Saturday, February 2, 2013

Is There a Doctor in the House?

I was talking with a good friend today about work, and we were sharing stories about other friends we know who are having a hard time on the job right now, because their bosses are not very nice people and they’re even worse bosses.

The conversation reminded me of another conversation I’d had a long time ago, more than twenty years earlier, in fact. During that conver-sation, I’d been confiding to a former supervisor, a physician, about a lousy work experience I was having, and I’ll never forget what he said. He told me that it sounded like I was working for a sick company.

I thought that was funny, and I laughed. But this former supervisor of mine wanted me to know that he wasn’t merely suggesting I might be working with a few “off” people. He told me that just like an individual can be sick, an organization can be sick. At the time, I was an editor and this physician was a clinician and researcher. Years later, I’d transition into human resources, and he would found an executive coaching company. I think about this and it occurs to me that his statement was something I really needed to hear and would have an impact far beyond the job I had at the time, and he, it turns out, was someone uniquely qualified to say what I needed to hear, and that pleases me.

So, I thought about Dr. Siegler’s comment when talking with my friend and about how it makes me sad that there are so many people who just hate their jobs and for all the right reasons. I’m talking about someone who hates his job because his boss makes him feel small, useless, or invisible. I’m talking about someone who hates his job because his boss is a yeller, manipulator, power monger, liar, or bully. Someone he can’t trust. Someone who most assuredly does not have his best interests at heart. Someone he has to guard against, instead of looking to for assistance, encouragement, and direction. And the truly alarming part is, when this behavior occurs in a sick, or dysfunctional, workplace, the issue is not the bad behavior of one individual. Instead, the issue is whole patterns of behavior that are replicated and tolerated, if not actually encouraged, throughout the organization. And it just drives me crazy that very few leaders seem to give a rat’s behind what’s happening on their watch. Putting aside for the moment the fact that productivity, morale, and mission is being compromised, people are being hurt, and it’s wrong.

The good news is that there is help for what ails these organizations. There are plenty of qualified and motivated coaches, trainers, and consultants to provide insight and practical tips for long-lasting and meaningful change. Of course, someone in control has to want the help. And when I read a statistic, such as I did today, that the United States ranks tenth on the Global Innovation Index, behind Singapore and Denmark, I can’t help wondering when that someone is going to ask for it.


  1. It is sad at the number of people working jobs that literally make them sick because they have no other choice. It is also sad that there is so many bosses out there that let a little power go to their heads and make ppl feel small. I am glad you found someone honest and you are happy!


  2. Hi TabbyAnn! I couldn't agree with you more. By the way, I liked your piece about discouragement/optimism.

  3. I can relate. Years ago, I had a boss who made us all pack up our stuff and play musical offices every few months--as far as I could tell, not to improve productivity but simply because he could. No one spoke up, but this was in the '70s. Today maybe they would.

  4. Hi Linda. Well, that's a first! I guess there's no limit to the ways a bad boss can frustrate his staff. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Crystal, wow, your posts are the first bit of reality I have read about companies. I have worked in corporate America for over 30 years and I am sick and tired of the fraud, misuse, and mistreatment of employees. I was working at Arthur Anderson when they were indicted and it has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I work for a narsististic boss now and I'm just tired. I Love what I do and I'm very good at my work - why is it so hard to be able to do my work well in these dysfunctional organizations?