Discussions & Demos

The Three Ineffective Workplaces to Avoid – The Paternalistic Workplace

workplace culture Jan 24, 2022

In my previous post, we introduced the first of three ineffective workplaces that unhappy employees can experience, the Defensive Workplace.  The second workplace might not seem like such a bad place because at first blush, this team seems like one big, happy family.

But, the motto here is: we only talk about the good things, because behind the scenes,there’s a lot of dysfunction that no one is allowed to discuss. It’s ironic. Your boss may be very kind and accommodating, working hard to keep harmony among the team.

In this Paternalistic Workplace, managers act like parents, with everyone else being treated like children. Only employees in a need-to-know position are given information about products, customers, the company’s financial position, the competition, and what’s happening in the industry. It may almost be as though your managers are tryingto protect the team from anything that might be the least bit unpleasant. People are encouraged to ask questions but only about the positive things. Guiding principles, like a mission, vision, and values statements might exist, but only senior management discusses them.

Conflict and disagreement are not allowed.That’s what makes a Paternalistic Workplace such an uncomfortable place to be. When people are discouraged from acknowledging and dealing with conflict, dysfunction spreads like wildfire. Who can focus on getting good results when they are seething over a problem they aren’t allowed to solve?

In addition, in a Paternalistic Workplace, the interaction between people and their supervisors is a one-way street – ultimately causing a lack of trust. Some employees may meet with their supervisors occasionally, but it’s primarily to get instructions. Supervisors only explained things when it was an emergency or a rush priority – causing uncertainty.  As a result, there may be a lot of politics, an undercurrent of suspicion and a feeling of oppression.

Does this sound like your workplace environment?

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