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Darwinian Work Environment
Old 10-07-2010, 08:17 AM   #1
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Darwinian Work Environment

Prompted by another recent post, thought I'd describe the "culture" at the privately held megacorp I work at and see what comments it drew. I've enjoyed my career for the most part until the past few years. But this recession has brought to life the adage 'tough times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others.'

There is a Darwinian aspect to every workplace and maybe even dominant in some departments within companies. But it's the overriding mechanism where I work from the CEO and all the Officers down, which naturally trickles throughout the organization. Not working together and poor performance are routinely tolerated throughout the company. People subtly but clearly undermine each other and that's tolerated as well - as long as it's not overt and blatantly obvious. Instead of intervening, they've clearly taken the position the right people and ideas will prevail, so we'll just let the conflicts play out. [added: the CEO, Pres & VP's literally just watch while people at all levels of the company bash each others heads in, and wait for a winner. The Officers are all hard-working and technically well qualified - but their leadership/managerial skills are mostly awful.] As you might expect, the best ideas have not always prevailed, personalities and alliances have an equal chance to rule the day.

I could go on and on with examples, but anyone else ever worked in such an environment where it permeates the entire organization? When you have a bad boss or localized situation, you can often move to another department to get away from it. Not where I am...
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Old 10-07-2010, 08:43 AM   #2
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Yes. My MiniCorp. So far the paychecks keep coming and I haven't found anything more lucrative so I keep showing up at the trough every workday.
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Old 10-07-2010, 08:55 AM   #3
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The co's I w*rked for usually followed the same pattern: a generally good environment poisoned by one or two sociopaths who were inescapable and who had the inexplicable blessings of those above them.
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:14 AM   #4
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I've mentioned this before, but in my experience, there are sociopaths who are brilliant and hardworking yet work for the reward of being allowed to make others' lives miserable, as opposed to working for their own financial gain. They are tolerated due to their hard work and intelligence, and feared, too. A classic, extreme example of this type of person would be J. Edgar Hoover. MegaMotors was sprinkled with these types.
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:26 AM   #5
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The co's I w*rked for usually followed the same pattern: a generally good environment poisoned by one or two sociopaths who were inescapable and who had the inexplicable blessings of those above them.
We used to explain this with the phrase "he must know where all the bodies are buried".
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:40 AM   #6
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The co's I w*rked for usually followed the same pattern: a generally good environment poisoned by one or two sociopaths who were inescapable and who had the inexplicable blessings of those above them.
I'll add to my OP...
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:51 AM   #7
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My company was poisoned by cronyism which meant that: 1) People at the highest levels were generally unqualified for their position and 2) they could do no wrong (as in the blame always lied with people at the bottom of the pay scale). This culture permeated the entire company. As I have always said, I did not FIRE because I couldn't stand the work. I FIREd because I couldn't stand the people.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:04 AM   #8
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Its impossible , you must all be wrong, that simply can't happen in companies in the market driven capitalist economy

Cronyism and sociopathy have to be identified with unions and government employees or the slogans will simply fall apart
After all we have to have "merit " pay based on honestly efficiently evaluated performance, Just like the private sector




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Old 10-07-2010, 10:18 AM   #9
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Never having worked in a megacorp, I can assure you that small businesses also have these same tendencies and issues. The crazy is just a bit closer to you, that's all.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:21 AM   #10
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We used to explain this with the phrase "he must know where all the bodies are buried".
Ours was "he must have pictures of the CEO with a sheep".
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:32 AM   #11
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Never having worked in a megacorp, I can assure you that small businesses also have these same tendencies and issues. The crazy is just a bit closer to you, that's all.
Excellent point. My first j*b, at age 15, was in a local hardware store owned owned operated by a guy and his sons. What a bunch of loonies. At Christmas the employees were given 10% off certificates for anything in the store. The only problem was that we could buy anything that they sold for 25% off at the local K-Mart.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:40 AM   #12
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The co's I w*rked for usually followed the same pattern: a generally good environment poisoned by one or two sociopaths who were inescapable and who had the inexplicable blessings of those above them.
+1
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:54 AM   #13
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When you have a bad boss or localized situation, you can often move to another department to get away from it. Not where I am...
I believe you've mentioned you have reached the point financially to put this environment behind you permanently, but have postponed retiring due to what we call the 'just one more year' syndrome. Of your remaining years on this earth, how many more do you think you need to spend in this environment?
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:00 AM   #14
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A demanding environment with high standards produces excellence. Really few people have the talent, skill and aptitude to create and lead this, however, and among people of lesser ability “demanding and aggressive ” become “rude and oppressive” and “high standards” become “unachievable objectives”. It's often hard to distinguish, especially from above.

