November 19, 2011

Individuals Hiding Behind Bureaucracy

I cringe every time I have to deal with a large corporation for a problem with a bill or service. I know there are going to be at least five minutes working through a phone tree. My issue is rarely one of the twenty I have to listen through. When I do speak with a person, they are usually limited with what they can do. The typical answer is, "I understand your issue, but it's not something I or my manager can fix. I am sorry but I need to forward you to..." Rarely has even a simple answer taken less than an hour to resolve. More importantly, I always feel so alone against "the system".


The problem is diffusion of responsibility. The entity is understandably managing its risk by limited what any one person can do. Bureaucratic processes make it hard for any individual to deviate from their system. They leave it up to the system, but the offset of this is disempowering individuals. Disempowered individuals disassociate themselves from responsibility. "I'm not equipped to do anything about that, so I am not responsible." The anecdotes are endless. Eventually, bad process lead good people to do bad things they would not have done if held personally responsible. In the end, the bureaucracy generates negative effects and frustration through the actions of individuals without any individuals feeling responsible for their quota. And this is how bureaucracies have more proclivity for immoral actions than individuals, even though the true perpetrators in the system are still individuals hiding behind bureaucracy.

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