Dysfunctional workplaces

Some workplaces are so dysfunctional that you’ll never thrive as a Business Analyst. In fact, you’ll be lucky to survive each day without mental health issues or acquiring a hospital pass. Business Analysts often shoulder great organisational responsibility, something a toxic workplace can make very untenable. The personal cost can be very real, and if you are in this situation currently, I sincerely feel for you. 

A single bad manager, a lack of process, a lack of respect for following process, not being listened to or feeling valued, missing roles and responsibilities, lack of daily guidance, absence of structure, lack of desire to implement structure, or just a higher level manager irrationally changing their mind regularly is enough to prevent effective working, and often sufficient to make any reasonable Business Analyst miserable. These are not the signs of a healthy workplace. 

I write this today, having seen more of the usual, doubtfully well-meaning, advice in my LinkedIn feed aimed at junior and middle Business Analysts. You know, ’10 tips to turbocharge your BA career’. They go something like, ‘influence your stakeholders’, ‘champion strategic initiatives’, ‘role model the behaviour you wish to see’, ‘be a change agent’, ‘advocate organisational growth’, ‘adopt a solution-oriented mindset’, ‘be positive and keep going’ etc. This kind of advice is wholly ineffective in some workplaces, and it hurts to read if you are currently in one of those.

Business analysis requires a basic level of hygiene in your workplace, to function in the way the influencers wish you to believe. Formal structures, processes, project governance, compliance and accountability need to be present, and respected. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many Business Analysts struggle to apply good practices, repeatedly, because of workplace dysfunction. They become the caged mouse, diligently pressing the button but wondering why the food isn’t coming out. It’s a hopeless situation to be in.

My counselling training taught me that shame, of all the emotions, is the one that eats away at the soul in the most destructive of ways. It isolates the person and grows in power by lurking in the shadows. Shameful feelings are not openly spoken about, and that reinforces the pattern. Finding yourself repeatedly asked to do things that don’t make sense, failing to work effectively, confused why best practices are not working, and made to feel it’s your fault, can be very shame-producing indeed. 

Workplaces are difficult places at the best of times. However, they become truly terrible places when characterised by deep-rooted dysfunction, irrespective of the cause. I’ve come to believe that Business Analysts are uniquely vulnerable in dysfunctional workplaces as carriers of organisational responsibility and their necessarily structured approach. Doubting the fundamental value of your work is a good indicator your needs are not being met. I’m writing about this so others may not suffer in silence.

Woking, Surrey, GU22, United Kingdom