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:
- Devious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part I
- While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control,
or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Understanding the risks of these tactics can motivate
you to find another way.
- Approval Ploys
- If you approve or evaluate proposals or requests made by others, you've probably noticed patterns approval
seekers use to enhance their success rates. Here are some tactics approval seekers use.
- How to Avoid Responsibility
- Taking responsibility and a willingness to be held accountable are the hallmarks of either a rising
star in a high-performance organization, or a naïve fool in a low-performance organization. Either
way, you must know the more popular techniques for avoiding responsibility.
- That Was a Yes-or-No Question: I
- In tense situations, one person might question another. As the respondent replies, the questioner interjects,
"That was a yes-or-no question." The intent is to trap the respondent. How does this work,
and how can the respondent escape the trap?
- Holding Back: I
- When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget
problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 20: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: I
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- And on March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the Chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can Chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
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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.