Tag Archives: Neurotic states

Bad Behaviour & Being Happily Unhappy At Work

Businessman with shield.Ask people what is wrong in their workplace and you can get an avalanche of woes and with just a little push, as many ideas for fixing them. At least that’s what it sounds like when nobody up the management hierarchy is present. Professor Chris Argyris of Harvard wrote about this a long time ago and frankly the cleaner could have told us that (An Interview with Chris Argyris). What he added were his observations of behaviours that seemed to maintain this situation – behaviours that undermined the ability of the organisation to learn and make appropriate changes. Behaviours that reinforced the social, power structure (hierarchy) and just as often the beliefs and attitudes people held about others. He called these behaviours ‘Organisational Defensive Routines’. Argyris identified that it took a lot of skill to use and maintain these routines. (They can be used to resist change.)

It has struck me that Argyris’s observations has similarities to the observations of Dr. Eric Berne who developed Transactional Analysis (TA) – an approach management trainers flirted with about three to four decades ago. Berne documented interactions in people’s lives that he referred to as ‘Games’. See ‘Games People Play’. Some of the games are relevant to work life and I’m sure we could identify a few that Dr. Berne has missed. One of the fun and obvious games is ‘Harassed’. Here people spend time complaining about workloads and how stressed the situation is. Importantly the participants never take positive steps to rationalise the work and will even take on new tasks. There can be auxiliary games like ‘Lunchbox’ which revolves around eating at your desk, avoiding structured breaks and appearing very committed. The games have a number of benefits including ready-made explanations for any failures/delays/poor standards and evidence of irrational managerial indifference to staff and workloads etcetera. At some point everybody is unhappy with the situation, however in the way that they are supposed to be, leading to the paradoxical conclusion that everybody is happily unhappy. Continue reading

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March 26, 2015 · 9:18 am

Australian Science #2 A Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Comes To Town

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CSIRO Image: Earth Receiving Satellite Dish in Tasmania

Australia’s premier public applied science institution, the CSIRO, is appointing a new CEO, Dr. Larry Marshall. He seems an impressive man with an impressive resume. An Australian Physicist (excellent) that has become a serial entrepreneur (fantastic, a true hero of capitalism) and venture capitalist (the angels and the predators of capitalism) based in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley (ahhh!). Kind of begs the question why he has come back to a public institution in Australia? Well he did and he has history with CSIRO (or at least it’s associated enterprises) as a cadet and understands the position is ‘kind of like being handed a national treasure’. Good start. There is a stated and clear intention to be more commercial. Fair enough, especially given the governments view of the relationship between science and business. In fact, on the surface he appears to be  a poster boy for what the government believes and wants. At Dr. Marshall’s first public interview since accepting the position he made clear some of his personal worldview. Scientists need to, and indeed have an obligation to be entrepreneurs. In short, they have an obligation to be more like him. It seems he is not only to be their CEO, he is to be the role model for our scientists. Of course, he is not saying the CSIRO scientists are failures and haven’t met their obligations, though I’m guessing a few of them will think this is exactly what they heard. I’m also sure he doesn’t mean the scientists should all leave Australia and start businesses in other countries that have more entrepreneurial cultures. What we can be thankful for is that he is not a colorless grey suit.

Context Drives Behavior

Dr. Marshall  took himself off to the entrepreneurial, venture, technology startup capital of the Western World. That is very adventurous! He with time became an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial organizations are driven by a need for survival, to find the Continue reading

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