If there's one thing I've learned about Infosys after more than a year of covering the company's wanton visa and tax fraud and its shameless retaliation against Jay Palmer, the employee and whistleblower who had the guts to expose it all, it's that Infosys is the poster child for corporate dysfunction. So it's unsurprising that my interest would be piqued by a workplace consultant who contends that dysfunctional corporate culture is so pervasive as to be the norm in the corporate world.
That consultant is Nancy Slomowitz, author of the book, "Work Zone Madness: Surviving and Rising Above Workplace Dysfunction." I spoke with Slomowitz last week, and I asked her about her contention that a culture of dysfunction has become standard operating procedure in the workplace. She said it is, indeed, the norm:
I've been in every industry, I've been in the back offices of companies, and I would say there is some form of dysfunction in every company that I've ever seen or heard of. There's some variation of this dysfunction in every company that I have come in contact with. From the outside everything looks great, but when you pull back the curtain, it's almost like Oz-you see what's really going on. Most people aren't exposed to that, so they wouldn't know. But having really come up that way, I've seen it all.
I referred to the gender imbalance in the corporate executive and board member ranks, and I asked Slomowitz if that imbalance is a factor in the pervasiveness of cultural dysfunction. Her response:
Not in the corporate dysfunction I'm referring to, no. What I'm talking about is gender-neutral. I'm talking about people eating other people in the workplace-it's not just women against women or men against women. I find it more offensive when it's women against women, but it happens both ways. I've had difficulty with men, I have had difficulty with women; some of my strongest supporters throughout my career have been women, and I've had to deal with some of the worst. I'm telling you that the things I'm talking about aren't gender vs. gender. They are person against person-people wanting to get ahead, people not willing to work hard. These are the kinds of things you're going to come up against, whether it's a man or a woman working next to you.
Slomowitz also argues that this corporate dysfunction is independent of our economic woes:
Corporate dysfunction exists in good times and in bad times. It's not because of the economy that these problems are occurring. These problems have been there for a really, really long time. I don't want to go back to the horse and buggy, but what happened to apprenticeship programs and people learning on the job? Why does everybody have to get a college degree that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars? People learn best by mirroring someone else and hands-on experience, and our educational system has gotten away from that.
The root of the corporate dysfunction problem, Slomowitz concluded, is simply our loss of focus on doing the right thing:
Everybody wants a simple solution and a magic pill, and I'm just saying it's not there. Or if it is there, I've never seen it. Everybody, employer and employee, needs to look within himself. As an employer, I treat people the way I would want to be treated; I think about the other person when I make a decision. Integrity has been missing. I've not seen a lot of that in the workplace. We've just gotten so far away from doing the right thing. It's more difficult to get ahead that way, but you get longevity out of it -- that's my experience. I say that as an employer, and as an employee I always tried to do the same thing. I'm just trying to convey that to others.