question them. “is all that I believe true?”

We can learn the inquisitive and non violent communication. Expressing our needs and asking clarifying questions. It takes time but gives so much power to the participants because they are enabled to act and co-create a new reality. Bringing our true self to work goes against societal rules. There is this a kind of personality dissociation where the person at work is different than the one at home. The mask we wear at work is an attempt to protect ourselves by bringing our EGO to the front.

Nowadays, money is an end

Our relationship to money is really interesting. We want it, we want a lot of it but it is bad to have it. Some of us spend it without care other save it like the ultimate truth. We see money as an end but not as an exchange facilitator or a transfer of energy. We speculate about the worth of a companies. We underpay workers in developed countries to create cheap products that will be sold for 10 times their worth. We have learned that money does not buy happiness but we want more of it to buy stuff that are supposed to make us happy.

We are running after money without vision, without a plan. We put money before people. Having money is a must in our societies without it you cannot afford food, housing, education and so on… but is it the only important thing?

Using money, not being used

We can re-frame our vision of money in order to allow it to flow between us. Money can be an enabler because it facilitate exchange between people, we have forgotten it. Let’s remember that money was created by men. Nowhere, in nature do we see money. The problems we face currently with the financial crises, underpaid workers, price volatility are a reflection of what we believe is true.

Money could be used to enable employees to achieve the company vision. We should also remember that we exist without money. We are even if we possess a million or nothing. We are when we share with others and because we are, we live the life that was meant for us.

Don’t you have enough of this superficial work-life?



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