Eliminate Organizational Dysfunction


Eliminate Organizational Dysfunction

Changing the Brain of Your Organization

Dysfunction - the abnormal or impaired functioning of an individual, team or organization relative to established norms, tends to be rampant even in the best organizations. Once it takes root and dysfunctional behavior is tolerated, it can infect the work place, showing itself symptomatically through a lack of employee engagement, substandard performance, attitude of entitlement and ineffective leadership. 

Coaches, consultants, and other types of Developmental Practitioners are often brought into organizations to deal with dysfunction and to realign behaviors that get in the way of achieving goals and objectives. Approaches often include building new and better employee systems such as a performance management system or a leadership development program. In addition, team-building activities are used as a way of helping the team build trust through offsite experiences. A few individual coaching sessions may be provided to individuals who are underperforming with the idea of “fixing” their behavior. Leaders are also be coached on why they aren’t achieving the type of impact the organization thinks they should. Although all of these approaches are somewhat effective, they still can fail to eliminate dysfunctional behavior in organizations.  When leaders and employees are caught up in patterns of emotionally driven behaviors, the solution can’t be a rational or cognitive one; or a quick one.

Too often, organizations look to Developmental Practitioners for a quick fix. They want to know that a sound rational approach will be used and that change will happen swiftly and with minimal challenge to them. Frequently they don’t want to spend the necessary money to move their organization from destructive dysfunctional patterns to productive functioning. This is because they don’t understand that in order to alleviate dysfunction, they have to change the brains of their employees by giving them new experiences over time, helping them to make the shift from just surviving at work to fully engaged, self-actualizing behavior.    

Emotional Reasoning Drives Dysfunctional Behavior

Contrary to what most people like to think, the rational brain does not govern our behavior. Dysfunction in organizations is an emotional issue, not a rational one. If that were the case, we could easily tell people what they needed to do and if it were reasonable, they would. Because the majority of dysfunction is caused by frustrated needs and the behaviors that emerge when needs are not met, Developmental Practitioners don’t always get to the root cause when seeking to help organizations.

Fear, anxiety, hopelessness, helplessness, resentment are just some of the emotions that trigger emotionally driven self-protective patterns of behavior as they disconnect the emotional brain from the rational brain. While in healthy organizations, these feelings exist, they are not the overriding experience that employees have. Often, employees are not aware of how their feelings affect their work and work environment. Many spend their days feeling afraid of their boss or that they will be fired. They may also fear the office bully or gossip mill. Their prevailing experience at work is anxiety, causing them to disengage rather than engage. They may also add to the negative work environment by talking about how awful it is or by withdrawing and not doing anything about it.

Another example is the leader, who wants to be effective with their employees but wants to be seen as a “nice guy or gal,” which is an emotionally driven agenda. They fear their employees will be upset with them and can’t bring themselves to challenge or deal with poor performance.  Emotional reasoning and emotional ideas, i.e. “I don’t like it when my boss tells me what to do, so I don’t have to do what she says.” or “I will be fair to my employees and they will all work really hard,” need to be seen for what they are and how they engender a workplace that is driven by emotions.    

Need to Change the Functioning of the Brain

Leadership, employee and team dysfunction can’t be cured by introducing rational solutions such as a new performance management system or 360 Feedback Assessment. Nor can they be changed by a leadership development program that doesn’t create new experiences, practice and ongoing coaching for participants over time. These systems rarely address the psychological needs that must be met in order for employees and the organization to make the shift from surviving to thriving, nor do they provide the experiences that the brain needs to create new patterns of behavior. 

Making the shift from dysfunction to function requires changing the brain. If employees are coming to work in their Self-Protective System – the part of the brain that ensures survival – their dysfunctional behavior will not be affected by pep talks, new learnings, or rationalizations. Likewise, if people are told they have to change or else, they will change temporarily only to resume the original unproductive or dysfunctional behaviors that are embedded in their brains.

Treating the symptoms of organizational dysfunction leads to some relief, but it doesn’t get to the root cause. For sustained and permanent change to happen, leaders and employees alike must become aware of their needs and their own emotionally driven behaviors. This way, they can start making the shift to behaviors that ensure they are using a more reasoned approach when they experience fear, frustration and helplessness in the workplace.  They need to have new experiences in addition to being hand held through the change process.  

A New Way of Thinking about What Developmental Practitioners Do

It is possible for Developmental Practitioners to alleviate dysfunctions in organizations. However, trying to create sustained behavioral change and new functional patterns of behavior without knowing the internal functioning of the human brain can be like the blind leading the blind. With everything that we now know about the brain and how it changes (through new, repeated experiences over time), it is essential to incorporate this knowledge into developmental and change programs as well as to integrate this into the context of the organization. We have found that by using the Striving Styles Personality System with our clients, we can take them though the process of building awareness of dysfunction, the frustrated needs and emotions behind it, give them a roadmap for brain development and lead and guide people to achieving their potential. They understand the steps, the process, the emotional resistance and how to work through it and the time it will take as a result. Without such an approach, the great risk is temporary relief from the symptoms of the dysfunction with ultimately reverting to the self-protective behaviors.

Everyone who works as a Developmental Practitioner has the potential to help clients create permanent change by helping clients build awareness and change the way their brains function. Whether they are a coach, counselor, psychotherapist or facilitator, it is critical for them to understand how the human brain works and how new habits and behavioral patterns are created so that they develop programs and approaches that take employees, leaders and organizations from surviving to thriving.   

Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D.

Striving Styles Personality System



I am excited to share that our book, Who Are You Meant to Be; A Revolutionary Approach to Achieving Your True Potential will be featured on…
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I am excited to share that my book, Who Are You Meant to Be; A Revolutionary Approach to Achieving Your True Potential will be featured on …
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Using the Striving Styles can improve your relationships. https://t.co/kbVPqpgh
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