Albert Einstein said you can't solve a problem with the same awareness the problem requires to remain a problem. You have to achieve a new awareness to resolve a long standing problem. Most often a working person is unaware that he or she needs a new awareness to resolve his or her work issue. All the articles on this web site, as well as the book Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It, provide the awareness needed to solve the problems that occur in work organizations. Unfortunately, in most cases, a person must feel trapped in order to begin the search for the new awareness our articles and book contain. This article brings to you the most important first step awareness necessary to resolve any work problem.
The most common error a working person makes is not to recognize he or she is immersed in an authoritarian system. This paper tells about systems, describes the four kinds of work systems, lists example errors people make that cause them to be abused in these systems, and finally why there are so few work systems that are not authoritarian.
A social system is the cause-effect framework that defines the behavior of individuals in a group, organization, or a society. Systems create reality for you, but systems rules of behavior are mostly unconscious. Having a systems perspective means seeing and understanding the factors that influence the behaviors of individuals within the system.
It is both difficult and unusual for a person to have a systems perspective that focuses on factors in the system that are contradictions, and that cause people to make errors that lead to their abuse. People are not taught to see systems at home or school. People see only separate individuals, not the systems that underly and prompt their behavior. In order to counter the behaviors that affect you, a person must become conscious of all of the elements of the system that trigger behaviors. This can be called "wearing systems glasses."
A system can make you do what you would not ordinarily do; and people in a system can treat you in a way they would not if you both were outside that system. Wearing systems glasses is necessary to see this happening.
Blaming is a major hindrance to gaining a systems perspective. Because of the cultural habit of blaming, it is difficult to shift to non-blame of individuals. Non-blame is a natural outcome when a person truly sees and thinks systems.
It is the nature of systems that the behaviors that occur within them are predictable once you have the ability to see the system you are in. Predictability makes it possible to avoid errors and minimize abuse. Similar work systems may have similar rules of behavior. Systems have norms, rules of behavior, that enable prediction of behaviors within one organization and often, but not always, within other similar organizations.
Authoritarian workplaces, which are social systems, exist as the predominant model for work organizations around the world including within countries like the USA that are supposedly democratic and where people are nominally treated equally. This is a major contradiction that people in these systems must adjust to: a supposed democracy, but people will be treated unequally and unfairly, most often without awareness of the contradiction.
People who are not aware of the inequality contradiction and are unable to adjust their expectations will be frustrated by the lack of fairness on the job. An inappropriate expectation of fairness is the number one source of people's work abuse experience.
So pervasive are authoritarian workplaces that working people are not aware of another alternative to this type of system or that there is a variation in the degree of punitive control within one authoritarian system as compared to another.
People are so used to the authoritarian systems and the control and abuse within these systems that a person may find it hard to believe what this article is saying: although there are three kinds of authoritarian systems there is an non-abusive alternative, a collaborative system that is rare.
There are four kinds of work systems, the first three of which are authoritarian: punitive, benevolent, consultative and collaborative. For each of these four work systems below are example norms, rules of behavior, for five norm influence areas: communication, rewards, task, decision making, and development.
COMMON ERRORS PEOPLE MAKE WORKING IN AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEMS
Below are listed organization characteristics that may be misunderstood coming from inappropriate expectations. These spring from lack of knowledge about systems, inability to see and think systems, lack of knowledge about authoritarian systems, inability to see and accept a person's own response to the system. Readers need to know and understand these listed characteristics which are found in many authoritarian organizations in order to avoid as much mistreatment as possible.
Generally these characteristics may be found in all three types of authoritarian organizations, but are most likely to occur in punitive and a little less likely in consultative types. The items below are not listed in order of frequency, importance or other attribute.
WHY THERE ARE SO FEW COLLABORATIVE WORK SYSTEMS
In short, there are two main reasons that boil down to one that prevent authoritarian systems from becoming collaborative. The first is the lack of behavioral skill, knowledge and commitment to creating a collaborative organization. The second is the difficulty in keeping the system collaborative over time due to the influence of authoritarian styles of behavior by incoming managers. But resistance to giving up power by top management is the fundamental overriding issue that prevents authoritarian systems from becoming collaborative.