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Ring Holes and Tabs

Working Inside the System

Up the Chain of Command

Different perspectives allow a variety of solutions, so talking solves many concerns. Sometimes brainstorming brings forth new and better solutions. Other times, subordinates know the practical effects created by a new and ill-thought-out policy, yet fear keeps bad news from reaching those who can correct matters. Maybe the manager's seemingly crazy approach merely considers a law or regulation not everyone knows about. Problem systems by definition have poor communications--either information does not flow up and down and back and forth, or lies tarnish it.

If coworkers don't understand a seemingly crazy policy, and the boss refuses to explain, the time may come to buck it upstairs--either to the boss's boss or to law enforcement within the agency--or outside via the other links to the left. In any bureaucracy, money or efficiency or both bear the burden of impaired information flow. As long ago as the 4th century B.C., a Chinese sage even went so far as to define a loyal minister as one criticizing his emperor. The military recognizes the problem because wartime information blockages cost lives, so officers are taught to keep doors open. Of course, many managers, federal and otherwise, would prefer silent sheep ...

Most people prefer to "do the right thing" informally and quietly. However, creating a paper or email trail can offer protection -- or a necessary kick in bureaucratic pants. Plus, writing clarifies thought. If creating and showing documentation seems too unsafe, email yourself about what's happening. If possible, download copies or printouts to secure elsewhere in case all hell breaks loose. Tape recordings, though, require consultation with a lawyer--while such to prevent evidence destruction may be justified under federal law, state laws differ (remember Linda Tripp's prosecution in Maryland a few years back. In any event, feel free to consult the rest of this site, which even has links to spiritual resources for tough times.

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