Essays

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Nature or Nurture: The Pathology of Organizations

In order to understand organizations, we often rely on analogies with human psychology. After all, organizations would not exist if human did not create them. In small organizations, the behavior of the staff and the organizational culture often reflect on the aspects of the leader.

        In psychology there is a sometimes-raging debate about human nature versus nurture. In other words, how much of our daily actions are due to our DNA versus out environment. The extreme example is the serial killer. Was he or she born to kill? Or were the living environments so deprived that they were made that way. The argument for the former is that there is some gene or genes missing such that the person has no ability for emotions or reason to give them some semblance of morality. The argument for the latter is that the child was raised by a crack using mom who was a prostitute, there was no apparent date, and the child ended up in foster care where they were abused. Of course, there is the case for both at once.

        So does this argument hold for organizations. Does an organization have a corollary to DNA? Certainly, is does for the environmental conditions. An organization born out of desperate circumstances could reflect the basic survivalist need to survive. The need to fight for its very existence, even when the need is gone. It could also take on the aspects of Stockholm Syndrome where they will do whatever the leader says to survive. The rise of the national socialists and Adolf Hitler after World War I was due to this scenario. The organization being the German people as a nation state.

        Other comparisons:

  • The human body aims to be efficient and effective in the short-term and long-term. So does the organization.

  • There are also comparisons between the human anatomy and organizational structure. However, I am skeptical of the validity of such comparison beyond the purely allegorical use. Behavioral(psychology) versus anatomical (physiology).

  • Right brain, left brain behaviors.

  • Aging in human and maturing in organizations. Behavioral aspects.