Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Rules of Bureaucratic Warfare (Repost)

...learned at great personal expense and compiled only after I ticked off my Honcho for the last time.

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The following is a repost of one of my earliest entries on this blog, from February 2009 (and recently revised). It should be carefully reviewed by anybody who wants to make a career in the Federal or State bureaucracy. BE FORWARNED.

YE RULES OF YE WARFARE OF YE BUREAUCRACY


"Thus Always to POLADs"
I’ve decided to return to the emperor’s court
once more I shall see if it’s possible to live there
I could stay here in this remote province
under the full sweet leaves of sycamores
under the rule of sickly nepots....


- Zbigniew Herbert, The Return of the Proconsul

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.... – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Introduction)

The Rules of Bureaucratic Warfare

00. Always check thy six.* This is rule zero as it cometh before any and all other rules. [Six: n. Your immediate rear; "six o'clock", the part of one's aircraft most likely to acquire an enemy fighter.]

01. There are but two types of individual in thy organization: Honchoes and Weenies.

01a. There are but two types of Honchoes: Thy Honcho, and everyone else’s Honcho. If thou art a Honcho yet work for another Honcho, thou art a Weenie to that Honcho. (Thou forgettest that at thy peril.)

01b. There are but two kinds of Weenies: larval-Weenies and permanent Weenies; larval Weenies may one day grow into Honchoes. It is always to be hoped that thou art the first sort. If thou art the second sort, a permanent Weenie, this compilation shall make no sense. Get back to work.

02. Rememberest thou the Principle of the Most Holy Peter and forget it never.

03. Thou hast two bosses, Thy Honcho and The High Honcho whom Thy Honcho doth serve; when there is a conflict between them, servest thou Thy Honcho over The High Honcho.

04. Forgettest thou never that Thy Honcho can fire thee at any time, and that thou must always serveth him first before all, yea, even before the High Honcho. Rememberest thou that The High Honcho can fire thee immediately and more permanently, but has many other targets and his attention is divided amongst them; thou therfore hath a much reduced chance of receiving a smiting by his lightning bolts from on high than from Thy Honcho.

05. Nobody can be the servant of two masters; he will either love the one or hate the second, or love the second and hate the first. Noone can be the servant of both Thy Honcho and The High Honcho. (The fact that thou must do so anyway is thy problem.)

06. Remember that thou art what thou art only because thou makest Thy Honcho happy and makest Thy Honcho look good; forget this not, lest thou committeth a CLM (Career Limiting Maneuver) and be consigned to the staircase at Meduseld (see illustration above).

07. If Thy Honcho is male and Thou art female, be nice and pleasant, but never too familiar and never, never dress in a manner too physically revealing (female receptionists/low rank secretaries can ignore this rule, but only before their 30th birthdays).

08. If Thou art male and thy Weenie is female, never shalt thou dippest thy pen in her inkwell. Forgettest this rule at thy eternal peril, for lo! this rule doth apply triply regarding receptionists/low secretaries; rememberest also that even if thou thinketh that the relationship is consensual now, twenty years from now it won't be if she retroactively changes her mind. (Corollary: keepest thou thy lust always, always to thyself; bureaucrats by definition hath no need to screw any but the public.) (Lookest thou to the sad case of High Honcho Weinstein and forget it never.)

09. Discretion is the better part of not getting caught. (See Rule 30 below.)

10. Choose Thy Honcho even more carefully than he chooses thee, for his sins are thine or very quickly shall become thine unless thou shalt quit in a few weeks. Yea, even those sins that occurred before thou beganst to work with him shall be thine, now and forever, amen.

11. Always check thy six. This rule is not repeated by accident.

12. Always check Thy Honcho's six.

13. When checking Thy Honcho's six, double check thy own, in case thou hast annoyed Thy Honcho recently.

14. Always check thy Weenies' sixes lest they not check thine.

15. After checking thy Weenies' sixes, recheck thine own in case they haven't.

16. Thou shalt act as a shit-screen for thine Weenies, lest they fail to check thy six.

17. Honorest thou Thy Honcho in public. Never forgettest thou that, Peter Principle aside, he may not yet have reached his level of incompetence; even his decisions which appear nonsensical may have context of which thou art unaware.

18. It is thy job to determine what that context doth be before he does.

19. Diss Thy Honcho to anyone other than thy spouse at thy eternal peril; and disseth Thy Honcho not even to thy spouse if thy marriage is rocky.

20. Fearest thou not to keep thy wagon hitched to Thy Honcho's, unless and until it is clear that he has met St. Peter and has risen to his level of incompetence. When that doth happen, thou must then find a new Honcho. Discreetly.

21. Be diplomatically frank with Thy Honcho in private, and never in front of a co-Weenie and never-never in front of thine own Weenies. Failure to do this is a major CLM.

22. Always check thy six. (Like I said.)

23. Forgettest thou not that, the longer the title, the lower the weenie doth be on the totem pole.

24. Disseth thou not the individual with the long title, lest thou find thyself under him at a later time with a higher position and a shorter title.

