Dysfunctional Organizations


Dysfunctional is usually applied to families, but also to describe anything from a broken appliance to society at large. To qualify as dysfunctional, obviously the subject in question has ceased to function, or perhaps never functioned in the first place. A family cannot function if the individual members don¹t communicate their ideas, feelings, needs, and desires. Lack of communication is usually embraced and reinforced by a stringent set of unspoken rules. The same theory can be applied to organizations. Unfortunately, like many I have been part of a dysfunctional organization, although the main problem was contained in one department, but much like teams, I feel an organization is only as strong as their weakest link.


In October 1999, I had recently been appointed Assistant Regional Director of Servicing Operations for a major mortgage lender in California. I had recently graduated from college and I had 5 years of servicing experience with the organization and I felt this would be an excellent opportunity for advancement in my career. I was well aware of the departments problems prior to taking the position, but for some reason I felt as though I would be the one to go to bat for my subordinates, reduce turn-over, increase productivity and finally bring the mortgage delinquency down to a respectable percentage. This was a huge order, but I was up for the challenge.


Throughout my undergraduate program I learned many definitions of Leadership and I was determined to be a Leader rather than a Manager. Little did I know how much support I needed from upper management and colleagues to make this possible. When I first started with this company I was attracted to the scores of smart, motivated, and talented people that populated this organization, although I did notice that they do not often pull in the same direction at the same time. When they did, they can execute brilliant, breakout strategic moves, but the organization typically lacks the discipline and coordination to repeat these successes on a consistent basis. I was conscious that this organization has an abundance of Managers, whose reputation of “doing things right” was well known in the Mortgage Lending industry. There was not a goal they couldn’t obtain or Industry records they couldn’t break, regardless of ethical concerns.


The success of our organization depended upon the people who are employed by the organization. The organization’s servicing division had been plagued by low moral and high turn over rate. There is a lack in quality that would improve the organization, the business and the individuals. The department had created an “everyone for themselves” atmosphere, which was brought on because of the ever-changing bonus structures. The bonus structure had promoted individualism, whereas if we (management) remove the bonus structure it would have created more teamwork and increase productivity, as stated in our mission statement.


The complexities of these problems began the previous year when the organization brought aboard a new Department Director, Robert Willis. Robert Willis came to us from an organization where they promoted a “sink or swim” attitude toward its employees. Mr. Willis brought with him his theories, ideologies and philosophies, which were instilled, in him from his former employer. Needless to say his management styles were old and out dated, and it almost seemed as though he had been subjected to Freire’s “Banking Concept” (Freire pg 72). He didn’t really know why he planned and organized the way he did. There was really no rhyme or reason for the decision making or goals he set, all he know is how he was taught and that it worked for him at his last job so he was determined to make it work here. Hoping no one would question his authority. Our management team welcomed these approaches in hopes to meet and exceed our goals set fourth by our Executive Team, which were now getting more and more stringent. The only problem was Mr. Willis was not willing to adapt our corporate culture, and put fourth an effort to make our corporate culture adapt to his styles. “Status, power, and domination of the oppressor are not possible without the existence of the oppressed. The oppressor is dehumanized by the act of oppression while the existential reality of oppression and