The ersatz psychotherapy of the workplace

2 minute read

Any idea or instrument (or both) for organizing work, when taken to extremes (the larger the org, the more likely) is a distraction from getting the actual work done, and (in my experience) often used as a crutch by people who stand to benefit from the services of psychoanalytical professionals.

For example, Scrum devolves into LARPing for people who like to “play house” in software development, driven more by some personal, deep-seated need, than by the organization’s purpose or fulfilling certain goals. To such people, JIRA is the dollhouse, and stand-up meetings are the equivalents of the tea parties with all the stuffed animals stuck there, unable to move until all other teddy bears chant the “no blockers” incantation.

Similarly, based on own experience at a certain place, automotive-style Requirements Engineering & Management with mandatory Rational DOORS usage, newly-minted “Requirements Engineers” managing documents and their handling on Jira and/or DOORS, heavyweight Engineering Change Control Boards and all that jazz, seemed to be one person’s avenue of release of his obsessive-compulsive tendencies, which should have best been left to a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist to deal with, instead of to his colleagues.

It does seem to me after many years in different organizations that a lot of nonsense in them springs forth from untreated psychological disorders in some of their members. Said people then latch on to different processes, methods, tools, titles, initiatives, and causes to satisfy their craving for whatever it is their disorder(s) make them crave for.

For example:

  • Feeling in perfect control of every detail in development endeavors (and deluding yourself that you could ever achieve that).
  • Expecting to be given unconditional respect thanks to some fancy job title (and deluding yourself that others give a damn).
  • Pursuing neatness and purity of work artifacts while also slashing actual throughput (and not realizing that you are becoming a roadblock).
  • Craving recognition as an expert by compulsively referring to authority figures and namedropping famous companies in every opportunity to do so.
  • Manifesting delusions of grandeur and emulating pop figures, but only in those surface-level aspects that suit your delusions.
  • Pestering others about “flavor-of-the-month” causes, disregarding that they might be facing more acute personal/family issues in their lives.

Having said that…

Mental disorders and illnesses are no joke, and deserve the attention of trained professionals.

The problem is that some people in organizations have gone for years undiagnosed and untreated, and thus have found (or been explicitly given!) opportunities for “ersatz psychotherapy” by using jargon-heavy and Deft-like ideas in their workplace(s) as their outlet.

Some of us then have to deal not only with the actual work that needs to be done, but also (sometimes, primarily) with those people who could do themselves the favor of spending time with a trained professional.