People in all their rich diversity comprise the rudimentary building blocks of organizations. Each individual deserves to be valued at work and content in their occupation and accomplishments. The study of human behavior in organizations is referred to as organizational behavior (OB). It is the academic discipline devoted to understanding the individual and group behavior, interpersonal processes and organizational dynamics (Schermerhorn, et al., 2005). The subject of OB offers many insights into managing individuals and teams for high performance in today’s marketplace. The focus of this analysis concentrates on the organizational behavior from personal experience at former places of employment. An analysis of various behavioral components at the workplace will ascertain the positive and negative influences of the organizations.
Joseph Campbell (1991) is known to have said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so that we can embrace the life that is waiting for us” (p. 18). That phrase became a prophecy to my own life. I relocated to Los Angeles after college to find security and employment in the entertainment industry where I began building a career in corporate America. After nearly a decade of service, I left the organizational structure of the music industry, putting aside personal career aspirations, to launch a business with two other partners; one of which included my former spouse, a professional magiciann. The business was focused on building a production company to advance his career as a performing artist.
He was an established professional magician in the secondary markets of his field. Our goal was to expand our interests and achieve a similar level of success in the mainstream and primary markets. With many failed attempts at achieving our goals and building the organizational success we envisioned, that partnership met a revolting demise due to continual interpersonal conflicts resulting from the self-serving bias that modeled his behavior. After fourteen years of service, the climate drastically changed. In his need for power and achievement, he ultimately chose the path of a coward and deserted us, riding off into the sunsets of Australia with a younger replica of myself to begin a new voyage. I had been replaced by a new life-wife and faced organizational inertia from the dissolution of the union. I came to accept that the life I had invested in and planned on was concluding. I was about to embark on my own new journey. One that I did not know was waiting for me.
My former partner possesses similar personality traits to Steve Jobs that include: (a) tunnel vision drive, (b) displays unhealthy levels of self-worship, and (c) suffers from extreme characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. Like Jobs, he uses his power to aggressively injure, dominate, manipulate and intimidate others (Baack, 2012). The primary difference however, is that he is a master manipulator that applies impression management leadership strategies based on deception and a distorted and fragmented misrepresentation of the truth. Jobs in contrast actually achieved a level of merit and success that shaped the global marketplace.
Attila the Hun
He did not receive a high school diploma but instead studied his own choices of texts including books like The Silva Mind Control Method (Silva, 1977) which is based on mind expansion and manipulation techniques; and The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun which postulates how greatness can be achieved through an extreme personality (Roberts, 1985). That personality began to rear its ugly head revealing an unscrupulous, scheming Machiavellian persona that left those close to him feeling defeated and worthless as individuals on many levels.
In addition, he was reared in an estranged dysfunctional family environment. He did not have a mentor or many other honorable and trusted individuals for guidance and wisdom. In other words, he had no one to answer to. This created a climate of unlimited power which tends to encourage unethical choices with justification for his destructive behavior and ultimately abandoning the organizational culture we invested many years we painstakingly labored to build.
I was the primary focus of blame for his not having achieved the level of success he felt entitled to. In truth, it was his coercive power that blocked his career progression in spite of his casting blame for failures in mine and everyone else’s direction. To prove his political intelligence, he flaunted several much younger female replacement partners that left me feeling humiliated. After a failed affair ended with one secret lover, he insisted the next one he “connected with” was an organizational fit and a long term solution to his problems. He purported this individual was the missing link and the key component to his achieving the success he was destined to.
As a leader, his choices reflected a severe imbalance in moral compass and an extreme deficiency in organizational citizenship. He jumped ship, leaving me alone with our four year old trying to ascertain my options and establish role clarity (while I silently worked to avoid a psychological melt down). I was in an extreme crisis situation that required urgent action while I searched methods for effective stress management. After several attempts to take root in various states with family, I eventually settled in Southern Arizona where I grew up. I still had friends and family that resided there who could offer emotional support and comfort.
Shortly after settling into a new apartment, I was put in contact with a childhood comrade who was now the co-founder of a local mortgage company. Following the advice of my mother, I inquired about staff position openings at his firm. My experience and extensive training were in the entertainment industry. I was clueless about the mortgage and loan industry, but desperate to find employment to provide for my family. Our mothers were still best friends therefore through informal family communication systems he was privy to my achievements in Arizona and Los Angeles, as well as aware of my current predicament.
