How to Cope with Bureaucracy Part 1

A how-to guide to help you cope with a bureaucracy.


Coping with Bureaucracy

We need better tools for coping with bureaucracy. Bureaucracies cause everyone trouble; and there is good reason to believe that they always will, no matter how well they are operated or how they are staffed. This is because bureaucracies are group-oriented. A ticket clerk needs to sell all auditorium tickets as quickly as possible. You, standing in the back of the line, want only one ticket, and you want it now; you are individual-oriented. These goals may be closely related, but they are not identical. Therefore, there is inevitable conflict. Many consumer-conscious bureaucracies are trying to reduce these problems by changing their antiquated methods. For instance, many banks have eliminated the old system of one line for each teller (which puts some people in very slow lines) and have replaced it with the new single feeder line, which allows the head of the line to take the first available teller. We, as consumers, can also take some steps to reduce bureaucratic headaches.

1. The first words you speak to a bureaucrat, whether to a clerk or to a president, should be brief and to the point. Don't burden your listener with a long story. Let them do the talking and questioning while you direct the conversation to your problem.

2. Make a phone call first. Is the organization open? Are they the right group to speak to? Whom should you see? What should you bring with you? How long are the lines? A phone call may make your trip unnecessary.

3. Use a basic checklist for all bureaucratic encounters. Make a note (mental or otherwise) of the name of the person to whom you are talking, the job title, what he or she said, when, and where and why it was said. A record will remind you of exactly what you have done and help you verify your claims later.

4. Know exactly what you want. Bureaucrats are confused enough as it is. Don't expect them to find out what your problem is and solve it. Do some research. Rehearse to yourself so that your request will be clear and to the point.

5. Get out of the runaround quickly. Finding the right person in a bureaucracy means knowledgeable persistence. Don't be pushed along to another person until you have found out all you can about finding a solution to your problem. Be sure that the person you are speaking to knows if the next person can really help you. If persistence isn't working, consult your list and go back to the most knowledgeable person you have run across. Explain that you aren't getting the help you need. When it is clear that you are not going away, someone will usually try to solve your problem just to get rid of you.

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