As with most experiences in life, there is always a gift and a curse when working for a major corporation or at a large entity. One of the biggest issues to deal with when attempting to make improvements, changes and/or suggestions for continued success in your department, or in the company overall, is cutting through the amounts of red tape, office politics and bureaucracy that may stand in your way.
Despite the many frustrations that may stand in between your idea and end goal, there are several ways to positively and effectively approach management and superiors on the job to ultimately get what you want.
As noted by Avery Augustine from The Daily Muse, here are four of the most common challenges you may have to combat when dealing with office politics and bureaucracy.
1) Lack of Transparency:
Unless you’re in the C-suite, chances are you’re not going to get much information about your company’s business decisions. Even if you’re in a supervisory role, you’ll probably be blindsided by unexpected announcements, new initiatives, and policy changes. This may include new hires, fires and mergers.
How to Deal: There’s really no guaranteed way to gain insight into your company’s inner workings—if the CEO doesn’t want you to know, you probably won’t be able to find out. However, it doesn’t hurt to regularly communicate with your supervisor and ask what he or she knows about certain situations. The other side of dealing with a lack of knowledge (and the frustration that comes along with it) is to focus on being agile within your role. Hard as it may be, if you can learn to accept change in a graceful and calm manner (rather than complaining or constantly asking why things can’t go back to the way they were before), you’ll have a much easier time adjusting and taking the changes in stride.
2) Seemingly Useless Policies:
Check out any company’s handbook, and you’ll find policy after policy regarding everything from expected behavior to the dress code to taking days off. And for the most part, you probably don’t question why these policies are necessary. That is, until you come across a rule that specifies something absurd: For example, that PTO can only be requested in half- or full-day increments, instead of by the hour (and half hours? Forget it!)—so you have to use four hours of that precious vacation time for a doctor’s appointment, instead of just one. Or, the rule that states that hourly employees can’t use their cell phones to text or surf the internet even when they’re off the clock during lunch and breaks. For an office full of adults who know how to get the job done? These policies seem unnecessary and unfair.
How to Deal: Frustrating as the rules may be, there are probably valid reasons for them. I’ve found that it helps me accept (and enforce) them if I’m able to get more information about those reasons. If, for example, I find out that our PTO system simply can’t process anything other than four- or eight- hour requests, I feel more satisfied than assuming our HR department simply wants to force us to use up our hours as quickly as possible. (I also know, given that this is the only reason for the rule, that it may be possible to skirt it—like allowing an employee to skip her lunch hour to make up for that doctor’s appointment that made her late.)
3) Lack of Decision-Making Ability:
Until you’re in a director-level position, you really don’t have much leeway to make decisions on behalf of your team, clients, or even, really, yourself. Whatever position you work in, you likely experience this, too. You may not be authorized to make decisions, change processes, or go out on a limb for a client without proper approval—which can make for some uncomfortable situations.
How to Deal: If I know ahead of time that I’m not the correct person to make a change or give approval for something, I like to give full disclosure of that from the get-go. So, when talking to a client about an invoice, I’ll preface the conversation by explaining, “I’m going to help research this problem, but to actually get your invoice corrected, I’ll have to transfer you to our customer service department, OK?” By setting the correct expectations with anyone involved, you’ll eliminate the frustration that would have come if you waited until the end of the conversation to explain your lack of authority.
4) Endless Paperwork and Red Tape:
While you may have an endless to-do list and a full docket of projects, actually making progress on those items often turns out to be easier said than done. Instead of diving right in, you first have to create a project plan, detailing who you’ll need to involve, the expenses you’ll incur, and an expected time table. To get feedback on it, you’ll email it to your boss—and when you don’t hear back after a week, you’ll send a few follow-up messages. You’ll wait for him or her to get approval from up the line, and only then, weeks after you “started” the project, will you actually be able to start. Sound familiar? In environments like this, it’s hard—and incredibly frustrating—to actually get anything done.
How to Deal: Unfortunately, resisting an existing approval process, long and tedious as it may be, will only make it take longer. My employees, for example, often come to me to complain about a particular way of doing things, and every time, I’ll ask, “Can you document a few examples?” After all, that’s the only way I can determine if a change can be made—and present it to the higher-ups if so. If my staffers aren’t prepared with those examples, that adds at least a day or two to the process—but if they’re ready, we can get started right away. At the end of the day, rules and policies are there because they make it possible for business to run smoothly. They may be frustrating, but they’re not going anywhere. But by adjusting the way you deal with the bureaucracy, you’ll be able to more easily navigate the waters—and you’ll make a big difference in your everyday work life.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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