In the meantime I was psychologically broken, financially desperate and left unaided to raise my beautiful little girl. The first step I reluctantly took was to enroll my youngster in a preschool. The next step was to seek government aid for medical, nutrition and financial assistance with day care services while I secured employment. The divorce proceedings took the crisis to new levels of stress that severely impacted my emotional intelligence. I lacked self-esteem and had a low self-concept based on the cognitive components of a failed life; partnership; and business enterprise. I felt lost and lacked focus in self-monitoring. I mentally retreated from the world and only found solace caring for my child. I completely removed myself psychologically from the world of adults to immerse myself in the world of my child from her viewpoint, out of the comfort and safety of our new home environment.
I waited forty years for the privilege of motherhood. The internal struggle I faced in joining a new organizational structure was abandoning my child to join the work force full time. She arrived ten years into what I believed was a secure marriage. On the contrary, I was not able to decode the nonverbal cues that indicated my former partner’s double life. I was processing austere levels of betrayal. Harmony within a group reflects the sharing and exchange of personal resources among the members in order to attain an equal distribution of them (Earley, 1997). There was no room for harmony in my situation. Without a sense of identity I began to experience role ambiguity. The life I endeavored to build was upheaved. I was forced to abandon the world I created as an entrepreneur and a stay-at-home mother to enter the nine-to-five workforce of corporate America, in an unfamiliar industry, from a personal place of low-self-esteem that deeply affected my social skills. I had a lot on my plate.
I was not in a healthy state of mind and was reluctant to interact, let alone converse with people. I was humiliated, ashamed and did not have a positive story to share. I was in crisis mode, coping alone and searching for tools to help make the transition less turbulent. The stress levels increased every day I dropped my little one off with strangers full time at the day care center. Furthermore, the staff was not trained nor did they possess the skills to interact or effectively connect with a four-year-old with advanced levels of intelligence.
My child is a rare bird with an independent spirit and a dominant personality that could read and tell time. Rather than most children her age that threw temper tantrums and screamed as a means of communication, my daughter verbally articulates her views. This quality presents challenges to adults whose primitive methods of discipline resort to yelling which reflects a lack of skills in supporting children with advanced intellect. In short, the situation was a nightmare. I was to be separated from my child nine hours daily while I operated in an entry level position within an organizational structure I had no passion for, in spite of my gratitude for employment.
Nonetheless, as a responsible individual, once I found employment, I reported dutifully daily, externally portraying an emotionally balanced woman while silently processing extreme levels of grief. I was in silent rage working through tremendous levels of tension implementing whatever methods I could to manage the stress. A voice in my head offered comfort, “Just because it is like this today, does not mean it will be like this in a week, a month, or a year.” It offered short term serenity that enabled me to trudge through each day keeping focus on the bigger picture and the workload I was assigned in the new organizational environment.
The Mortgage and Loan Experience
The co-founder of the mortgage company I found employment with, is a man I grew up with that goes by the name Billy A. Our mothers had been best friends over fifty years. P. Christopher Early (1997) in his book Face, Harmony and Social Structure, posits that, “Organizational members are influenced by the dominant norms and espoused values within a given organization and these norms and values are instilled through the socialization processes” (p. 176). We grew up socializing and playing together from the time we were in elementary school. In addition, we participated in group activities throughout our entire youth through our membership at the local Greek Orthodox Church. Throughout our youth we worked together in various leadership roles within our church youth groups. We developed an organizational relationship that fit early in life. He welcomed me to his corporate family and seemed genuinely happy to assist when I contacted him looking for work. He put me in touch with a woman at his firm designated to hire new employees. She requested that I report to the office the next day.
The mortgage company was located in a beautiful neighborhood at an upscale professional office building. It was an organization with tastefully conceived observable artifacts in an environment of cultural pluralism in so much that it was a small mortgage group within a larger society of the mortgage and loan industry. It enjoyed success as a regional operation. The leaders were content with the corporation’s achievements at that level with no desire to seek recognition and success on a national platform. Intrapersonal domination and negation transitions affect interpersonal domination and negation when one psychological structure interacts with at least another and all parties attempt to minimize displeasures of the other’s unwanted influences (Carr & Hancock, 2006). I did the best to minimize the influences of my emotional condition. At this juncture, the climate created upon my arrival was pleasant and accommodating towards my efforts to transit into the change and acquisition phase of joining a new organizational structure. Pleasantries were exchanged and conversations were kept to a minimum to avoid emotional triggers.
