Tuesday, December 1, 2009

About Workload - Second Proverb

The chapter on workload continues with the following proverb:

"Do not fear the backlog for it is in reality a working inventory."

This proverb cleverly demonstrates that how one views a situation is entirely a matter of perspective. It is, no doubt, easy to view a mounting pile of files as a stressor waiting to make your life miserable. "The Zen of Bureaucracy", however, helps the harried bureaucrat to realize that a backlog is nothing more than an illusion born of negative thinking.

Once you see a backlog for what it really is, namely a working inventory, your stress will be reduced and your satisfaction increased. For what is a backlog really but a measure of your workplace importance and a guarantee of your job security?

Don't think of the work awaiting you as a never-ending burden (although it may well be that) but consider it as a security blanket. So long as the work piles up, you will remain employed (remember, you work in a bureaucracy) and you will continue to be paid.

This adage is representative of a linguistic approach adopted throughout many bureaucracies. Do not underestimate the power of words. A "working inventory" is far easier to manage than a "backlog" just as "downsizing" and "administrative streamlining" are far more palatable than "terminating" or "firing", not that most bureaucrats will ever have to worry about these nasty consequences.

A strong, vibrant bureaucracy relies on euphemisms as part of its lifeblood. We all know that large organizations can be deadening, soul-crushing places to work. But you don't have to directly face that fact so long as you keep a smile on our face and a ready supply of dysphemisms to banish even the most disagreeable workplace features.

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