You’ll rarely find me writing about baseball, though I love the game. But here it goes. I would be truly surprised if the Red Sox aren’t suffering from an increasing case of pathological politics. If you’ve read Comebacks at Work or my book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle you’ve read about levels of political pathology at work. The four types are minimal, moderate, high and pathological. This last one is evident when the organization or business actually starts eating itself alive. The competition and jealousy issues are intense and embedded so deep it’s difficult to identify them. Everyone has to watch his or her back. And the leadership hasn’t a clue about how to stop this or else they are causing it either purposefully or inadvertently.
In any case, I was listening yesterday to channel 103.7 FM (WEEI) and the discussion began to veer into who on the team and among the leaders dislike each other. It was speculation, but based on considerable observation. A baseball team, like any team, is not valuable because of its stars and talent alone. Communication needs to be effective or the team begins to turn in on itself. Pathological organizations eventually self-destruct. But, they usually take a lot of good people with them on the way down. It doesn’t have to be this way. Turn-arounds are possible, especially if the political level isn’t yet truly pathological, but heading that way.
I suggest the Red Sox look long and hard at the politics off the field. Money, of course, is an issue, but there are likely many more concerns eating at the players. While it may be admirable for these young guys to not wear their hearts on their sleeves, in another sense it’s extremely damaging to not address what concerns them most, no matter how minor, and get it behind them. I’m not referring here to psychoanalysis. We’re talking about assessing the dynamics of communication and relationships. That’s about much more than what is troubling a player. It’s about how they relate and why it’s simply not working.
See what you think. Here are some signs of organizational pathology.
Some tell-tale signs of organization or team pathology:
Frequent flattering of those in power. Far less encouragement downwards.
Daily interactions are fractious.
Conflict is long-lasting and pervasive.
There’s a good deal of not saying what one is thinking — an attitude of “If they wanted to know, they’d ask.”
Too much time goes into people covering their backs and watching their backs.
“Poisoning the well” – fabricating of negative information about others even if in small drops.
Most people fear being dispensable and feel that way.
A sense of teamwork is absent as there’s a good deal of mistrust.