Integration in a New Industry
I was immediately placed in an entry level, support staff position which consisted of filing, organizing, typing documents, answering phones scheduling appointments and other standard office procedures including making copies, brewing coffee and greeting guests. At that time, the organization’s modes of communication were verbal via company telephone, intercom lines, individual cell phones and face to face meetings. In addition messages were transmitted in written form via email, interdepartmental memos, a company newsletter, and when the occasion dictated, we engaged in formal communication as well.
As a career move I felt defeated having to start over in an industry I had no experience in, at a time when I chose to commit to motherhood – a full time job by itself. Strong organizational commitment entails: (a) a strong belief in and the acceptance of the organization’s goals and values; (b) a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization; and (c) a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization (Hiriyappa, 2009). Although I was grateful for the opportunity to earn an income, I had no passion for the mortgage and loan industry. I was lost and deeply injured trying to recover from the guilt of abandoning the child I waited so long to bear. I was in an emotional place of torment working on self-reinforcement. I wept silently asking what I had done to find myself in this new situation at this special time in life. The voice reminded me, “Be patient, this is how it is today, tomorrow will be different.” That was the motivational device I focused on to get me through that period.
Times of crisis and upheaval are tools that help us discover what we are really made of. In his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, Deepak Chopra (2004) focuses on the coincidences that occur in our lives. He calls these coincidences synchrodestiny and postulates that coincidences are messages; clues that we need to follow and pay attention to closely. If we live our life with a better appreciation of coincidences and become sensitive to the underlying meaning of these events, we can achieve the spontaneous fulfillment of our deepest desires (Chopra, 2004). I focused on the initiating structure and transactional leadership in the new organization, but was uninspired and unable to visualize a long-term future there. I was merely going through the motions in an attempt to evaluate my life, formulate a plan, and redefine myself. I was so unbalanced I was unable to observe the actions and paralanguage of my colleagues at the time. In the broader scope of things, I came to acknowledge that this challenge presented an opportunity that taught me to adapt and sharpen my survivalist skills.
One of the first acquaintances I made there was with a mature woman named Flo. She was the Executive Administrator for the two founders and deeply committed to the organization in this hierarchal arena. In fact because of role overload, she displayed a level of dedication beyond a normal employee. She was the first person to arrive every day and usually one of the last to leave. She was in her view, committed to pick up the slack of other employees whom she believed displayed levels of social loafing.
She was honest, trustworthy and hard working. Her attitude however, did not reflect the good nature of her work. Sensing my kind and introverted disposition, she took me in her confidence; revealed her assessments on the organizational structure through informal communication skills and conjectured her insights on the organizational politics shortly after my arrival. She was opinionated, judgmental and spent most of our break time together complaining and engaged in negative feedback about other employees. As a close friend of the organization’s founder I quickly found myself in an awkward situation. I courteously engaged in active listening to the hardest working individual in the organization who had a beef to pick with everyone, including my childhood friend Bill. I remained neutral and honored her work ethic. I showed empathy allowing her a safe place to vent, keeping what she shared in strict confidence.
Making an Organizational Fit
Billy is a leader that embraces employee empowerment, distributive justice and a style that reflected level 5 leadership skills (Baack, 2012). He encouraged group cohesiveness, incorporated motivational techniques to inspire the staff, and guided the driving forces of influence in the organization. The loan officers that rented office space were his colleagues and friends with established relationships built on trust. He conducted daily and weekly meetings with staff members and loan officers going over goals, scheduling, and strategies that helped inspire individuals to build new leads and business relationships. In addition, he was respected, had a strong family life, and displayed a high moral compass. He embraced the component of valence by rewarding his staff with annual holiday parties, picnics, and company events for socializing and showed appreciation to personnel and clients equally.
The office support staff of administrators and loan processors identified the subculture within the organization. The administrators consisted of the integral team that greeted clients, maintained the client database, and set-up and organized the filing systems. The loan processors handled the extensive documentation that came through for the variety of loan transactions.
When the organization was flourishing, several members from upper management participated in programs to build their leadership skills and raise their levels of self-confidence within the corporate arena. In addition, the co-founders were members and graduates of The CORE, one of the most elite Real Estate coaching programs in the nation. This level of commitment to the institution was a key component in shaping the organization’s enacted and espoused values. The extrinsic motives of the founders encouraged a strong commitment to the organization that was reflected in the intrapersonal relationships among staff members. Flo was the only discontent staff member that I was aware of who eventually revealed she was also dealing with glass ceiling issues.
