Dysfunction Junction

You know you’re dealing with a dysfunctional organization when …

  • Management places special emphasis on their purported role as “leaders.”
  • The enterprise “strategic plan” merely describes what the organization is already doing, not how it intends to respond to unexpected challenges.
  • Every level of the organization uses the complexity of the operating environment as an excuse to avoid planning for likely contingencies.
  • Hackneyed business cliches are used as a replacement for substantive communication.

Fr’instance, here are some examples of pseudo-speak that Lunghu wouldn’t mind if he never heard again, because he hears these phrases used every. single. day.

  • do me a favor …
  • it’s not a big deal.
  • it’s not rocket science.
  • it’s not a heavy lift.
  • not a problem.
  • sounds good to me.
  • we’ll figure it out.
  • it’s a work in progress.
  • we’re getting there.
  • do what you gotta do.
  • whatever’s good for you.
  • it’s all good.
  • it is what it is.

Lunghu has previously mentioned the truly valuable work of Diego Gambetta, whose “Codes of the Underworld” has some very interesting things to say about coded language that conveys something other than the literal content of its verbiage, and the social (or antisocial) function of such language.   Here’s what Gambetta has to say about the strategy and importance of signaling one’s own incompetence within a corrupt system:

“There is near universal agreement that loyalty and subservience to the baroni … are the currency that gains promotion for applicants.  Positions in the selection committees rotate.  The baroni serving on the committees in any one [promotion process] agree to give some of the jobs to [proteges] of those who are not on the committees, with the expectation that they will reciprocate in the next round.  The baroni operate on the basis of reciprocity, which requires a lot of trust. …

[Among the baroni], being incompetent and displaying it conveys the message that ‘I will not run away, for I have no strong legs to run anywhere else.‘   In a corrupt [environment], being good at and interested in one’s [job] signal a potential for developing one’s career independent of corrupt reciprocity.   This makes one feared.  The successful baroni are those who best assure others by displaying, through lack of competence and lack of interest … that they will comply with the pacts.

[This applies] also to the selection of candidates for promotion.  The corrupt deals are not only among peers —the baroni—  but also between barons and candidates [for promotion], who enter into a ‘contract’ with their sponsors, exchanging a promotion for a promise of unswerving loyalty.”

Allow Lunghu to connect the dots for you here:  chances are you’re not dealing with a merely dysfunctional organization, but a thoroughly corrupt one.  Thought you might like to know.

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