The inability to recognize as valid ideas of others, the fear of being overcome professionally by a subordinate or the envy can lead some managers or middle managers to avoid their main responsibility, make the most appropriate decisions for their company, dedicating themselves to close the initiatives, Contributions and ideas from those who can leave them in evidence. It is the Procusto Syndrome, a mythological name that portrays a figure that is usually observed in work environments and is harmful for any organization or team, including Communication.
The very definition of the Procusto syndrome already makes clear its negative consequences:
«He who cuts off the head or the feet of one who excels.»
History of the myth:
In Greek mythology, Procusto was an innkeeper who had his business in the hills of Attica. When a lone traveler was staying there, Procusto would enter his room at night and tie his limbs to the corners of the bed.
Then there were two possibilities. If the traveler was larger than the bed, Procusto cut off the protruding limbs (feet, arms, head …) so that it «fit» exactly on the bed.
If, on the other hand, it was smaller, it ‘stretched’ it until it was disjointed so that it adapted to the measure. In fact, the real name of the innkeeper was Damastes. Procusto was his nickname since it means ‘the stretcher’.
The truth is that no one initially adapted to the measure because, apparently, Procusto had two beds for this task, one large and one small, and assigned one or another room based on the height of the guest.
The hero Teseo, in the last of his works, was the one who ended up with Procuro deceiving him to lie down in bed, which he used to bind him and apply his own ‘method’.
The Procrastination Bed:
The universal literature has frequently used this figure since ancient Greece and soon applied to different environments such as family, business, politics…
Basically Procusto has become synonymous with uniformity and his syndrome defines intolerance to difference.
So when someone wants everything to fit what he says or thinks, what he wants is for everyone to lie down on the ‘Procrustean Bed’.
You get in the company:
To better recognize the figure of the Procrustean in an organization, I often make a distinction between two models that have slight differences, ‘Conscious’ and ‘Unconscious’ that they are:
Unaware that they are: Managers and middle managers who do not listen to other opinions by directly understanding that their idea is always going to be the best and others must adapt to it.
Aware that they are: Managers and middle managers who recognize among their subordinates figures that can shade them.
Unaware that they are:
Their vision is always so clear that they bother if they are told they are wrong.
They do not put themselves in the place of others, although they believe that they do.
They often talk about tolerance, multidiversity, exchange of ideas … but when this occurs do not stand for opinions different from yours and find how to criticize or delegitimize that person.
Aware that they are:
They are afraid of ‘young, new and proactive’ with knowledge, skills or initiatives that they do not have.
Therefore, they limit the capacities, creativity and initiative of their subordinates so that they do not show their own shortcomings.
They are able to modify their initial positioning to a topic if they see that someone thinks the same and can get to capitalize attention or highlight about it if that thesis is accepted.
They create a tense and stressful working environment.
Force the circumstances to fit your own model.
They do not optimize their equipment. They privilege their personal vision, or even their particular interests, against maximizing performance and effectiveness.
They deform, conceal, interpret … the data obtained after a study in order to confirm their previous hypothesis.
They do not assign tasks to those who would do them better, they close their access to projects in which they would emphasize, they are not correctly evaluated in internal controls …
They demand levels of Quality and perfection that, in many cases, neither have nor can be reached.
By their self-convincing to be right, they are more inclined to launch products or services that require a certain adaptation of the user. This can bring momentary successes if what is contributed is also novel and attractive, but if you have not tried to fully adapt to what the market needs, the competition will soon clone it by adapting it to the consumer / customer and will lead to failure to who created it.
The Department of Communication:
In current times, in which the functions of communication departments have expanded, a Dircom must take special care not to become a Procusto because it has a number of added dangers that contribute to that possibility.
The expansion of the functions can leave out of play those who have limited themselves to little more than the sending of press releases and press relations (usually because that was the only function assigned to them).
The growth of the departments leads the Dircom to have to develop leadership and leadership tasks for people who, in some cases, have never had to perform while working alone.
Social networks have brought the need to understand and master their scope, possibilities and metrics; A technological environment that can be difficult to adapt.
When you give any of the above points and uncover deficiencies is when the Procusto can arise.
Faced with this, professionalism and continuous training are the solution. Both are the ones that provide the knowledge and vision necessary to have the capacity to properly manage the virtues of one’s own and those of the subordinates, and to make them all contribute to the common good of the company and the team.
Because the problem is not having subordinates who know more than you about certain issues, a situation that is even desirable as it is clear in the previous sentence of Steve Jobs.
The problem is to not know how to manage with that talent.
Procusto Syndrome is a great evil of many companies and virtually all of us have seen specific cases in which it occurs.
As a final reflection, a proper phrase that I have been using for years to refer to this topic:
«The big problem of many companies is that they have employees in positions of responsibility who have decided (consciously or unconsciously) that their obligations are not those assigned to them by the company, but that their job is to keep their job.»