Overcoming Workplace Dysfunction

Karl Bimshas
3 min readApr 23, 2024
Overcoming Workplace Dysfunction by Karl Bimshas

While numerous workplace dysfunctions exist, these four are the most prevalent accelerators. Leaders must avoid possessing them in themselves and ensure they do not infect their teams.

  1. Ineffective Communication
  2. Ego Protection
  3. Fear of Uncertainty
  4. Rewarding Off-Purpose

You can identify many examples of these accelerants in your organization — and that’s a problem! As leaders, we can either minimize or exacerbate each of these issues. We cannot ignore them and still consider ourselves leaders because these four dysfunctions require our attention, lest they grow and become entrenched.

Ineffective Communication — First, it is doubtful you are communicating enough. You might think you are, but it takes frequent repetition to get through busy professionals, not volume. Second, if your leadership style does not match the situational needs, you are not helping; you’re hurting.

What to do: Improve your communication style. Be clear about your intent and offer the right direction, coaching, support, or delegation as skills and needs change. Be sure to train others on active listening techniques, too. Effective communication helps to promote trust, enhance collaboration, and boost productivity.

Ego Protection — The top and bottom of most organizations’ get it.’ One is closest to the client’s voice, and the other has the best perspective for setting the vision. Unfortunately, the vast middle tends to dilute the messaging between the two. It’s like the parent caught between the needs of the child and grandparent simultaneously. It can be stressful, and perhaps you feel like you’re their common enemy. Instead of concentrating on the client or implementing the vision, some in the middle tend to focus on protecting their ego. They get involved in office politics, backstabbing, undermining, excessive self-promotion, and spin. These gesticulations, natural or performed, are attempts for them to look good in front of others to get the next promotion (or be able to hang on to the golden handcuffs) because they have mortgages and college tuition to pay for, trips to take, and kitchens to remodel.

What to do: Be the bridge between the frontline reality and the strategic intent. Value collaboration and protect the ego of the person you’re communicating with. Meanwhile, put yours aside.

Fear of Uncertainty — Life is uncertain. There’s not much you can do about this. The more certain you think you are, the more time will typically prove you wrong. While you might not be able to have too much effect on uncertainty, you have 100% influence on the fear — yours and those of your team. Lack of information breeds fear.

What to do: Provide light. Don’t allow people to fashion stories based on limited information. Give them the facts and context. It may not eradicate all the fear and concerns, but you’ll be amazed at how much easier it becomes to manage and uncover new solutions to old roadblocks.

Rewarding Off-Purpose — Psychology tells us that the things that get rewarded or recognized get repeated. Consider reward and recognition as anything (positive or negative) that highlights and celebrates any behavior. If you are making a big deal about someone’s lapse in performance yet remain mute each time they get it right, or approximately right, you reward off-purpose. By ‘off-purpose,’ I mean behavior, activity, meetings, and initiatives that get attention but have nothing to do with the organization’s purpose. If not addressed, these will continue to everyone’s detriment.

What to do: Provide clear expectations and consequences. Start ignoring off-purpose activity and shifting your attention to on-purpose behavior. Remember, rewarding off-purpose behavior can lead to your team’s loss of focus and productivity. It’s crucial to be aware of this and take action to ensure that your team’s efforts align with the organization’s purpose.

Wage battle against these four unhelpful habits we often fall into and watch your team’s trust and performance rise.



Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.