Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dysfunctional Families

Families are a wonderful institution. Typical characteristics of families include unconditional love, trust, understanding, support, care when a family member is ill, empathy, forgiveness, and much more. However, family members can sometimes love each other, but not like each other very much. Family members know how to hit each other’s hot buttons and annoy, anger, and really tick each other off. When carried too far, this can lead to dysfunctional families.  We all know what dysfunctional families are. We see them all of the time on TV.  Many TV sitcoms are about them. Many reality shows parade them, particularly those showing families with children out of control and parents unable to control them (i.e. unable to act as parents). We often see them in our neighborhoods. Perhaps your family itself may be dysfunctional. They are often caused by clashes of personalities, by real or imagined slights, by one family member getting too involved or not involved enough in another family member’s interests, by insufficient or too much control, by being too rigid or not rigid enough.

All well and good, but what can this possibly have to do with the workplace? Well, companies are “families” too. In fact, most people spend more time with their company “family” than with their own personal family. Company “families” have many more “family” members, so the opportunities for tension or conflict are magnified many-fold, in fact probably exponentially. If personal families of 3 to 6 can become dysfunctional, it should be no surprise that company “families” of tens or hundreds or even thousands of people become dysfunctional. When things do become dysfunctional, the effectiveness of the company as a whole, not only your specific organization, is adversely affected, to the detriment of the company. So “family” relations are critical to the success, or possibly even the existence, of the company.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Everyone Does NOT Deserve a Trophy!

There is a very troubling trend in place today. It is a tendency to couch everything that happens in life in terms of its impact on ‘self-esteem’ (a phrase I have grown to despise). [See also Blunt Talk and Black & White Reasoning] The view of those supporting this trend is that if anything can damage people’s self-esteem, it is bad and must be avoided at all cost; only things that protect and nourish self-esteem should be pursued. Self-esteem, by this view, is apparently such a critical treasure that nothing can be said or done that might damage the fragile self-esteem of anyone, lest they descend into depression and a life of despair. The poor dears!

This philosophy has led to the phenomenon of “Everyone gets a trophy” in childhood sports, where every member of a team gets a trophy, whether they’ve won or lost, or whether they’ve earned it or not. By this view the superstar is no more deserving of recognition, or a trophy, than the kid who can do nothing right. As those who grew up with this philosophy have entered the workplace, some carry with them this false view of life. In my opinion, this “Everyone gets a trophy” philosophy leads to dysfunction in the workplace. The reality is that everyone does NOT deserve a trophy!

Since the “Everyone gets a trophy” philosophy is based on a sports metaphor, let’s look at that philosophy in terms of one sport, a swim team. When a new swim team is formed, it generally consists of three classes of people in its ranks: Swimmers, Treaders, and Drowners. Let’s look at the characteristics of each.