for Men

Dysfunction in Organizations

Today, we discuss various forms of organizational dysfunction that prevent the organization from accomplishing its mission and cause great harm to employees, customers and ultimately shareholders.

Our early human ancestors needed to be constantly vigilant as the world was a dangerous and threatening place. In the movie 2001 Space Odyssey there is a very powerful scene at the beginning of the movie, which highlighted our humble beginnings and struggles. One of our common ancestors was fighting over the vegetation with a warthog. Suddenly a cougar pounces and devours the helpless human.

Now fast forward to the 21st century. Wrapped up inside us is the software, which contains memories of past generations. Scientists call it instinct. After millions of years of struggle we have won the battle and can now live in relative peace and harmony. Unfortunately the primal instincts and fears are very compelling and many people find their evolution to higher states of awareness blocked by attachments to stress provoking stimuli. We keep pulling ourselves backwards when we should be progressing forward. We have become addicted to stress. An argument with a superior triggers the flight-fight response and our bodies respond by releasing adrenaline, because we immediately fear a job loss, and losing one’s job is equated at a deep level with death. Over time the constant release of adrenaline weakens our immune system.

Even outside of work we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to really relax. Either we need to pump our adrenaline with aggressive sporting matches or violence in film and television.

Worse yet as we sit watching and pumping our adrenaline we are feeding our bodies meat and hydrogenated oils, which further increase our agitation. The real killer is that after we are all pumped up we don’t have a physical expression or outlet. At least our ancestors could run or fight thereby burning off the toxicity of the adrenaline.

It is up to each of us to try to resist the images of violence, which can block our spiritual progression. For some of us it will mean watching less television, changing the type of books we read, newspapers we subscribe to or the movies we see.

Perhaps we can alter our interpretation of situations and learn to put things into perspective. The opposite of fear is love and it is much more powerful, it has empowered many to overcome great obstacles.

The Gambling Mentality

If you believe the Universe is random and without order, than that is what you will experience. This ignorance has the potential to rob us of our power because we have no control over our destiny.

The gambling mentality, which is a belief that the universe is random and we are not in control of our destiny, distorts the market, as investors’ expectations become less focused on fundamentals and more on speculation. It is well known, that it is almost impossible to consistently outperform the market. Yet, many market players try to do just that, focusing on short-term gain over long-term fundamentals.

The investment with the greatest potential is you. This is because you have power and control over your being which you can use to serve others with your talents. When you earn money yourself, using your talents in the service of your fellow man, you are both giving and receiving. The flow of the universal energy will come to you in the form of wealth which can be assimilated into your life.

If money is inherited or won in a lottery, it is often lost very quickly and can be damaging to the lives of the recipients. This is because they have not changed their belief systems and attitudes about money and are still burdened by their poverty consciousness.

I once had a client who had inherited a substantial sum of money from her mother. In the course of two years, she had managed to spend every last penny even though she lacked other resources. Against my urgings for restraint the money had vanished.

There is a perfect accounting system in the universe and money represents the flow of energy. Money that is earned because of service provided to the universe will be retained. Money earned by seemingly random events, will most likely need to be repaid.

Winning the lottery is often the worst thing that can happen to people. Interviews with winners several years later reveal the money has taken a toll on the personal lives of the recipients. In the same way money earned on a crapshoot in the stock market could become equally destructive.

It is time for us to move away from the need to crown kings and queens. This involves owning our power and realizing that there is a hero in each of us waiting to emerge.

Declining Business Ethics

As I was writing this article I was confronted with a number of challenges. One of my tenants believed that rent could be paid at any time during the month or not at all. I wondered why this person thought it was my responsibility to house their business without being paid.

There are a number of small businesses I have encountered over the years that build their businesses by robbing Peter to pay Paul. They borrow from their vendors to grow their business, but haven’t asked their vendors for permission before they took the loan from them. Not only small companies but also larger businesses have a habit of slowing down remittances to earn interest on the balance. What ends up happening is that you have a slow decay in the moral fabric of business in general when such behavior becomes commonplace.

