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Five Signs You are Working for a Bad Organization

Updated on March 26, 2019
Dr Jerry Allison profile image

Dr. Jerry Allison is founder of Kairos Advising and Consulting and has worked with businesses and teaching students business for 30+ years.


Everyone wants to work for a great organization, one that fits the person well in philosophy and skill level. However, for most people that does not happen because we settle for the best we can get. Regardless of whether a person finds the perfect organization or the organization is just good enough, things change over time. Once in a great while, organizations get better. Unfortunately, things very often get worse. This article examines five signs a person might be in a bad organization and may want to consider leaving.

These five signs are not exhaustive; there may be more than these. Also, these five signs do not need to occur at the same time. Generally, in organizations that start to become bad places to work, only one of these signs may occur. However, over time all five tend to appear. The list is not in any particular order.

There is High Turnover.

When significant numbers of employees leave an organization, there is usually a problem. People leave a firm for one of two reasons: either the employee is dissatisfied with the position currently held or there is a better position somewhere else. The first of these is rather self-explanatory. There will generally be one or two people dissatisfied with any organization. Large numbers of employees that are dissatisfied and leave is a sign that management is ignoring requirements of the employees. The needs of employees can range from safety issues to lack of resources to treatment issues. Regardless of the actual needs, management in this situation has closed itself off from employee needs to serve the needs it thinks are more important. Even worse than this is the situation where management pays attention to the needs of some employees while ignoring the needs of other employees. This latter situation effectively creates complaints of inequity among the workers and can make turnover even larger.

The second situation is where an employee finds something better. This happens and seems to be a normal part of business. However, why would an employee be looking for something better if the current firm met the employee's needs? Now translate this to a mass scale where many people at the same time are finding better positions. Something -- whether monetarily, emotionally, mentally, or physically -- is deficient for many people, causing them to look elsewhere. The only rare exception to this is when another company entices the employee away from the current business with a lucrative offer.

Management is Delusional

When this sign occurs, management either does not see the problems around or tries to explain them away. For example, if there is a large turnover in a given period of time, a manager could name each person who left the firm and provide an explanation of why that person left. While there may be a reason for each person leaving, the fact that so many people left around the same time is completely ignored. Another area of delusion is when managers ignore the problems occurring around them, especially problems that often occur from their own policies. This situation can become quite dangerous because these are things that management just cannot ignore and, if it does, safety or other work related problems can arise. Another area of delusion for management is when only symptoms to problems are addressed rather than the real problems. Often the reason for this is that management believes they can look at a problem and diagnose it without having to actually work to find the real problem. This managerial situation is often a mix of delusional arrogance and laziness. It almost never works out well and usually the employees suffer.

3. Management Does Not Take Responsibility

Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes a person of character to admit it. Sometimes management does not want to admit making erroneous decisions and, instead of admitting it and correcting it, managers can escalate their commitment to the decision. "Doubling down" on a decision without examining it independently can lead to many problems. Another reaction is that it is always much easier to blame someone else and to try to get someone else to correct the symptoms of the bad decision. Both of these only create more problems that may need to be deflected elsewhere.

The Organizational Culture Is One of Protecting Onesself

Organizational culture is how things are done in the firm. An ideal culture is where everyone in the firm is working together to bring success to the firm. This is a team effort. However, the other end of the spectrum is where each person works and makes decisions in their own best interests, making this a sure sign of a decaying organization. No matter how hard management tries, teamwork will never survive in this type of environment. When people operate solely in their own best interests instead of the interests of the organization, organization goals are difficult to accomplish. How do firms get to this position? Generally, it is by ignoring the values the firm once held and adopting values that are arbitrary and ambiguous.

Management Bullies Employees to Get What They Want

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bullying as “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful”. Depending on the firm, management can have a little bit or a lot of power over employees who may be very vulnerable. Verbal abuse by management can be an effective form of bullying employees. Withholding earned benefits such as pay raises or time off because the employee did not “behave” may constitute bullying. Bullying shows itself in several ways. Often management may ignore values statements or other statements of policy until it comes time to bring an employee back in line. A common method of bullying is when management uses unwritten rules, sometimes unknown to the employee, to “correct” an employee’s behavior. These rules can be kept secret or even made up at a moment’s notice in order to pressure an employee into behaving “appropriately”. The goal in this case is to keep the employee off balance by using “rules” that are not apparent to the employee so that the employee has no choice but to react in the “correct” way. However, what often happens is resentment.


These five signs, while not an exhaustive list, can be very telling about an organization. They are signs that management cannot or will not manage effectively. Usually one of these signs begins to creep into an organization when the organization begins to go bad. However, over time the others generally begin to present themselves. Bad management only gets better if it is replaced. An employee in such a situation may seriously want to consider leaving the organization and finding another job. Of course, this this decision must be balanced with other factors such as employment in the current job market, family issues, and other personal issues.


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