Corporate Dysfunction Defined

Many of us have experienced the stark contrast of working on a great team and a not-so great team. If you have ever worked on a project where everyone is pulling their weight — that is a great team! If you have ever worked a project where you get to do all of the work — that is a bad team. Nothing new here and yes I’m over simplifying.

But here is reality — normally, YOU don’t get to pick your team. You are just ON one. Good or bad.

In a corporate environment, if you have a number of great teams you have a great culture. If you have more bad teams than good teams, you have a not-so-wonderful culture. You would think there would be more 360-degree feedback reviews performed at a dysfunctional company to isolate and prune the bad teams, but that never seems to happen.

Therefore, you have two areas to explore when things are not-so great at your company:

  1. The underlying contributors of a not-so-great team at the individual team level (i.e. people in a department)
  2. The underlying contributors of a not-so-great team at the leadership level (i.e. executives who set the direction of the company).

Both create the culture. We need to break down this complex system to identify where things are broken.

Dysfunctional individuals are those who:

  • Bully people openly
  • Bully people relationally — deliberately damaging a person’s social standing and relationships
  • Passive aggressively dismiss people and their knowledge and skills
  • Restrict access to information and other leaders
  • Play “trap them with email” games
  • Purposely intimidate people
  • Cross ethical lines — insider trading, bribery, discrimination, fiduciary responsibilities
  • Cross moral lines — lie, not accountable for their actions, lack of integrity
  • Threaten people
  • Push their own work onto other people
  • Have people work on projects that are a dead-end
  • Ding employees on their performance appraisal for no legitimate reasons
  • Blame others for their screw-ups

Dysfunctional leadership includes:

  • Bad decisions or no decisions on critical issues
  • Fraud committed by top management
  • Lack of a clearly stated vision for the company
  • Expecting employees to put in long hours for low pay with no work-life balance
  • Being out of touch with customers and employees with unreasonable expectations
  • Bloated bureaucracies where nothing gets done
  • Management more interested in the bottom line for stockholders
  • A culture of favoritism
  • A culture of fear where employees are afraid of losing their jobs

Dysfunction definitely exists. The website holds a database of more than 8 million company reviews and CEO approval ratings. For companies that have an overall score under 3 out of 5, there are people who are stuck there, working in a place where the culture is toxic.1

Why don’t people just quit?

Some of us can’t quit. Sometimes people are stuck working at a company because it is simply the best paying job in town. Sometimes, people are part of the sandwich generation, taking care of children and parents and there is simply no time to find another job. Sometimes it is because our skills are so specific, that to find a better place of employment we would have to move out of state. It doesn’t stop us from trying, however. We send out hundreds of resumes only to hear crickets for jobs for which we are overqualified.

But then there we are; dreading going to work. Are there really that many awesome company cultures out there? Are there that many inspirational leaders that people want to follow?

Chime in!

Please leave a comment on what you think about dysfunctional teams and dysfunctional leadership. Smuggling has a way to solve these problems, but I want to make sure we are all in agreement on the definition of dysfunction first.

What have you seen in the workplace that you would consider dysfunctional? Do you have more to add to the definition of dysfunction? Tell me in the comments below!

~Natalie Sweeney


Originally published at on April 13, 2016.