When you enter into an agreement to purchase goods or services you should live up to the obligation to make payment. Therefore before making a purchase you should already have the resources to secure payment, otherwise you should wait. In business you will meet people who are not willing to pay for goods and services and take advantage of others by constantly opening and closing businesses. You may get fooled by some of these people. I found that chasing after these people is often times a real drain of energy. Many times it is best to let go of the anger and move on and learn from your experience.

Sometimes you must stand up for your rights. The best way to do that is from an emotionally detached vantage point. In doing so you will not give them any power over you and therefore you will be more effective in your defense.

You can learn to be able to stand up to people without sacrificing your basic trust in others. You can be a charitable person but when you enter into an agreement to do business it is not charity. Make yourself very clear about this.

You have to always approach all business relationships from a position of strength. Weakness is never respected and as much as you want to be liked, you must focus on being effective. This is true with children and in any situation where you must assume leadership responsibilities.

In the executive suite there are a number of leaders who believe that the mission of the organization is to enrich their pockets. It is up to shareholders and the Independent Board of Directors to prevent such abuses.

Employees have great power because their pension funds make up substantial pools of capital in the market. I have developed a number of programs for large pension funds which will empower employees by promoting better governance practices in publicly held companies. Ultimately this will empower employees and reduce management practices that compromise the well being of the organization and the individual.

Nepotism and Control

As a CPA I realized that many of the problems experienced by small businesses were self-created. In order to effectively treat them I would have to broaden the scope of my services. It was then I realized that I would need to take a holistic approach toward my profession.

At least 75% of all U.S. businesses are family owned. Often family businesses make decisions based upon family needs as opposed to business needs. A socialistic, paternalistic distribution of wealth is inappropriate for a free market enterprise. Family generosity should be a conscious act of love and giving and set apart from the efficient operation of the business.

Putting ineffective family members in key positions in the company can be very demoralizing to other more productive family and non-family employees. In addition, business owners need to confront the issue of entitlement. They should meet with the family as a whole to determine what the family’s goals are and what distribution of resources, outside the company, can be used to achieve these goals.

For businesses not family run, problems such as turnover and employee loyalty must be confronted. Many business owners assume autocratic roles and are often unaware how offensive their behavior has become. Such conditions, if left untreated, can lead to low employee morale and increased turnover. Employees surrender authority to business leaders and expect such individuals to have moral justification for his or her positions. We are all human and of course we act irrational, however, to be an effective leader the business owner really must appear just and rational, and become a source of wisdom and inspiration to others. The owner’s behavior sets the tone for the organization.

I am particularly impressed with businesses that blend spirituality into their corporate structure. Mary Kay Cosmetics (Christian Based), and the Marriott Hotel Chain (Mormon Based) have created a movement by focusing on a mission that recognizes service to a higher authority. Mary Kay’s motto is, “God first, family second, and the company third”. This approach is extremely effective in building an excellent customer service business and will become the model of the future for enlightened businesses. My only critique would be to make the programs less religious and more spiritual so to embrace all belief systems.

As we evolve away from the post-industrial model of corporate bureaucracy, the lines are blurring between business and personal time. Knowledge workers need to be treated as adults and organizations that support healthy personal choices for their human capital will benefit accordingly. That is the more we treat employees as adults the more they will behave as adults both in their professional and personal lives.

The fear of losing control also prevents many business owners from growing their companies. Grooming employees to take responsibility and motivating them to have a parallel vision of corporate goals require the following commitment by the employer:

  • Release the fear associated with giving up control.
  • Set goals and clearly communicate them to employees.
  • Empower employees to feel part of a larger process.
  • Prepare formal evaluations and use the information as a tool to stimulate positive change
  • Hold regular staff meetings to communicate goals and encourage the sharing of ideas.
  • Develop short term and long-term goals and communicate these goals to employees.

© 2007, Bruce Eric Van Horn

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If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates

Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.

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