How to be a Functional Employee in a Dysfunctional Organization

Do you often look around your place of employment and notice everyone seems to be just going through the motions?

By Matt Battaglia

Nov 10 2015 at 12:45 a.m.


Do you often look around your place of employment and notice everyone seems to be just going through the motions? Maybe sales are stagnant or there’s a general feeling of malaise or dissatisfaction. Dysfunctional organizations don’t happen overnight. Generally, it takes a long time for the bad habits of a dysfunctional organization to take root and grow. Similarly, it may take a long time to make corrections, and that’s if the issues can be identified and a plan implemented. Many good employees often leave organizations during this time of dysfunction, evidenced by low employee morale and high turnover.  

So what should you, a functional employee, do during this time of organizational dysfunction?

Seek realignment and clarity in job processes.

Employees have greater job satisfaction when they have a clear direction and a strong purpose. Start by listing all the reasons why you began working at your company and make note of all the positive characteristics of your job. 

Next, take a look at how you spend your time on the job. What has changed? Has your position gotten off track? What are the root causes? Are there certain things that are taking up time that you should give up?

Draft a plan on how to realign your position to focus on doing what you think you should be doing and approach your supervisor. Together, seek to gain clarity on your role and develop a plan on how to make sure your objectives, incentives and performance are aligned. Your boss will love the proactive approach of doing your job better, and you will be more satisfied knowing you are achieving your goals.

Get creative!

As you see many of your colleagues going through the motions, the temptation to put your job on cruise control will be high. Lack of motivation can sink in if employees do not have a clear vision for the direction of the company or if their role lacks purpose or clarity. On the other hand, employees will only work hard enough to keep up and not want to stick out for fear of social retribution or the feeling their efforts are wasted. So what can you do? Use this opportunity to create new-found excitement by getting creative:

• Maybe you have a new process, product or idea you can pitch? Explore new ideas and build consensus on your team.

• Perhaps you can change up your daily routine to create a fresh perspective on your work day.

• Do anything that forces you to develop new routines and patterns to overcome the feeling of repetition.


Control what you can; don’t worry about what you can’t.

It’s easy for employees to point blame and complain about the ills of their organization, but as the old saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” Start by taking an objective look at your own job and department and approach your supervisor about solution-based ideas to improve. Seek additional ways to be involved in moving the company forward:

• Join a strategic planning committee or ask management for opportunities to start one.

• Even if there is not strategic planning happening on a company-wide scale, perhaps there’s a chance to do some within your own department.

• Do not give in to the temptation to participate in the blame game or gossip—focus on respectful, non-threatening communication.

• Focus on the issues, not the people.


Commit (in or out).

The worst thing an employee can do is stay at a job where they are underperforming, under-motivated and under-valued. If you believe in the future of your organization despite its current state of dysfunction, then it’s time to step it up: quit complaining and get to work. If not, then the best thing you could do for yourself and for your company is to move on. 


Matt Battaglia is an efficiency expert and engagement specialist with People Centric Consulting Group.  Matt has an M.B.A. from Drury University where he studied Accounting and Organizational Management