Always focus on what and how the company promotes and rewards. What compensation flows to the folks that, in another world, would stand up and challenge this type of environment, and how fare those that do buck the system. People follow the example of those that get the bonuses and the promotions.

This is in good part what has led US corporations to reach and hold historic highs in profit margins in spite of terrible economic conditions. Also agree with Sarah that size doesn't matter (well, paraphrasing )


This is quite clear in sports when players of lesser ability use violence and intimidation to counter their lesser skills when competing against superior athletes. It's just easier to see.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:05 AM   #15
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I worked for a small private company for a few years and the two owners played good cop, bad cop all the time (which were their personalities, too). They sold it and I have heard recently that bad cop cannot find another job because of her personality (as it's easy to be the bully when you're going against subordinates who have to grin and bear it, not so easy when you pull that stuff against your peers or future bosses), so once again and happily, karma is a bitch.

Not many managers have much management training.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:07 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
I believe you've mentioned you have reached the point financially to put this environment behind you permanently, but have postponed retiring due to what we call the 'just one more year' syndrome. Of your remaining years on this earth, how many more do you think you need to spend in this environment?
You're absolutely right, although we're 56 & 54 of age, at 43X or a 2.3% WR, that question becomes more meaningful to me with each passing week. I assume one day, we'll accept that uncertainty never goes away and more security won't be worth it to me any more...
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:13 AM   #17
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You're absolutely right, although we're 56 & 54 of age, at 43X or a 2.3% WR, that question becomes more meaningful to me with each passing week. I assume one day, we'll accept that uncertainty never goes away and more security won't be worth it to me any more...
You've already reached the point of overkill - and your mental well being is being killed, over and over...
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:37 AM   #18
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:43 AM   #19
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This is quite clear in sports when players of lesser ability use violence and intimidation to counter their lesser skills when competing against superior athletes. It's just easier to see.
Very well describes a management-by-fear environment where the manager has no real skills (can't even read or write at 6th grade level) but constantly reminds everybody that he is 6'3" 235lbs.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:57 AM   #20
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CO, XO, and Engineer on a submarine are generally the top three, although you could add the senior enlisted Chief of the Boat to that list.

My second submarine had the top three in the "whatever it takes to get the job done" category. Screaming matches and table-pounding were common. (To be fair, Intel calls this "constructive confrontation", and the submarine force calls it "forceful backup".) The CO actually backfisted one of my chief petty officers (although he pulled it short before impact) and it was common for him to front-kick officers of the deck (although he did give them a kicking shield to hold up before he started). The XO was of the public opinions "have green ID card, will travel" and "if the Navy had meant for us to have families then they would have been issued to us with our seabags". (Although arguably this attitude is the XO's job.) The engineer used to wake up 3-4x/week with nightmares that would literally have him jumping around the stateroom punching at imaginary people.

I believe that civilians would call this a "hostile work environment". In the submarine force it was referred to as "one of the top submarines in the Pacific", the CO would be awarded a Legion of Merit, and he'd go on to run the school for prospective commanding officers.

The good news is that I got my job on this submarine because my predecessor (the weapons officer) had begun coughing up blood (from frequent vomiting?) and had turned himself in for psychiatric evaluation. That's what it took for me to get orders to the same homeport as my spouse, so that's what I did.

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You're absolutely right, although we're 56 & 54 of age, at 43X or a 2.3% WR, that question becomes more meaningful to me with each passing week. I assume one day, we'll accept that uncertainty never goes away and more security won't be worth it to me any more...
You must have a really really big BS bucket to counterbalance your FI bucket.

I think the moment of "uncertainty never goes away" should include anything to do with EKG leads, biopsies, or mental-health professionals...
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