Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Make Peace with Working in a Bureaucracy

Whether working in a company, nonprofit, or government agency, many employees are frustrated with the politics, lack of autonomy, and slow pace of getting things done.

But most employees are too scared--often understandably--to quit and become self-employed or to work for a tiny company, where job security is an oxymoron and resources are what one seeks rather than has.

So what's a wage slave to do? Of course, there's no perfect answer but I had a client today who now feels more willing to stay in his corporate job because of a suggestion I made: When experiencing your bureaucracy's inefficiency, if you can't reasonably change it, be not angry but amused.

That's not as difficult as it may seem. It mainly requires keeping the big picture in mind: For example, if your customer buys your competitor's product, will the world be that much worse? If it takes another month for your initiative to be implemented, is it that big a deal? If your co-worker's idea gets adopted, not yours, will your career really be much affected? Actually, you may be more likely to be perceived well if, after unsuccessfully making the case for your idea, you congratulate the other person and move on to the next issue.

Ironically, being less invested in an outcome while still working diligently will usually result in your organization turning out at least as good work, and your co-workers and bosses having better lives because you're not unduly forceful or passive-aggressive.

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