Terminally Ill

Pathology is the study of the origin of disease. Understanding the origin of a thing helps us understand how to heal and unlock the healthy version of ourselves.

In order for us to treat or cure cancer we must look to its origin so that we can understand what it even is and how we can reverse its march of death. The same can be said of emotional dysfunction. In order for us to treat and cure emotional pain, it is helpful to find the origin of the pain. Until we confront the source of the pain, we will be left to constantly manage the ongoing symptoms.

Organizational dysfunction also has an origin. In order for us to deal with the challenges in our organizations we must understand why.

We now have a word to help us: we know we are not “healthy.”

But why? Where did our organizational disease come from?

  • Why does employee engagement seem to be at a constant state of “not high enough?”
  • Why is it that no matter how transparent we try to be, our people want more and think we are hiding something?
  • Why is it that our people start by giving the least amount of effort?
  • Why is it that the more we give bonuses the more they want? Where is the gratitude?
  • Why are our people miserable when I’m genuinely doing my best?

We know that job misery is a symptom of people experiencing a diseased work environment where they feel unknown, irrelevant, and unclear about how they can achieve success. But why do good people–leaders–continue to create these diseased environments? And how do we change?

To answer those questions we must look back. We must find the pathology or organizational dysfunction.

I’m not sure we are really prepared to deal with what we know is true—the dark reality behind the history of modern business. The truth is that if we let the tape rewind long enough eventually we’ll find our roots in slavery.

Slavery is the economic system based on the belief that some of us have more value than others. The belief that people can purchase another person. The belief that some of us don’t have a choice. The belief that I should be able to tell you what I want you to do and because I paid for you, you should just do it. The most dangerous belief that when all is said and done I really believe that I am more important than you.

The reason why building a team is so hard, is because we have an unhealthy pathology working against us. Teamwork is the exact opposite of what has been passed on through the dysfunctional generations of business leadership.

You can try to build teams, but until you really deal with your beliefs about who you are as a person and a leader–your pathology–you will only continue to foster the same disease that subtly undermines us.


…of course there is an pathology of slavery as well. That, my friend, is for another day.

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