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Dysfunctional is usually applied to families, but also to describe anything from a broken appliance to society at large. To qualify as dysfunctional, obviously the thing in question has ceased to function, or perhaps never functioned in the first place. A family cannot function if the individual members don№t communicate their ideas, feelings, needs, and desires. Lack of communication is usually embraced and reinforced by a stringent set of unspoken rules. The same theory can be applied to organizations. Unfortunately I have been part of a dysfunctional organization, although the main problem was contained in one department, but much like teams, an organization is only as strong as their weakest link.

I was a Director of Servicing Operations for a major mortgage lender in California. I had recently graduate from college and I had 5 years of servicing experience with the organization and I felt this would be an excellent opportunity for advancement in my career. I was well aware of the departments problems prior to taking the position, but for some reason I felt as though I would be the one to go to bat for my subordinates, reduce turn-over, increase productivity and finally bring the mortgage delinquency down to a respectable percentage. This was a huge order, but I was up for the challenge.

Throughout my undergrad I learned many definitions of Leadership and I was determined to be a Leader rather than a Manager. Little did I know how much support I needed from upper management and colleagues to make this possible. When I first started with this company I was attracted to the scores of smart, motivated, and talented people that populated this organization, although I did notice that they do not often pull in the same direction at the same time. When they did, they can execute brilliant, breakout strategic moves, but the organization typically lacks the discipline and coordination to repeat these successes on a consistent basis. I was well aware that this organization has an abundance of Managers, whose reputation of “doing things right” was well known in the Mortgage Lending industry. There was not a goal they couldn’t obtain or Industry records they couldn’t break, regardless of ethical concerns.

After reading the Four Truths presentation, I knew I belonged to a Neurotic Organization.

It is an environment that lures intellect and initiative—those people with an entrepreneurial bent—because the opportunities to pursue an idea and exercise responsibility are abundant. The result, however, can be an organization with a disjointed self-image on the verge of spinning out of control.

All employees want to feel important, to believe that what they say and produce really counts and that their contributions make a difference in the organizations success or failure. Many experts agree the single most powerful motivator is the perception of self-worth.

Dysfunctional systems often include a scapegoat or black sheep. That person has dared mention whatever craziness is going on (shades of the Emperor's New Clothes). Blame rather than thanks or reform ensues. Since literally killing the messenger of bad news has gone out of fashion, harassment may continue until the scapegoat cracks or moves on. Then, a new scapegoat is found. Coworkers disassociate from the scapegoat in hopes of avoiding that fate themselves. Meanwhile, either the problems continue to worsen, or misadvised fixes fail. Leadership is a vacuum. Morale plummets, particularly where the "troublemaker" who cared enough about the organization to report the problem leaves. By contrast, more functional organizations might consider the same individuals valuable troubleshooters, recognizing that problems are easier to correct while still minor.


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