#8 of 37 Lessons -- Resist Bureaucracy Craftily

Resist bureaucracy craftily– Having worked for a number of large employers, including governmental ones, I’ve seen my share of bureaucracy. In my view, most bureaucratic rules are borne out of a lack of trust and is created to control. Further, those rules are dressed up and disguised as a means to establish consistent practices. Sure, consistent practices are essential; and still, regardless of the rules, a small percentage of individuals will still thwart them for personal or other gains. Then, more rules will be created to continue to keep the honest, honest.

 The purpose of this post is to give some useful tips in dealing with bureaucracy. First and foremost, keep your eyes open and ask yourself questions about why you need to do things a certain way. Sometimes, there is a good reason and other times, not. This will help you spot bureaucratic processes. When you spot potential issues, make mental note of the problem and see if it crops up again later. As you make your mental list, note which issues are the most time consuming, or bizarre. Then: 

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for the inputs or comments of others. Policies and procedures which are especially egregious from a bureaucratic standpoint will irritate others, not just you. 

  • If you have the responsibility and authority to fix what is wrong – don’t hesitate. Fix it! 

  • If it is a minor irritation and you don’t control it – just live with it.  

  • Pick and choose issues which annoy you the most and work with others to suggest change. Don’t just complain, suggest a solution.

  •  Most companies are always looking for the “cheaper, better, faster” routes; take your questions and concerns to your supervisor, or the person who may be able to influence how things are done. This may lead to process improvements and perhaps some recognition for your careful eye.

  • Meet the intent of the rules without fully complying with the rule.

  • Lastly, and be careful because this can be dangerous (you could get fired or worse) – within reason, consider bucking the system.

  • Before moving into a new office building, a former employer established an architectural standard for furniture, including a standard for the type and color of filing cabinets. The standard was intended to establish a uniform look throughout the building which makes sense. Then, upon moving in, they brought in all the old furniture and cabinets from our former location which immediately violated the standard. Shortly after, I needed an additional filing cabinet and was told it needed meet the established standard which would cost five times more than a standard cabinet.

Faced with a bit of a dilemma of spending money I didn’t have in the budget, or breaking a rule; I chose to break the rule. I also considered the consequences. Would they fire me for saving the company $500? I didn’t think they would, so I took a calculated risk. On the way back from lunch, I stopped at Staples, bought a cabinet and had it delivered. I then turned in the receipt for reimbursement – no one said a thing. Problem solved.

Obviously, you can’t just thumb your nose at all rules and regulations. What you must do is find ways to craftily work within the rules and advocate for change. How are you going to deal with bureaucracy?