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Posts tagged: the addicted organization

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Stressed on the job? Add rude co-workers to the list of headaches. ”Workplace incivility” is on the rise, researchers said last week at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

The APA academics define workplace incivility as “a form of organizational deviance… characterized by low-intensity behaviors that violate respectful workplace norms, appearing vague propecia and drug interaction as to intent to harm.”

Translation: rudeness, insults and plain old bad manners.

Research suggests “75% to 80% of people have experienced incivility. It’s a growing and prevalent problem,” says Jeannie Trudel of Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion.

Read more of this informative USA Today article here … No More Mr. Nice Guy

Organizational Rehab: A 12-Step Program for Dysfunctional Companies

Many people have emailed me about a blog entry I posted back in December, 2010. It seems that the insight I shared, describing many organizations I’ve worked with (and for) as being “addicted” – hooked on self-centered policies and practices that mirror an active drug addict’s destructive behaviors; really resonated with a lot of people.

One on hand, I feel a sense of humility and deep gratitude for the positive feedback I’ve received on this topic. Equally profound (and surprising, even to me) is the enormous number of emails, phone calls, Facebook posts and Twitter DM’s I’ve received over the last three months from employees around the world. Messages from many, many people whose personal and professional lives have become unmanageable as they struggle to cope with life inside an addictive organization.

To those readers, and to you as first-time visitors to the Live the 8 Blog, I offer you hope in the steps that follow. Because there is hope for you and the organization you work for, just as the possibility exists everyday for the thousands of addicts that will find a new way to live a happy, healthy and productive life free from their drugs/behaviors of choice.

Here are my 12 Steps to Organizational Recovery.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our dysfunctional behaviors, and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that only WE could restore our organization and our people to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to stop doing things just because we’ve always done them that way.
  4. We made a searching and fearless assessment of all of the policies and practices we did well, and the things we needed to improve.
  5. We admitted to ourselves, and to each other, the destructive behaviors that we had to surrender.
  6. We prepared our organization for how tough it was going to be to stop destroying our company, and the employees and customers we said we loved.
  7. We asked every one of our employees for forgiveness.
  8. We made a list of all of our team members, and made amends to them by getting to know them individually, and learning about their strengths.
  9. We redefined people’s roles and responsibilities around their unique talents.
  10. We continued to take an organizational inventory every quarter, and where we had relapsed into dysfunctional behavior, we promptly admitted it.
  11. We established new processes to continually measure success, and recognized those team members that were exceeding the company’s expectations.
  12. Having had an awakening as a result of this cultural transformation, we tried to live our new healthy, happy, productive behaviors daily, and to practice our guiding principles in all that we did.

To continue to do my part, I’ll revisit this topic often throughout 2011. In the meantime, share your story with me at Whether it’s passing along your own experience (in organizational addiction or recovery) or posing questions related to this topic, I’m obligated to be of service to you and always happy to help.

Oh…and FYI:

This version of the twelve steps is an adaptation of the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which can be found here.

The Addicted Organization (Pt. 1 of 3)

Before founding Ascendi in 2004, I spent the better part of two decades in various clinical and administrative capacities in the field of addiction. Having been privileged enough to share in the lives of thousands of recovering addicts and their courageous families, I left that helping profession and transitioned to another – as an executive and organizational coach – which I anticipated being a fairly drastic departure from my previous career path. Little did I know…

What I’ve learned, in the thousands of hours I’ve spent working deep inside some of the world’s most well-known companies, is that addiction is rampant. On the surface, that statement should come as no surprise. But I’m not talking about the prevalence of employee substance abuse or its impact on productivity or profits. I’m talking about addicted organizations – workplaces that, just like the individuals I worked with in the past, are institutions that are experiencing chronic unmanageability. Companies who are seemingly powerless over their behaviors, who are increasingly involved in pathological processes, whose organizational lives have been dominated by destructive relational practices, who have lost a sense of their values and who function primarily out of characteristics such as chaos, crisis orientation, codependency, manipulation, self-centeredness, secretiveness, avoidance, feeling suppression, disconnectedness, denial, dishonesty and dualism.

The more time I spend consulting with organizations today, the more obvious it’s become that more than just “toxic” or “dysfunctional” (pick your euphemistic label du jour) many workplaces function in the exact same manner as the addicts I’ve treated most of my professional life. These organizations are hooked; and when some of them call my company in to help, they’re often (quite literally) just looking for another fix. So as a “corporate therapist”, what do I do in my work with these companies? Naturally…I conduct an intervention.

Over the next three posts, I’ll pass along some of what I’ve learned in my work with these organizations; and many of them (like so many of the gifted yet troubled addicts I’ve worked with) are good companies. They just can’t seem to quit doing bad things.

First, by reflecting back to the leader(s) in these organizations the behaviors they’ve shared that got them here, I help bring them to Step 1 - and (hopefully) to their admission of powerlessness over the old, destructive practices. This is best accomplished in two ways, much like an addiction counselor would intervene with, say, a heroin addict Viagra 100mg.

  1. I ask the “family”. In this case – the employees. Through interviews and surveys, I gather real (read: verifiable) data about the organization’s destructive behavior and deliver the findings back to the CEO. I’m always sure not to attach any of the emotion the employees may have brought to the disclosure and simply list the behaviors and the apparent consequences to their business, internally and externally. Example: “According to 60% of your Account Managers Sally, the Sales Manager’s attempts to boost product sales through intimidation and/or negative reinforcement such as [insert example of said negative behavior] has made them afraid for their jobs. Salespeople trying to build trust and elicit customer appreciation while conversely feeling mistrusted and under-appreciated by their boss (whether real or imagined) will eventually lead to their disengagement.”


  2. I assess the “patient’s” willingness. When I first started out as a consultant, I wrongly assumed that a Service Agreement for some of the organizational development work we do constituted an organization’s admission that they’d reached “bottom”. I soon learned that a signed piece of paper is no more an indication of a real willingness to change than being admitted to rehab signifies an alcoholic’s desire to stop drinking a fifth of Vodka a day. Sometimes the “patient” seeks help to appease a nagging spouse (employee). Other times, a client will involuntarily enter treatment as what we used to call a “nudge by the judge” – mandated to seek help after a DUI conviction or drug-related arrest. In rehab, or in an organizational development project, this might just be an attempt to create the appearance of willingness and to lull the “family” into a false sense of (job) security.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share more insight into the chronic problems facing the addicted organization and my experience in helping to bring these companies into “recovery”.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you! Have you worked in an addicted organization? Are you powerless over the actions of an out-of-control boss? If so, consider the Serenity Prayer that has helped millions of people before you as you try and slay the dragon today…


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”

The good news is…there’s hope. Contrary to popular belief, people (and good companies) do change.