Things began to change quickly and drastically for me in the organization when my four year old contracted Pink Eye from the preschool within a few weeks of my employment. By this time, I had been trained on the company’s IT server collecting data on the foreclosure activity in Tucson and the surrounding area. Bill has four children and therefore a supportive commander that understands parental requirements, the need to deal with sick children, and on occasion, participate in school events. I explained my child was under doctor orders to remain under quarantine for a week. He was supportive and understood I had no choice but to remain at home during the healing process. However, staying at home meant that I was unable to collect an income – or did it?
Virtually a New World
I had established a virtual office environment from my former production company with Berry. I still had a home office equipped with state of the art computer technology, a high speed internet connection, and professional desktop publishing software. I contacted my boss and asked if I could tap into his IT server from my home office to continue my task collecting data on the foreclosure project. That was one of the wisest suggestions I made because I contracted the Pink Eye virus as well and was out sick for an additional week. In the meantime, I continued to work as a telecommuter.
During that time, I was assigned to conceptualize a flyer for our foreclosure services. My completion of this task revealed an expert power in graphic design and desktop publishing capabilities. I created top notch professional advertising for the company’s needs that knocked the socks off the entire staff. The organization realized the money they normally invested in professional advertising agencies would become a thing of the past now with a professional level graphic designer on the team. In fact, Bill was so impressed with my services he decided my telecommuting was more productive for the company.
People are what make the difference in a successful organization. Problems can be avoided with the right frame of mind and strategic planning. My little girl getting sick was the key component that allowed our organization to embark on the virtual team experience. I proved that as an employee I was more valuable in a virtual environment setting where I could provide effective and superior products as well as participate as a full time parent for my child. The new arrangement worked out so well, that by the time my daughter was enrolled in kindergarten I was able to volunteer weekly as a helping mom at her school.
The solution we adapted was instrumental in my own personal healing process. I discovered a means to embrace this new organizational environment and incorporate my creative training and skills. It made me feel valued and gave me a sense of accomplishment. In addition, I was able to continue to fulfill my duties as a stay-at-home mom, which in my view was always the priority. I was now beginning to thrive.
I was elevated to the position of Director of Marketing within a few years of my employment at the organization and remained there for about seven years. Unfortunately the company became another victim of the mortgage and loan crisis of 2008. By 2009 the organization was in the process of filing bankruptcy and I was once again facing unemployment. I quickly found a solution because of the high levels of academic success I helped my daughter achieve, and was hired as a private learning coach. Sadly, due to an internal organizational upheaval, that occupation turned out to be short term.
In the meantime from my established virtual office I began providing social media and marketing services as an independent contractor. Bill in the interim created a new private lending business and continues in his efforts to support us by hiring my services. The work load is not at the same level as when I was employed full time at the mortgage company, but we are optimistic and working hard to build our businesses.
The Seeds of Success
We exist in a culture that expresses a desire to achieve high levels of success because it makes us feel special. It is a philosophy that conditions us to look outside ourselves for validation and is identified as object referral (Chopra, 2012). However, when we silence the mind to find solutions, we can begin to discover that everything we desire, we have within us the power to achieve. Each challenging situation presents new opportunities to redefine priorities, explore other options and find creative solutions. The perceived setback I experienced in the dissolution of my marriage was actually an opportunity for me to remove myself from a toxic relationship and begin a journey to find and plant the seeds of my own desires with no limits to what I can have.
An analysis of the organizational structure and of various behavioral components at my former places of employment has been instrumental in my ascertaining both the positive and negative influences of the organizational experiences that continue to shape my life and career path. Unlimited potential can be acquired with an understanding of the true nature of reality, a willingness to recognize the interrelatedness, and inseparability of all things. Then aided by specific techniques and strategies a world opens up with good luck and opportunities that popped up every once in a while, that begin to occur more frequently. This is the synchrodestiny Deepak Chopra refers to. It gives us the ability to make real decisions instead of blind guesses. It allows us to see meaning in the world, understand the connectedness of all things and gives us the confidence to choose the kind of life we want to live.
We gain the ability to transform our lives according to what we put attention on, how we focus our intentions, and by tuning in to the environment; each dancing to the rhythm of the cosmos. The intelligence of the spiritual province is what organizes energy soup into knowable entities. It is what binds quantum particles into atoms, atoms into molecules, and molecules into structures (Chopra, 2004). It is the blind faith that knowingly guides us to where we need to go to emerge into the wonderful individuals we are destined to become. In conclusion, challenges, once we are willing to embrace them, present the seeds of success that open us to the lavish banquet of life that unfolds before us in all its magnificence.
Personal note: I will be taking a brief winter break. Look for new posts in mid January of 2013.
Warm wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!
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