Bureaucracy: A Choice!

If you ever find yourself saying something close to, “I can’t do anything about it because my hands are tied”, you may unwittingly be a part of the productivity-killing machine called “Bureaucracy”.

When you’re unable to accomplish a thing, or perhaps stop a thing from occurring, because the decision is “out of my control”, you may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Bureaucracy creates layers between the decision-makers and those who are affected by their decisions. An unintended consequence of work-place bureaucracy is that it sometimes creates pockets of minions, who see it as their primary role to simply carry out whatever comes down from high above.

When bureaucracy gets thick enough it stifles innovation, creativity, and a person’s willingness to push back; even when they strongly disagree with a particular decision or course of action. Perhaps worst of all, it creates an atmosphere where it’s easy for leaders to not look people in the eye and tell them the truth about their performance. After all, why put yourself in the uncomfortable position of having an honest and perhaps difficult conversation with an employee, when it’s much easier to just let the next re-organization take care of it?

Most would agree that there is very little positive that comes out of a house laden with administration, regulation, and process. If you do allow yourself to become a part of the bureaucratic machine, remember this:

When our history is written and we’re judged by those who were affected negatively by our tacit participation in the process, they may not accept our excuse of, “It was out of my hands”. Instead, they may just remember us for remaining silent and for not standing up for them when we had the chance.

They might also remember us as a person who didn’t have the confidence to look them in the eye and tell them the truth, while we were still in a position to do something about it.

Bureaucracy has likely existed since shortly after the first group of people decided to try to accomplish something together. Whether or not we choose to participate in it is up to each one of us individually.

Truth Be Told, in most circles, they call that….choice!

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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