What's your problem?

I work for a management consultancy that gives great advice to its clients but cannot seem to take its own medicine. Our offices are riddled with communication problems, office politics, clashing agendas, and backstabbing.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's becoming increasingly hard for some of us who work there to give clients sane advice before returning to the chaos of the office. How can I nudge my senior colleagues into practising what they preach, without rocking the boat still further?

A: Most people in dynamic organisations love to compete; they love to win. When they compete with external competitors, this is just fine; and even finer when they win. But when they start competing internally and fighting with each other, total disintegration looms. Nobody wins; and what's more, nobody will ever win - except their external competitors.

From your description, I'm pretty certain that you're working in a consultancy that has turned inwards on itself, with the senior people fighting each other for position, for clients and for the allegiance of their juniors. If so, the quickest way to stop this fruitless conflict is for one or more of the main protagonists to leave - but that's presumably beyond your pay grade to engineer.

Another way to restore unity of purpose is to identify a common enemy If several of your existing clients are being seriously and successfully courted by a competitor, that should be enough to bring your senior colleagues to their senses.

It may be, however, that the petty enmities within are now so firmly rooted that there's absolutely nothing that someone in your position can hope to do about it.

Before chucking in the towel, however, you and a few like-minded mates should certainly voice your serious concerns about the firm to your senior colleagues.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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