“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” – Laurence J Peter
There are plenty of good reasons to have established procedures. Don’t you want procedures to ensure safety and security? Don’t you want a paper trail when money is involved? Of course you expect project managers to follow a clearly defined methodology.
Do you ever suspect that some people use the rules as an excuse to avoid work? Of course they do!
“Sorry, we can’t do that, we do everything here by the book.”
“But we have always done it this way.”
Those are both phrases that can make your blood run cold. Or at least give you a raging headache. Ouch, you just slammed into the brick wall of bureaucracy.
Some people use rules and procedures to shelter themselves from work. They truly do not care how much difficulty they send your way. They claim to be efficient (because they are following the pre-established rules), but they are not effective. And making you jump through hoops to follow obscure organizational guidelines is fun, for them.
The truth is that these individuals really use bureaucracy to mask laziness, apathy and fear of change. How can you fight back?
Never attack the system and definitely do not put the person on the defensive. Research is your new best friend. Why? Because you are probably not going to be able to dismantle the process and you will not be granted permission to follow your own approach. Observe the behavior of the person so that you learn how they use the process as a roadblock. Learn the process. If it is documented carry it around with you. As soon as your favorite obstacle starts quoting the rules, sit with them and have them flip to the page and section they are referencing. You want to be able to use the process too, so that you are already prepared with the correct response. If they say, “Sorry but you have to submit that form in triplicate”; counter with “And here are my three copies, thank you for your assistance.”
If research is your new best friend, then documentation is definitely a member of your inner circle.
Why? Someone who uses bureaucracy to avoid effort may be inconsistent in their interpretation of the rules. So keep track of how you are asked to follow the process. Also make sure you follow the process in place for documentation. Often the first roadblock with any bureaucrat is the documentation itself.
“I would love to help you, but you just do not have the appropriate documentation.” Your response, “Oh yes, I do and here it is, thank you for your assistance.”
If you suspect that this person is playing it fast and loose with the rules, get help. Collaborate with peers and even senior associates. It doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion.
Never let them get you flustered. It just isn’t worth it. Relax and work within the system.