Bureaucrat's Handbook
Developing Antidotes for Bureaucracy


Learn to Recognize These Gambits
Develop Antidotes for Bureaucracy

Bureaucrats are tenacious, clever, and well trained. This bureaucrat's handbook describes some of the more popular, powerful, and damaging techniques they use. As an entrepreneur, it is helpful to understand the tactics that bureaucrats use to defend against your good intentions. For each technique, effective tactics an entrepreneur can use as a defense are described.

Shifting Responsibility

  • Grin Fake—Appearing to take responsibility
  • Obligate You—Shifting Responsibility
  • Range Chicken—Shifting Responsibility, waiting for others to accept responsibility for the group's failure
  • Blame the Scapegoat
    • Blaming the Victim
  • Taunt and Ridicule (Provoke and Blame)
  • Dupe and Dodge—Promise to deliver all they ask for, then move on before the shortfall is apparent.
  • Chill out—Conspiring to abdicate responsibility
  • Waffling—equivocation avoids responsibility; trying to have it both ways.
  • Power of Absence, Authority in absentia—deferring a decision to someone who is absent. Using a messenger to convey bad news.

Manipulating Information, Facts, and Focus—Contempt for Voracity

  • Power-over—Using power to defy fact and reason.
  • Deceit—Counterfactual declarations
    • Disingenuous Messages—calculating, misleading, and insincere
  • Bullshit—Say anything; disregarding accuracy
  • Intimidation—Using fear to suppress or alter information
  • Marginalizing Dissention—Diminishing critical people.
  • Need-to-Know—Restricting access to information
  • Preemptive dismissal—Suppressing inquiry and dialog
    • Mocking Rigor—Dismissing thoughtful analysis as "nerdy"
  • Bogus Issue—Focusing attention on interesting but irrelevant topics.
  • Blowing Sunshine—Passing on only the good news, censoring the bad news.
  • Just So Stories—Warm, comforting, and convenient stories displace cold facts, harsh realities, and inconvenient truths.
  • Grabbing the Contingency—
  • Swashbuckling—Exploiting chaos
    • Twist and Shout—Distracting us from the relevant evidence
    • Munchausen at Work—Creating the problem you heroically solve.

Shifting Authority

  • Who Decides—Exploiting ambiguous governance models

Shifting Power

  • Consent and Extort—Buying Dominance
  • Kiss up, kick down, terrorize
  • Decline and Disparage (Playing the martyr)
  • Pulling Rank—Exploiting positional power
  • Empire Building—Accumulating and hording resources beyond the value they add.
  • Defying gravity—Ignoring the limits of power.
  • The Wizard of Oz—Invoking Phantom Authority.

Influencing Perceptions

  • Credit Me—Looking good
  • Gotcha!—Exploiting anecdotal information and human fallibility
    • Literal truth, false message—Misleading . . . with immunity

Manipulating Time


  • Squeeze and Shout
  • Tit for Tat
    • Sniping


The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work, by Peter Block

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