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Sociopathy, Management and Emerging Organistional Dysfunction

I am sure that many of you must have wondered about how once great and supremely competent organizations decay into mediocre and pathetic shadows of their former selves. In previous eras, it was hard to follow the behavior, decisions and internal atmosphere of many organizations due to lack of cheap and ubiquitous communication technology. That has changed in the last decade or so, allowing us to follow the course of slow train-wrecks in unprecedented detail.

Almost every single successful organization is usually started by very competent, innovative and dedicated persons. Even their generation 0 (present at founding) and 1 (first major hires) bureaucrats and managers are unusually competent and intelligent. So far so good.. The problem for every organization starts with its generation 2 bureaucrats and managers, whose ability and mentality are closer to those found in your average stagnating and dysfunctional organization.

Such mediocre people are hired because of reasons ranging from necessity, deception by job seekers to making it more like a ‘normal’ organization. Regardless of the reasons behind their initial hiring these scumbags soon proliferate and slowly ruin the organization through a variety of methods and behaviors. Since these scumbags are usually hired during the later part of the initial growth phase, they are around to influence the creation of the 2nd round of rules, procedures and other managerial bullshit. It is necessary to understand that most of internal managerial apparatus of any organization is meant for petty power plays and enriching unscrupulous rent-seekers.

The next step in the disease process comes about when the organization undergoes its 2nd or 3rd major expansion. This is usually the first time these, now promoted, scumbags get the first real chance to abuse their power. In pretty much every single case, the modus operandi follows a well-worn pattern. The scumbags start by hiring more venal and stupider versions of them as subordinates. They then start creating policies, rules and procedures that help them expand their little fiefdoms and consolidate their power. They also intimidate, harass and fire productive and innovative employees. The net result of this pattern is that while real productivity and innovation suffer, so-called ‘objective’ measures of corporate performance increase- setting the next step in motion.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, power hunger and venal scumbags cut their teeth on screwing emerging divisions and groups in a company. However, they rarely hang around till their failure is evident. Instead, they use success to get themselves promoted up the hierarchy where they can repeat what they did on a much larger scale. The venal scumbags hired by them frequently also move up the corporate ladder and go on to hire even more venal and dumber sociopaths while harassing and firing most of the remaining competent people. Now you have an organization driven by scams, intrigue, fear, fiefdoms, warlords with barely any competent people to do the job or innovate. These dysfunctional organizations can however remain afloat for upto a decade after things go to hell because of size, inertia and purchasing political favor.

Since the external world keeps on evolving, malfunctional organizations do eventually have to contend with their demise- whether it is due to competitors, newer technology or loss of the original customers for their shit. At such times, the biggest sociopaths (senior management) in the organization either sell it, liquidate it or let it implode in a manner that will make them tons of money. They do nor care about inconsequential stuff such as most of their shareholders, remaining employees, acquired technology, human knowledge base or anything of value. For them it is a game about who can steal the most money and then repeat that same cycle at another organization.

Comments?

  1. With the thoughts you’d be thinkin
    July 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    How accaurate on the nature of this world of ours.

  2. georgec
    July 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Sounds about right, and obviously applicable to civilizations and countries as well.

    Ah, human nature! There is no way around it, is there. The eternal cycle that repeats itself in any organization containing human beings – glory followed by decadence followed by new glory followed by new decadence. We can all sit back and enjoy the comedy!

  3. July 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Organizations, companies, associations and the like have no precedent in history. They don’t look like empires or civilizations or tribes or anything else, although they are similar to Christian monastical orders. They are modern inventions. The problem with them is that they are considered as persons although they are composed of many persons. As such they are anonymous persons. Consequently, no one can never punish them.

    • July 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      It is obvious to me that the laws of corporations were made to protect the sociopaths.

  4. July 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    are you suggesting that entrepreneurial startups are the only organizations that have integrity?

    Not all of them.. but yes.

  5. the dude
    July 31, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Very precise observation. Question is, do you play along as long as that rent keeps coming in?

    Well… if you can tolerate it AND the rent keeps on coming in.

  6. July 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    To you all, I recommend Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s book “Parkinson: The Law”, especially the chapter about “injeititis” (portmanteau of “incompetence” and “jealousy”). It explains a lot.

  7. NUHWKen
    September 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I think the goals change for the individuals in charge. This is to say that the innovators and originators of a corporation look at their creation like a child. Something to protect and nurture. So they do. As the leadership is passed down, management stops treating their company like a step child (because after all, this child is not really theirs) and eventually not part of their family at all. Eventually the relationship is more farmer-cow where they only see value as to the price of milk. At some point, the perceived value will be even less than that, the company that may not give more milk so it’s only value is to be slaughtered. The folly is apparent…but what will we do when innovation is no longer renewable?

  1. July 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm
  2. November 27, 2011 at 10:26 am
  3. January 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

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