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Why Corporate Dysfunction Is Deadly


by Keith Martino, head of CMI and author of “Expect Leadership”

Matt took great delight in our mentioning that his sales team was effectively dysfunctional. He praised their competitive, “take no prisoners” mentality. He beamed each time a winner taunted a struggling teammate. He stoked the notion of “beat your brother’s brains out.” In short, Matt rationalized how this fierce, aggressive, individual pursuit of success was healthy within a world class sales organization.

It worked. Matt’s branch shot to the top. Profitability soared. Banter replaced camaraderie. And true to their word, senior management promoted Matt amidst great fanfare. After all, Matt was their rising star. He knew how to “get results!”

The crash took a year to incubate. Matt’s promotion gave him national influence and responsibility. And with the informal mindset of “every man for himself,” Matt’s new branches stopped sharing best practices. They lost sight of their common objectives. They relished this new “do your own thing” mantra and embraced it with zest.

Soon production managers picked up on the insular mentality and it spread. They created their own metrics and over-hyped the rivalries. Marketing joined the fray and Matt raced the company rapidly over a cliff.

Matt’s termination was announced quietly. Today he’s looking for a job.

So, is internal competition a bad thing? Of course not. But once friendly competition replaces collaboration as the corporate culture it wrecks companies, teams and lives.

Is ruthless competition the only form of divisional dysfunction?

Nope. What about departmental arrogance? Or how about passive aggressive mischief? What about sloppy execution or the failure to meet deadlines? What about favoritism or inter-departmental isolation? These are all symptoms of a lethal “me” versus “we” mindset.

Here are three reasons you should eradicate dysfunction ASAP.

  • The best employees want to be successful in something larger than themselves.
  • An individual’s lack of consideration for a peer yields animosity between departments.
  • It’s hard to foster unity of spirit unless everyone is contributing daily to the momentum.

How do you know if your company is showing signs of dysfunctional behavior?

  • When you walk through the office do you see plenty of smiling faces?
  • Are team meetings energetic and productive?
  • Are your departments meeting or beating collective deadlines?
  • Are your most talented new employees helping your company recruit new teammates?
  • Are you exceeding your goals for customer satisfaction and financial performance?

We would maintain that if your answer is “no” for two or more of these questions, you are subtly or visibly suffering from some level of dysfunction in your company. In our next article, we will provide proven prescriptions for departmental dysfunction.

Matt took great delight in our mentionimg that his sales team was effectively dysfunctional. He thought superstars took ultimate satisfaction in personal victories. Matt turned his head when “winners” were unkind to their teammates. And he did little to light the flame of the team torch.

An old comic strip called Smokey the Bear promoted the slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Start today. Your company’s future will be bright when you carefully and consistently snuff out the dysfunction.


Keith Martino is head of CMI, a global consultancy founded in 1999 that customizes leadership and sales development initiatives. Martino is the author of Expect Leadership, a series of leadership books – The Executive Edition, in Business, in Engineering, and in Technology. He has also published three sales handbooks, Get Results, Results Now, and “Selling to Americans“. After more than 20 years and numerous awards at FedEx, Xerox and Baxter Healthcare, Martino and his team provide world-class counsel and proven web-based tools that produce consistent results.