25. Today's junior SOB is tomorrow's Honcho. Diss the junior therefore at thine own peril.

26. Never forgetteth that thy Weenies, thy compatriots, and Thy Honcho are all as ambitious as thou art, and that fact can be made to serve thee.

27. When something goeth wrong and Thy Honcho doth inquire about it, tell everything. Thou art likely screwed regardless, but Thy Honcho may yet be able to pull thy chestnuts out of the fire if he/she is fully informed about it. (Corollary: If he knows about problem x before he is asked about it by the High Honcho, he may forgive problem x, particularly if problem x is fixed forthwith.)

28. When something goeth wrong and thine Weenies inquire about it, tell them no more than they need to fix it.

29. Thou shalt not keep Thy Honcho in the dark about anything with the exception of thy personal life and thy lust for Thy Honcho (if applicable); these latter, yea, must remain eternal mysteries, amen.

30. Know the art of keeping thine mouth shut.

31. If thy Honcho engageth in wrongdoing, one must evaluate: is he acting in a grossly illegal manner or is he merely being a dick? If the former, discreetly find thyself another Honcho immediately. If the latter, thy answer shall be to be like unto the immortal Sergeant Schultz and zee nothink. NOTHINK! NB: Thou may be checkmated into the necessity to blow the whistle on Thy Honcho. Do so at thy eternal peril and be ready to return to thy hometown to spend more time with thy family.

32. If thou must engageth in wrongdoing, rememberest thou the Eleventh Commandment and keep it wholly. Trust not one of thy Weenies to cover your back.

33. Rememberest thou that when Thy Honcho is replaced as replaced he must be, thy chance of thy career coming to an untimely end after a CLM goes up dramatically. Thy new Honcho will always weigh thine usefulness against the degree to which thou shalst annoy him; if the latter unduly outweighs the former, he will replace thee with one of his former Weenies from a former job who will not do thine job as well as thou--but who will at the very least well know how not to annoy him.

34. Learneth thy Honcho's pet peeves ASAP and avoid them like thou shalt the plague.

35. Richard Friedel's Law: When outside bureaucratic forces come to 'investigate' a CLM by thine Honcho or thyself, (a) Admit nothing. (b) Deny everything. (c) Make counteraccusations. (d) Take hostages only when necessary. (e) Do not fear to take hostages if necessary. (f) Never, never call the Inspector General.

36. The rule immediately previous applieth not if the investigators art from law enforcement or the I.G. If this is the case, STFU and contactest thou thine lawyer forthwith.

37. When the choice is between thy going to jail and Thy Honcho or Weenie going deservedly to jail, thou shall choose the Honcho or Weenie to fulfill that role. Loyalty doth hath its limitations.

38. Remember this even if the price of Thy Honcho going to jail is thy being consigned to the stairs; it is forsooth better to stumble down the stairs and to then need to find a real job than to wind up in the federal tennis prison at Danbury. Thou can later tell harrowing stories of bureaucratic warfare to thy grandchildren.

39. Security enforcement nazis are to be respected and feared but not overly so; they are like unto wasps who can be swatted if thou shalt move carefully enough.

40. Forgettest thou not that thy tongue is thy gravest enemy, particularly when Rules 33-36 are applicable.

41. Remembereth that even thy most junior Weenie have one nuclear bomb at their disposal, to wit, thy Weenie's ethnic resentment doth trumpeth thy Honcho's displeasure.

42. An incompetent Weenie who doth cry racial discrimination hath enormous power to screweth thine resume (and trigger Rules 33-37) and get thee consigned to the stairs. The fact that such cries are baseless or have been repeated by the same Weenie in previous positions will not save thee.

43. Kicketh thou not a former or lateral Honcho on the way down, no matter how much of an SOB he doth be, lest he later return the favor; Honchos have an unfortunate habit of bouncing back.

44. When given the choice between offending thy God and offending the bureaucracy, offend God; unlike the bureaucracy, He may forgive thee.

45. Model thyself on the Vogons, forgetting not that they were amateurs compared to what thou must become.

46. Rememberest thou the Klingon rule: if thou wouldst not have a thing heard, say it not. As regard thy tongue there are no do-overs.

47. Thy Honcho is responsible for and always gets all credit for thy work.

48. Thou art personally responsible for all thy honcho's failures; if thou does not wish to be, find someone junior to thee to be the scapegoat.

49. If thou loveth not making thy junior Weenie responsible for thy and thy Honcho's failures, worketh not in a bureaucracy.

50. Did I mention to always, always, ALWAYS check thy six?




Richard L. Kent, Esq. is former Deputy Political Advisor (POLAD) to the Commanding General of Multinational Division North, Stabilization Force, Bosnia, (See Rule 22) until he did piss off his Honcho and was thereupon consigned to the stairs. He is now a solo attorney, and hath nobody as either a Honcho or Weenie, for which he doth thanketh his Creator, and spendeth more time with his family.