Understand Bureaucracy

In recent dealings with several large financial institutions, I learned about bureaucracy – and how to work with one.

Forced to enter discussions with them, I was overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork and the miles of red tape that seemed to be targeted at making my inquiries impossible to be answered. With one employee at an institution assuring me that I would get an answer, and others presenting all the complications that stood in my way, I wasn’t sure if a simple solution existed.

A phone call to a colleague suggested an answer. He directed me to a particular branch of one of these institutions, where they were under significant internal pressure to work with clients such as myself. As such, they had streamlined their own processes to make dealing with the inquiries swift and painless for the customers.

While they had no assurance that even with a positive answer I would give them my business, they were aware that negative experiences could drive me away. As such, they solved my real problem for me – they explored the inane rules that they had to follow, and found ways to circumvent them.

This is similar to the experience of Mr. Incredible, who, working for a large insurance company, explains to one of the clients how to circumvent the bureaucracy to get a claim processed. This branch took it one step further, though, and instead of telling me how to get past their systems, they did the work for me.

If you have to work through a bureaucracy, it may be worthwhile to find people inside the system who have ulterior motives for helping you. This can be in order to meet other internal quotas, a relationship with you (e.g. a friend), or merely disdain for the complexity of the faceless entity they work for. These people, working within the system, know how to get things done, and how to do so expediently.

There’s no getting around the paperwork or the red tape, but there are certainly ways to make the experience less frustrating. Knowing which particular forms need to be filled out, and which ones do not, can save you large amounts of time, and can lead to faster answers to the questions you’ve been tasked with answering.