If you can’t or won’t help,
just step aside for someone who will do a competent and humane job.
When something goes wrong in a big organization, the easy thing to do is blame it on the bureaucracy. Blame the structure; blame the bigness; blame some nameless, faceless, and soulless entity.
And it can even help us rationalize why we don’t do anything about the problem. If something is that big and that unresponsive, then there is nothing that can be done. It becomes easy to shrug shoulders, throw up hands, and walk away.
However, there is something we can do. I suggest that a better approach is to point out and call out (civilly) the people creating the bottleneck. The people, after all have created, staffed, and carried out (or not carried out) the functions of the bureaucracy. It’s the people who decide not to smile or who say “it’s not my job” or who opt for inefficiencies and paper over people. The organizational chart might tell the people where they fit in as a cog in the structure. But the people give life to the chart.
I was reminded of that this week as I dealt with two bureaucracies. One on the state level and the other on a local level. Interestingly, the bigger one at the state level actually proved to be easy, efficient, and effective with which to work. Why? Because of the bureaucrat—the person—with whom I spoke. She was polite. She asked appropriate questions. She listened. And then….she made the choice to take appropriate action to rectify a glitch. The person made the difference.
At the local level, not so much. Well, there was a difference made—but not necessarily a positive difference. That bureaucracy created obstacles and wasted time. But really, who created the challenges? The bureaucrats making (or not making) decisions.
It reminded me how our students often feel; especially first-year and first-generation college and university students. Those of us who have been in this calling for a while tend to see a lot of what we do as self-explanatory. We’ve done it for so long, it must be obvious to the students, right? Well, again, not so much.
Students can get overwhelmed by the syllabus or the exam schedule or the financial aid process or even how to get a parking space. Same for health care. Or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or…. That’s why, for students, office hours and one-on-one meetings can be critical to success.
When the people of a bureaucracy fail to remember that a person has to navigate what is to them a foreign system, disconnections or worse will arise. The people staffing the bureaucracy know their system/product/service/stuff and must assume the user/customer/client does not have the same working knowledge of that stuff. If the service provider does not know its stuff or is hiding behind mindless rules, the problem lies with the people who allow that to happen.
So this week, in whatever space you inhabit, remember that you are the expert in that space and people depend on you to help them through that space. Step up and be a hero for them. Don’t be an obstacle. Don’t be a mindless bureaucrat who knows how to say “no” but little else.
If you can’t or won’t help, just step aside for someone who will do a competent and humane job.
Make it a great week. And H.T.R.B. as needed.
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Information on my book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.