When we solve one problem by creating other problems somewhere else, we're Dumping. Most of the time, we dump problems without the permission of the people who end up receiving them. Some examples:
- Finance announces a lower maximum for petty cash purchases — $50. Some purchases that formerly came from petty cash must now use the requisition process.
- To expand employee parking, visitor parking is eliminated. When you expect visitors, explain to them which part of the Fire Lane to park in while they run inside for a visitor pass that lets them into the employee parking area.
- I say we ship the product as it is. Let Customer Service deal with the bug reports until the bug-fix release.
Why do we dump?
Shortcomings in accounting systems insulate problem-solvers from the problems they dump. For example, many organizations know the cost of processing requisitions, but few know the cost of preparing them. Since these costs lie outside the Finance department, Finance rarely knows the impact of lowering the petty cash limit, which might actually increase organizational expenses.
In the parking lot example, the gain of spaces is lower than it seems, because visitors now use the employee lot. And since cars now park temporarily in the Fire Lane, there's more risk of fire damage and injury. Unrecognized costs make the parking change less attractive than it seems, but we don't know by how much.
In the product release example, Marketing is free to press for premature shipment, because the increased cost of customer complaints comes not from Marketing but from Customer Service.
from the problems
they dump on othersSometimes there's a positive incentive to dump. In the petty-cash example, we can expect an increase in purchase requisitions, which lowers the average cost of processing them. Cynical financial managers can thus improve their own organizational performance by depressing the performance of their internal customers.
Here are three ways to deal with dumping.
- Don't dump
- When you devise solutions to problems, avoid dumping. Collaborate. If others play a role in the solution, they should play a role in devising that solution.
- Educate others about dumping. When everyone understands the concept, problem solutions are less likely to involve dumping.
- Require impact statements
- Require authors of procedural changes to prepare impact statements that estimate total organizational costs. Shift the focus from local departmental accountability to global impact.
- Compensate dumpees
- When costs shift, adjust budgets. You might have to be a manager or executive to do this, but if you are, recognize your responsibility. Don't permit one part of your organization to shift burdens to others without paying for the privilege.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- On Being the Canary
- Nobody else seems to be concerned about what's going on. You are. Should you raise the issue? What are
the risks? What are the risks of not raising the issue?
- Workplace Politics and Integrity
- Some see workplace politics and integrity as inherently opposed. One can participate in politics, or
one can have integrity — not both. This belief is a dangerous delusion.
- Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: II
- Skip-level interviews are dialogs between a subordinate and the subordinate's supervisor's supervisor.
They can be both heplful and hazardous. Here's Part II of a little catalog of the hazards.
- On Snitching at Work: II
- Reporting violations of laws, policies, regulations, or ethics to authorities at work can expose you
to the risk of retribution. That's why the reporting decision must consider the need for safety.
- Allocating Airtime: II
- Much has been said about people who don't get a fair chance to speak at meetings. We've even devised
processes intended to more fairly allocate speaking time. What's happening here?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.