Thirty shades of an unhealthy organisation

How many of these shades do you recognise in your organisation? Hopefully not too many, says Bob Little. 

No organisation is perfect. Spotting, and then helping to counter, ‘unhealthy’ organisational issues is a key skill for all – especially L&D professionals – who believe in safeguarding an organisation’s health.

Here are 30 people-orientated issues denoting an unhealthy organisation. There are others.

  1. Seen merely as short-term costs, workers are jettisoned heedless of the medium-term effects on the business – perhaps to massage the balance sheet before the organisation is sold.
  2. Excuses abound for avoiding implementing reports’ and investigations’ recommended actions.
  3. Change happens purely as a reaction to events.
  4. When things go wrong, senior management stresses its inability to influence events.
  5. Workers are asked to do things beyond their competence level…
  6. …When this happens, their managers don’t care.
  7. Advertised posts attract few applicants.
  8. Senior executives abuse their position.
  9. Workers stay beyond when they want to leave, hoping to receive a severance payment.
  10. The organisation revels in past glories rather than planning to meet future challenges.
  11. People aren’t worth their salary in terms of generating revenue or contributing to the organisation.
  12. Income is confused with profitability.
  13. Work and issues are delegated upwards.
  14. Problem people or issues are untouched – to avoid conflict.
  15. Workers do the bare minimum, and lack concern for colleagues.
  16. Workers express irritation with colleagues or the organisation in front of customers and suppliers.
  17. Internal, inter-functional conflicts escalate.
  18. Personal agendas are pursued ahead of the organisation’s needs.
  19. Groups develop for mutual support – and put their interests before the organisation’s.
  20. Senior managers are in their last jobs. With no incentive to drive change, they block change initiatives.
  21. Confidence in the organisation’s leadership diminishes.
  22. Managers don’t develop those who work for them for fear of creating rivals.
  23. Managers suppress new ideas and talent because they believe they must have the monopoly on any creative and praiseworthy initiative.
  24. Workers get little, or no, feedback on their performance.
  25. Procedures and rules are blatantly broken.
  26. Bureaucratic administrative systems are created – hindering the organisation’s effective and efficient operation.
  27. New starters receive little, or no, on-boarding. Indeed, on-boarding is seen as an event, not a process.
  28. Minor decisions are made at a senior level, with little delegated authority to decide things lower down the organisation – especially at the customer-facing level.
  29. Praise is rare – particularly from senior managers, who appear remote and uncaring.
  30. Rumours abound.

While happy to contribute to this list, in-house L&D professionals declined to comment further. However, Hugo Heij, a former senior executive turned business coach, says, “Organisations are like our bodies – to keep them healthy we have to control what we put into them and keep them running smoothly through exercising them. L&D has a major role to play in ensuring that everyone is engaged in doing both of these key things.”


About the author

Bob Little is a veteran of the L&D industry and founder of the elearning movers and shakers list.




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