Toxic Work Environment: Your Corporate Behavior Lexicon Survival Kit
- Does your boss act out and throw tantrums like a spoiled child?
- Does your company ship most of its product in the last 24 hours of the quarter?
- Are you afraid to bring up specific hot-button issues in meetings for fear of being humiliated?
- Do you spend more time covering your ass than you do sitting on it?
- Is your company in a perpetual state of limbo because nobody can make a decision?
- Does your company’s mission statement change weekly?
These are all signs of a dysfunctional workplace. But don’t fret; you’re not alone. Oh no, it’s not just sarcastic sayings or sarcastic quotes, in fact, an entire lexicon has grown up around dysfunctional corporate behavior.
See if you can recognize some of the issues that drive you and your co-workers nuts in these definitions
- Analysis paralysis
Chronic debating that obstructs the decision-making process. Often a systemic problem within a company and a symptom of dysfunctional leadership, processes, and pretty much everything else. Also, see disruptive management style.
- Breathing your own fumes
When executives actually start to believe and make decisions based on the spin-doctored bulls**t they consistently spew out to the media, analysts, investors, customers, and employees.
- Blowing smoke up someone’s ass
Feeding an insincere compliment or bulls**t to someone who should know better but hasn’t been around long enough to develop a healthy, cynical filter against that sort of thing. Not to be confused with having your head stuck up someone’s ass.
- Committing political suicide
Pissing off or going toe-to-toe with your dysfunctional boss, some other self-important executive, or someone one of those people mistakenly trust more than they trust you. AKA a career-ending move.CYA. Means cover your ass. It’s what weak, small-minded people do when they should be doing the right thing instead.
- Disruptive management style
Euphemism for an executive who chronically swoops into meetings and makes wild, half-assed decisions based on limited data. Also, an executive prone to mucking with processes and projects and making everyone affected wants to strangle him. Can cause strategy or roadmap du jour and analysis paralysis.
- Don’t s**t where you eat
I think everybody knows this one … except maybe Bill Clinton.
- End of quarter panic
The last week of the quarter when everybody – especially sales – wakes up and does their job. Usually results in pulling an all-nighter on the last day, followed by 12 weeks of partying.
- Going down a rat-hole
When two or more people get into a non-productive fight or argument over a hot topic where neither side will give in. Often occurs when one pushes another’s buttons and can involve emotional outbursts, acting out, cursing and name-calling. See take it off-line – the only cure.
- Hallway meeting
This is when managers make decisions, in the hallway or an office or cubicle, they shouldn’t be making. The manager who is supposed to be making these decisions is typically missing from hallway meetings. Often the result of passive-aggressive behavior and results in strategy or roadmap du jour.
- Ivory tower mentality
When senior officers cut themselves off from employees, investors, and customers, typically by adding protective layers of superfluous executives, secretaries, voicemail systems, and outer offices. Caused by a deep fear of confronting their own issues, not because they think they’re better than you.
- Moral flexibility
I first heard this expression in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank where John Cusack’s character is an assassin possessing a certain moral flexibility. The same thing with executives that possess this quality, except the fallout leads to fraud, scandal, and shareholders losing their savings, not their lives.
- Passive aggressive behavior
When somebody agrees to a plan against his wishes – typically in a meeting with everyone present – and then goes off and does what he wanted to do in the first place, usually without telling anybody. Similar to an end around can also be related to backstabbing.
- Sacred cow
A project that’s immune to the company’s typical processes – like operating plans, phase reviews and budgeting – because it’s a self-important executive’s pet project. Not to be confused with a sacred animal you’re not supposed to eat or wear, although drinking its milk is apparently okay.
- Silo mentality
When people focus solely on themselves, their department, their division, whatever, to the detriment of the broader organization. Similar to a bunker mentality, which is a defensive behavior to protect a project or organization that should have been killed long ago.
- Strategy du jour
When dysfunctional executives consistently overreact to a single data point or hallway meeting and take the entire organization in a new direction instead of sticking with “the plan.” A serious problem that often results in spiraling morale, efficiency, and operating performance. AKA roadmap du jour. Not to be confused with a common secondary symptom – reorg du jour.
- Take it off-line
What you do when one or more people get completely off-track or off-topic in a meeting, sometimes going down a rat-hole. Also, what you tell two people who are getting into an embarrassing display of childish emotion in what’s supposed to be a civilized work environment.
- Title inflation
When most of a company’s employees are VPs who are not qualified to sweep a normal company’s floors.
If you identify chronic evidence of several of these afflictions in your company, you may wish to consider alternative employment options. If, on the other hand, you’re the cause, I understand that Lexapro and Celexa work wonders. A little psychotherapy probably wouldn’t hurt, either.