In every organization, some amount of grumbling is natural and to be expected. Not everyone can be pleased with every event all of the time. Those environments simply do not exist. A common complaint is that it is not fun anymore. Looking a little deeper will probably uncover that some of the recent changes upset the old status quo. Optimism is often replaced by frustration. This situation is very common in startups and small companies that are experiencing rapid growth.
Probably the single biggest source of this frustration can be traced to organizational growth. In the early days of a company, everyone knows everyone. Individuals are all expected to wear multiple hats and have an attitude of willing to do anything it takes to make the company successful. Without formal processes in place, individuals, through their own initiative take on roles and responsibilities without being asked. All employees, from the CEO on down, are expected to be individual contributors. The organization is flat with virtually no hierarchical structure. This phase can be characterized as the entire company being able to go to lunch in the same car and share the same pizza!
Soon, more people are added to the organization and structure starts to occur. Sales reps focus on sales, development engineers focus on product/service deliverables, finance people focus on financial matters, etc. With growth, span of control issues develop and some individuals become managers and managers from the “outside” are added. The end result of these natural evolutionary changes is that some individuals, who originally reported directly to the CEO, now become “pressed” lower in the organization and are no longer involved in every decision. Instead, they may be informed of decisions and, perhaps not! While all these environmental changes are occurring, these individuals continue to work hard and provide excellent results while they may feel punished due to the organizational changes.
Although intellectually and logically they may understand the need for organizational changes, emotionally their self-esteem may cause the “it’s not fun anymore” to take over their once logical attitude. Also, as individuals give up some of their broad responsibilities to others, there can be a tendency to feel that the other person does not understand or cannot do the task as well as they did it in the past. Resistance to embracing the change, “for the good of the company” often occurs. Animosity toward the other individual or the person “forcing” the change can develop.
The root cause of these “it’s not fun anymore” feelings may not be obvious to the individuals or to the change agents that see the changes as simple logical actions to accommodate growth. Neither group may even be aware of the other’s feelings or actions.
The best way to counteract this situation is through open dialogue before changes are made. Since changes are constant, open dialogue must be a continuous activity. Embracing change as a constant activity will put fun back into the environment.