A dysfunctional workplace

Jay is presenting findings from his Learning Practices Survey in Australia this week and has made the data available at the Internet Time Community. The survey had 237 respondents from various sized organisations and from several continents. My impressions are that about one-third to one-half of respondents feel that things are not good in today’s workplace, stating:

  • a lack of cooperation;
  • no time for reflection;
  • no ability to create DIY tools for work;
  • no communities of practice for support;
  • lack of professional development;
  • poor training; and
  • working in organizations that are slow to change.

This is not a question of access to technology or Web 2.0. These are basic work productivity issues. Cooperating, reflecting, and supporting each other are necessary for groups of people to collectively achieve common objectives; especially knowledge workers.  Even initiatives like Work Literacy may not be able to address these structural issues.

If these observations translate to the workforce as a whole then we have many dysfunctional workplaces. A significant portion of workers are not able to work effectively in their organisations.

5 Responses to “A dysfunctional workplace”

  1. Michele Martin

    This is interesting, Harold–I would argue that perhaps one of the most dysfunctional facts about this list is that several of these items are within individual people’s power to change and control, including creating communities of practice, having time for reflection, and accessing professional development.

    What strikes me is the fundamental sense of disempowerment in the workplace that suggests that people are essentially at the mercy of the companies they work for. While obviously there’s some truth to this, especially in an economic downturn, I still believe that people have far more control over these issues than they believe. One of my main goals in working with people on integrating social media and professional development is to point out how empowering it is to take control of your own learning by starting a blog and pursuing DIY professional development. If the will is there, the means certainly exist.

  2. Harold

    Michele, I agree that much of this lies within the control of the individual. However, I note Rummler’s adage that if you put a good person in a bad system, the system usually wins. It’s like blaming people who live in poverty. Yes, some exceptional ones may have the self-confidence, motivation and skills to raise their standard of living, but many others have lost hope fighting the system.

    In making real change, you have to work both ends, which makes your DIY work quite important, but the organisation has to change as well.

  3. Michele Martin

    Harold–absolutely! I’m not trying to blame the victim here, as much as point people to the fact that they have power, which is easy to forget. Unlike people in poverty, our power to move into another less dysfunctional system of work is still within our grasp, especially if we take a DIY approach to professional development. Systems, after all, are created by people, so we also need to be working on changing ourselves so that we’re in a better position to change the system. It’s not an either/or as much as an AND situation–change people AND change systems.


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