Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Dysfunctional Company

Every time I get a new job, I start off with a very happy view of the new company. Internal divisions and politics are invisible to me, I am not aware of any possible mistakes that the company may be making, and the place just appears to me as a companionable group of people all striving towards a common purpose.

People are not eager to disabuse you of these notions either. They don't know you yet, so they won't complain about other people to you, or about the company itself. They're certainly not going to harsh your new job buzz by telling you the whole thing's going into the crapper because management can't tell its ass from a hole in the ground.

Over time, you slowly learn. So-and-so is an incompetent bully. Promotions haven't been decided fairly. Department Y is a bunch of morons. The CFO is an alcoholic. The last few announcements by management turned out to be morale-destroying lies.

(None of this is true of my current company, incidentally. I wouldn't dare blog about the things that are actually true.)

This disillusionment phase is always a little bit hard on me. I want to know the gossip and news, but part of me also wants to retain my state of innocence. I like believing that I'm working for a really functional, good company without any fatal flaws.

But it occurs to me that companies are actually just like people. If a person isn't obviously dysfunctional or grossly flawed, you will still learn, if you get to know them well enough, that they have deep flaws or dysfunctions of some kind. Often there are obvious ways you can imagine them optimizing their behavior, but which they are unwilling or unable to adopt. Sometimes these prove to be intolerable, but usually they just go into the overall balance of your feelings about the person (and can even endear them to you).

Why should a company be any different?


Edward said...

That's interesting.

The... impatience... with the company outside my immediate team was blatant from day one. But my employer is huge.

Within the immediate team... not much yet, but time will tell.

Sally said...

I wouldn't say that the lack of eagerness in other people to abuse you of your blithe unawareness of the organization's faults is universal. In a sufficiently large organization, in which you have contact with more than just a few people, it seems like there's always at least one person who is happy to let you know the bad stuff.

Anyway, I would expect companies to actually be worse than individual people.

Tam said...

Anyway, I would expect companies to actually be worse than individual people.

Yeah, and they probably are in some ways.