Dysfunctional Workplace Cultures to Avoid

It’s true – there’s no such thing as a perfect workplace. Every organizational culture has its positives and negatives. But in my experience with employee engagement, there are two particular workplace environments to be avoided at all costs.

“Oppression by purpose” describes “companies whose mission to make a positive difference in the world, but essentially do so on the backs of their employees.”  [Source: When Employee Engagement Turns Into Employee Burnout by Tony Schwartz, March 13, 2105] Consider the company that prides itself on supporting a special cause (e.g., protecting the environment, enhancing educational opportunities, helping communities become healthier, etc.) with mandatory employee participation; i.e., employee involvement is “voluntold” not voluntary.  Just because an organization serves a worthwhile purpose does not ensure it is a great place to work.

Institutional disrespect is another organizational culture to avoid. This workplace is characterized by managers who bully employees without repercussion, including those who ignore or dismiss company protocol to assert their perceived power. An environment in which managers continually undermine employee efforts is not healthy,

Both cultures share characteristics of a toxic workplace that suck the life out of employee enthusiasm where doing meaningful work is not enough to sustain their engagement.

Seriously, it’s no fun to work in a dysfunctional organization.


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