Prevention is the only serious approach. The extra problem is that all these five tracks may be partially invisible, used by people largely silent, disappearing from sight before one is looking.
- Deception. What was anticipated (personal success, particular organizational climate or culture) is not there anymore. The (leaders) video and audio don’t match anymore. Walk the talk is a joke. The deception may be ‘objectively small’ but may also touch sensitive chords. As in trust, nothing is linear here. The intensity of the trigger does not correlate with the intensity of the response. Short term deception does exist, but a series of it may simply escalate your erosion of hope. Deception is one of the most terrible blows to your mind and soul. Feeling betrayed is rarely a neutral or stable state. Either you react with aggression (of many sorts) or you enter a depressive path.
- Demotivation. You get there, of course, via multiple ways. The only way to understand people’s demotivation is to understand what motivates them in the first place. A big mistake is to assume that people should be motivated, given A,B,C, a series of very good things. These may not mean much to many. As I have written many times, the key to insights is not ‘why did you leave?’ the organization but ‘why are you still here?’.
- Loss of agency. Agency is ‘the capacity to act’, the ability to have a say, to control destiny, to see and feel your personal impact, the connection between what you do and what happens in the environment (work, project, company). When the sense of agency is lost, your human nature is deeply attacked and the only survival mechanism is to transform yourself into a semi-vegetable-like entity. Even a semi-vegetable-like entity on the payroll. You first don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you end saying ‘tunnel, which tunnel?
- Alienation and abandonment. Suddenly or not, you are now second class citizens, the abandoned class, the ones with less or no airtime. Entire social classes suffer this. Entire sectors of some organizations suffer this. In the organization, your acid test question is: ‘who am I leaving behind, by doing this?’.
- Permanent survival state. A permanent state of catching up does not leave any room for hope. It is not the same as permanent battling, which could be part of the deal, or part of the strategy. It is the sense that, although the battle has been won, the war is permanent, and the battling does not make your capacity better every time. Many organizational survival states are incredibly consuming.
These are my top five, as seen in the organizations I work with. The scary part is that many of these are unaware of them. The worse cases are always the silent and slow cooking ones.