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Traits of corrupt organizations Traits of corrupt organizations
by Joseph Gatt
2020-11-03 10:55:36
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The demand for this paper is for the following people and organizations: “I want to deal with 'clean' organizations and want to avoid working with corrupt organizations. What signs should I look for?”

Corruption is not just bribes. It's also overcharging for projects and keeping commissions, it's also “ghost projects” where you make money without providing the service in exchange, it's also extortion as in forcing populations to purchase certain products, pulling competitors' products out of the shelves, monopolies and exclusive deals and many other things.

corru001_400I've worked for clean organizations in the past (and those were happy memories). In clean organizations, everything is in the open, we share information to the best of our knowledge, we help out colleagues in need, we're happy to go to work in the morning, respect tends to be the norm (of course we swear occasionally but not in an aggressive way) and if someone hides something from us or betrays us in any form, we are shocked.

But the signs of corrupt organizations are fairly straightforward. I know “clean” organizations are trying to detect the corruption signs early on, to avoid “bad surprises.” So here are the signs.


So the conversation goes like this:

A -How was your vacation?

B -It was OK...

A- Yea but what did you do?

B -lots of things...

A- What kind of things? Did you travel?

B- Oh, look, there's a fly on the wall! Go get me some insecticide!

Corrupt folks are going to claim that ambiguous speech is part of their culture. As in, Oh, you know, in China straightforwardness is a sign of rudeness. Or, in India, there are a lot of things that are left unsaid.

No. No. No. I've had amazing Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin American, you name it, friends, who were very, very, very straightforward and open in their communication.

True, in those cultures, you tend to be vague with strangers because you want to test the waters first and see if you detect any tendencies of bad intentions or corruption.

But if you're going business (or politics) and that your counterparts claim that ambiguity is part of the culture, it's not!


We all have our secrets.

But in corrupt organizations, almost everything's a secret.

Where are the pens? That's a secret. Where can I get a cup of coffee? That's a secret. What range of products does your company offer? That's a secret. Can I get the assistant's phone number? Of course that's a secret.

So if you ask questions and everything's a secret, you're probably dealing with a corrupt organization.

Again, corrupt organizations are going to claim that secrecy is part of their culture. But that's because the bribes and crimes and everything else are supposed to be kept secret. And to keep the nasty stuff secret, they make everything secret.


If you work with corrupt organizations, soon enough you will sense that sarcasm is being overused.

Oh! What a luxury car you have!

What? This is nothing other than a second hand Toyota Yaris... nothing luxurious about that!

Oh! That Toyota Yaris must have cost you a fortune! You were born in Burlington, Vermont? That's like the greatest city in the world! I'm going on vacation there!

Really? It's a small town, almost a rural town...

OK. You get the idea. If that's where the conversation is headed, uhm, they are probably trying to lay the groundwork for massive bribes or some kind of illegal scheme.

Diverting attention

One feature of corrupt organizations is that they are constantly asking you to “look away.”

They could hold meetings in buildings that are not part of their organization. They could insist on holding business meetings at a café instead of at HQ.

When you're driving in the car they're constantly diverting your attention from ugly buildings or ugly fields and asking you to look elsewhere.

At the restaurant they're going to hide the ugly piece of sushi with chicken skin.

At the bar they're going to force you to order Heineken to divert your attention from the availability of Budweiser.

If they're constantly playing this diverting attention game, uhm, they're trying to lead you into criminal ground perhaps.


You're talking about Morgan Freeman getting into a car accident. Their response to that is that they never got into a car accident and that they have a ton of African American friends.

You're talking about your vacation in Thailand and they show irritation and tell you that they don't have loose morals.

Then you talk about your ski trip in the Alps and they show irritation and ask you something like “am I as cold as ice? I'm trying to be warm here.”

If that's the level of paranoia you're getting, you're probably dealing with a corrupt organization.

Cult of personality

Corrupt organizations tend to claim that they have superpowers.

They tend to come up with all kinds of “supernatural” anecdotes that don't add up.

They say things like “anyone who goes through ABC trading becomes a world leader! Everyone!”

Or they say things like “world leaders all endorse ABC trading. So does everyone else!”

Or they say things like “ABC trading knows everyone's secrets. ABC trading is in the dark about nothing.”

OK. You're probably dealing with a corrupt organization here.


If you see these signs, they are bad signs.

Some people I know still go forward and sign the deal with these corrupt organizations.

The problem is a lot of the times those deals end up being nightmares because, often, the contract is constantly violated and every morning has its load of surprises.

You see, corrupt organizations don't realize that your organization does a lot of stuff and deals with many other organizations. They tend to behave like they are an exclusive client.

Add all the anger and irritation and difficult communication and threats into the mix. Not good.

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