Dysfunctional organizations

Help identify and prevent the evolvement of dysfunctionality within organizations.

Copy to your organization

I know what is meant by dysfunctionality

The word dysfunctional contains the prefix dys-  from the Greek meaning “bad”, “abnormal”, “difficult”, or “impaired”.

Dysfunction describes something that is functioning poorly (not as intended).

I know what is meant by a dysfunctional organization

We can say that an organization is dysfunctional when it works in a way that is not consistent with the goal it’s supposed to pursue.

In the context of organizations, the term dysfunctionality is also commonly used to refer to behaviour which does not withstand social scrutiny, had it been made visible outside of the organization.

I know why dysfunctionality occurs

No one sets out to create dysfunctionality. Yet, it frequently occurs.

The only logical explanation for this is that dysfunctionality is what happens when we are not mindful of its traits and work towards eradicating it, by being intentional about how we design the organization, its structures and incentives.

Think of dysfunctionality as a garden weed. It will crop up even though you never planted it, and if you don't take care to identify and regularly weed it out, it will spread until it has taken over your entire garden.

To which extent weed will be sorted out depends on the skills and availability of someone attending to the garden.

In the same way, or ability to avoid dysfunctional organizations depends on the ratio of great leaders available to the organization, and their ability to prioritize their leadership roles (i.e. practicing proactive leadership).

I can recognize dysfunctionality in an organization 2
  • Conflicts and people pulling in different directions (office politics)
  • The feeling of an uphill battle in order to get any real work done
  • People only caring about themselves and their own work, not caring if others around them are successful
  • People being frustrated with and blaming each other for why work isn't meeting expectations
I know the effects of dysfunctionality within an organization 2

This article (in Norwegian) gives a great example of what a dysfunctional organization looks like. The excerpts from the Deloitte report are especially interesting.

Here is another article describing another organization where there "aren't enough hours in the day".

Here is an article where the leader has been given too many roles.


Executive roles Leadership stages Leadership support and enablement Leadership development