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Piotr Torończak

Piotr Torończak

Officiousness is worse than totalitarianism

Let me put a little part of myself at stake. I’ll redirect some management fire towards myself and try to explain why doing more and enforcing to do so does exactly the opposite. And drive everyone around closer to that thin line marking where inner peace transforms into berserk rage.

The key assumption is: doing more of what?

Meet the guest star of this episode:

Officious (person), pron. /əˈfɪʃəs/ (Elvish?)

  1. Assertive of authority in a domineering way, especially with regard to trivial matters.
  2. Intrusively enthusiastic in offering help or advice; interfering.

Approaching everyday professional problems require a cool head and a bit of a distance to the matters themselves. Seems reasonable. Still, there are individuals that love having things going no matter what. Things going their own way. Or fanatically following rules. Have a look a the following near-real life examples to picture in your mind what it’s all about:

  1. Officious person will urge for a meeting just for a sake of a meeting (developers know precisely how many meetings a day is enough to ruin a productivity on that very day).
  2. Officious person would have doubts on every piece of your reasonable argument.
  3. Rules are strict to follow (ITIL practitioners in support will understand how sometimes rules come against critical fixes and what comes after).
  4. Paperwork is often inevitable. Some people are eager enough to press for having done the same one multiple times and in multiple places/systems/forms. At a time.

Meetings are to set actions. Proofs win argument (and are used in courts for the same reason). Rules are to guide. And too much paperwork does as much good as overgrown bureaucracy.

In support world, the last thing you want is to have a hot head person, wanting things to go too perfect at all cost. The good is an enemy of the great, but support means working around live, often client-critical, environments. It means walking on a thin ice, with a short time available until it cracks wide open. Having those conditions in mind, the good enough solution is often the best one.

To prove myself right, someone else figured that already out over 60 years ago. In 1944, the precursor of the CIA issued a Simple Sabotage Guide for people on World War II’s The Axis side, that sympathized with the Allies, and it’s surprisingly familiar. It’s available here in full. A short story relating to topics about office work can be found in this short article (in Polish).

Now, have a good retrospective dive into your inner self and ask sincerely whether you’re not that person.

PT

PS: It’s been a while since I wrote here. Have a look at my other articles from this series.

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