Intrinsically Pathological

by Matthew on July 26, 2011

I tend to be able to rapidly spot corporate dysfunction as well as probable causes. Not long ago, I spoke with someone who was describing their day-to-day work (very positively) and I predicted some key personality attributes, beliefs, and management style of a particular executive I’d never met in a separate area of the organization. Attributes which frankly threaten the organization’s future. Not long afterwards, my predictions were confirmed to such a degree that even I was surprised.

I’m not bragging; you can probably do the same. Organizations are ultimately run by people, and some very basic psychology, sociology, and economics applied to your view of the organization can be eye-opening.

If you’ve decided to ditch the rat race, it’s probably because corporate structures themselves aren’t satisfying to you, not just because of one particular manager or organization you find unpalatable. Trouble is, organizations are inherently problematic.

One of my favorite articles on the subject is The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office” over on Ribbonfarm; it’s raw brilliance. I wish I had Venkat’s keen perceptions on things, but at least I can learn from reading his work. :) (book review on Tempo forthcoming) I’ve repeated the following axiom from the article countless times, written it down as a reminder, and repeated it to stressed colleagues because it helps to set your expectations:

[O]rganizations don’t suffer pathologies; they are intrinsically pathological constructs.  Idealized organizations are not perfect. They are perfectly pathological.

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