Work Horror Story

Sometimes the most powerful way to understand the importance of organizational health is to experience the opposite, even when it’s painful and seemingly unbelievable. We’re looking for your best, anonymous stories of extraordinary organizational dysfunction. Here is a good one we received to get things started.

I once worked at a startup company with four total employees. Our “office” was a one-bedroom apartment. The dining table served as our shared workstation where the four of us worked across from one another–laptops open.

The two co-founders had previously made careers in big data and were better at writing code than they were interacting with other human beings. You would have thought eye contact and friendly gestures/conversations were HR violations by the way they carried themselves at work. On one particularly memorable day, one of the co-founders initiated a conversation with me over Google chat to provide some negative feedback on my performance. After a few lines of text back and forth asking for further explanation, I asked if he would like to step outside in the hallway so we could have a productive (in person, human) conversation and make sure we were on the same page. I looked across the table in an attempt to read his face and perhaps make some eye contact that would lead to a head nod toward the door. His eyes never left his laptop. I glanced back down at my own, and I had an answer, “No.”

This story doesn’t require much explanation. What is most striking is that intelligent people can be so unwise when it comes to behavioral issues, and that even the best ideas cannot achieve their potential without emotional intelligence.