5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Workplace

dysfunctional workplaces, quotes about dysfunctional workplaces, office moraleWorkplace horror stories and low office morale aren’t something to poke fun at. But some situations are just so effed up that you almost have to laugh at them… just to get through the madness. Whether it’s a micro-managing boss, a jealous colleague, broken processes, lack of processes, unreasonable deadlines, poor employee morale, or verbal harassment – we’ve all either experienced these ourselves or know someone who has (and found their stories amusing).

If you’ve been at the same job for so long that you’re not sure if the place is functional or not, here are 5 blatant signs to help you recognize if you’re at a dysfunctional workplace.

1. Business processes seem “backwards” and no one wants to change them.

Have you ever left a meeting or read an email and thought, “Why is everything here so backwards?” Chances are you’re working with processes that don’t make sense and surrounded by people who don’t want to change them. Those systems were probably put in place years before you arrived, and though times have changed, your colleagues never bothered to evolve. If you’re asking, “ shouldn’t we do things like this?” and hearing, “nah, this is how we’ve always done it, so we’re not going to change,” consider that a big red flag.

2. Management slaps a Band-Aid on their problems rather than addresses them.

The problem could be anything – technology issues, a flawed business model or crappy morale. If management keeps putting Band-Aids on these problems to avoid addressing the elephant in the room, it won’t be long before everyone else starts rumbling about that elephant. Negativity is a virus; it spreads like a disease. The more company leaders try to ignore their issues, the larger those issues become, especially as employees (and even customers) start noticing these unaddressed problems. Hello social media.

3. Everything had to be done “yesterday”, so testing and QA is virtually non-existent.

“I needed this done yesterday!” How many times has someone said that to you? Countless for me. So many things can go terribly wrong when you launch a major initiative or enhancement without testing or completing proper QA simply because someone “wanted it yesterday”. Further to my point above, when business processes are backwards and no one wants to change them, there’s nothing to stop these “should-have-been-launched-yesterday” initiatives. The consequence of releasing something pre-maturely is often heavier than the reward of getting it out there. If management doesn’t recognize that as an issue, the front-line employees (and customers) will always be the ones to suffer.

4. Someone other than your boss is dictating your projects and priorities.

Whether you’re a line employee or a manager, we all report to someone above us in the corporate food chain. It’s your manager’s/director’s job to prioritize your projects and time. If someone else (ie: another department head or a colleague) is usually the one fueling the fire under your ass, there could be a problem with the leadership structure within your organization.

5. Your boss reprimands you openly in front of others.

Everyone screws up from time to time. It’s unavoidable. If you mess up, a good manager would pull you to the side, ask you what happened and suggest process enhancements to avoid a repeat of the same mistake. A good boss would never make a public spectacle of your mistakes among your colleagues. We don’t live in the 1800s and we shouldn’t be publicly hanged for our mistakes. The next time your boss yells at you, remember that!

Truthfully, I could name off a dozen more signs to look out for when determining if you operate in a dysfunctional workplace. But the best way to gauge that for yourself is this:

Ask yourself if you’ve ever said, “Wait a minute – this isn’t normal. What’s wrong with everyone?” If you’ve said those words (or some sort of variation) at least 3 or 4 times about the same company, your office could be considered a dysfunctional workplace.


    • michelle on February 12, 2014 at 4:52 am
    • Reply

    you just described my office in 5 bullet points… sigh

    1. I wrote this post awhile ago about my old workplace. I’m so glad I left there when I did. Sometimes you get to a point where you KNOW it’s never gonna get better. Maybe it’s time to move on?

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