Toxic Organizations

Everytime I talk to friends who are changing jobs, 3 out of 5 tell me they are running away from their toxic org. Now being about to change my job myself, I kept thinking about it. No, I wasn’t in a toxic org but I do know how it looks like.

Toxic organizations are poisonous, it is like swiming with the sharks while trying to appear as big as possible not to be eaten,you need strong nerves and competitive powers to exist at all…. If you have 5+ years of experience and hopped a couple of jobs in your past, it is likely that you know what I am talking about.  Working at places like this is like living in a battle field 8 hours a day or more every day.

The toxic battle…Either the whole staff is involved or a couple of colleagues give you  really hard time with their apetite for more and more power or their need to “know everything” , “be the best”. Some uses tradition or enforced rules to suppress everything not originating from them or somehow new. If you are an individual contributor, who has fun at his/her job and ready to try out ideas and do some cool or different things , you will appear in their radar. You get sick of the fact that even your own manager has to find something wrong with every suggestion you make, you lost your proactive impulses because noone ever lets you do something with your expertise without getting approval from the lead, implementing his/her adjustments and ideas in addition  and organizing 5 meetings about it.

 If you are a manager, everything you do and say, every success of your team increase the tension and you find yourself very soon in a power game. Headcounts, decision making power and territories to control in the enterprise are the main drivers. It is all about extending the teams size and influence. No body cares about the changing needs of the busisness or if their team has reached the limit they can optimally handle. Decision making..It is all about bringing the “own” team in to a key role and being able to control the processes. Assertive alpha animals dominate the whole domain. Probably you are or are becoming the managers I was mentioning above. You are probably poisened by your own team as well. Constantly you have the feeling at least a part of your team does not really accept your leadership and underestimates you, you somehow know that they have been gossiping and joking about you when you are not around and they could easily trade you for another manager with the next opportunity. Maybe you have lost your trust and started micromanging and overcontrolling them. Probably it made things worse and they dont take responsibility if they dont have to , they are not productive if not being monitored closely. You gotta come up with the decisions that matter and hold the accountability. They argue with you and with each other, telling how badly things are being handled and critisizing every single thing.  Any constructive suggestion to change something or do something better is punished with hours of critique and discussion, almost humiliating. You are using your authority now to hold the team together and not fall apart. They changed you and your style. They made you that guy they constantly joke about….

In a toxic org, collaboration is a song you hear again and again from your VP s and your own boss sing. Nobody believes in it. Company goals and objectives might be partly and fully rejected in reality , when they don’t comply to the rules of the game in the toxic organization. The employees have to choose their side , build networks and defence mechanisms. Fingerpointing, lack of transparency, emotional burst outs are typical signs you can observe every day. You come to work with a feeling there are people not finding you ok no matter what you do , you go to meetings with some idea you believe in and you somehow know that  nobody would support it even if it were the best idea the’d heard. Nobody tells what they really think but everybody senses it. You learn to be alert and not to trust anybody quite soon in the texic org.

And one day you are out.! You leave the battel field. First you cannot believe it is happening, then a wierd feeling of happiness fills you in days long. Yayyy! Your new position and org is really different and most of  them seem so friendly. You are asked constantly if you need help, they tell you their honest opinion during discussions, when you talk to your boss you dont get the feeling he is behaving weird and uneasy after 5 minutes , as if he had something way more important and urgent to do. If you are a manager, you are surprised how much credit you got from your subordinates and how willing they are to get on the same page with you and let you lead.

Yes, I can imagine. You have this wierd funny feeling inside. Is it all real? Is this happening? You should be extra careful before you open up, ha?  What are you going to do? Obviosly you know how to play in the battle field, even if you werent a killer yourself.  It is not gonna be so easy to be healed and you gotto consciously work on your feelings, subconscious and learn how to trust others again. In this new world you were longing for , you are still  an alien.

(And what to do about toxic orgs? You need management that understands the urgency of  the situation and initiates a culture change. Maybe it is a nice topic for the next posting. 🙂 )

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