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Red Tape: Dealing with a Difficult Administration

We all dream of working in a fantastic workplace where all our fears, concerns, and recommendations are heard or, at least, considered; sadly, the reality is that in most workplaces, we have red tape instead of accessible leadership. 

Dealing with a problematic administration is one of the toughest challenges in education that can act as barriers to efficiency and productivity. If you find yourself against the wall dealing with internal processes that undermine your performance, you need to have a game plan to save the situation.

These five techniques can help you handle red tape as you respond to the demands of your work environment. The approaches reveal that while the education world can be restrictive, it's possible to win over a problematic administration.

1. Be Vigilant and Proactive

Most workplaces have predictable schedules and operating hours, and to avoid the unnerving drag that comes with red-tape, be vigilant. Vigilance means using red tape to predict problems and find solutions beforehand. As an educator, be proactive in submitting to the administration to ensure that your complaints are on file as early as possible. This includes making appointments to avoid last-minute rushes.

Preventative vigilance is one concept you can put into practice to reduce the occurrence of administrative slow-ups. Using the approach, you can study the administration, its policies, and leaders to ensure that you develop the best measures that will get you what you want. Remember, if you foresee hurdles, always prepare early to guarantee that tense leadership tussles don't undermine your plans.

2. Follow Workplace Policies and Procedures

In most cases, employees already know they must follow specific procedures to get something from the administration. Instead of sitting back waiting for miracles to happen, go the extra mile by taking cues from the rules and policies that your institution follows. This means that you should educate yourself on workplace policies and procedures by reading the relevant manual guides.

An example is when a teacher hopes to secure funding for a school trip to support children from low-income families. To succeed with such an endeavor, you must start by writing an official letter and address it to appropriate officials within the institution. When the requests are made through the proper channels, chances of approval are higher since everyone is included. Additionally, even in cases where the administrative red tape poses a challenge, you can cite policies and demand timely action as your right.

3. Identify Workplace Allies

Bureaucracy can cripple effective work operations, and sometimes, you need insider help to succeed. In your workplace, identify an ally who can champion your cause when there is a need. Allies can be anyone, from an outspoken co-worker to a member of the administration team. Using your connections to these individuals, you gain better visibility to the administration as they can amplify your concerns.

It is possible to feel powerless in diverse workplaces, especially when the administration is distanced from you. But with an ally, you get benefits such as the amplification of your concerns and advocacy. These individuals will provide access to the administration by using their power and influence, improving your success chances. 

However, even when you have allies, be careful not to abuse them or end up becoming your victim yourself. A well-meaning ally might go above and beyond to assist you, and in time, they might see you as a burden. On the flip side, an ally might also steal your thunder and take all the credit for themselves.

4. Call for the Creation of Better Red Tape

Red tape is not always bad, and in dynamic organizations, it helps filter errors and provides oversight. However, the red tape becomes the burden when used poorly, creating negative consequences like slowing decision making and hindering innovation. To 'heal' an administration capped by red tape, start a conversation on approaches that can counter cons and maximize pros.

If the sign-offs in workplace processes take too long and involve many administrators, suggest a redesign. Other valid options include supporting the introduction of metrics that can maintain quality administrative oversight while improving efficiency. Remember that no matter how bureaucratic your organization is, fitting solutions are always welcomed. Suggest ways to cut the red tape to make your workplace better for you and everyone else.

5. Be Open-Minded and Flexible

We all desire to accomplish everything we set our minds to, but sometimes, we can't accomplish everything. While you don't have to love red-tape, extensive rules are the norm in most institutions and despite our best efforts, avoiding them is hard. 

Studies show that while red tape reduces the benefit enjoyed by beneficiaries of service, how they are perceived determines the levels of benefits they enjoy. Essentially, when clients are perceived sympathetically, they are more likely to receive better benefits despite the red tape involved.

Rather than protest every time the red tape hinders your ability to work efficiently as an educator, try to maintain an open mind. Being flexible in taking disappointments like being "shot down" by the administration sets you up for success later. When you trust the red tape to get things done in time, you position yourself to receive better perks along the line. As the saying goes, 'You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.'

Red Tape is Persistent, but so are You!

Red tape continues to be one of the most pertinent challenges of the modern workplace. For educators, finding the most appropriate ways of dealing with such rigid organizations is critical. While there is no blanket approach to overcoming the limitations of red tape, these approaches offer viable options. 

Ultimately, red tape can be reduced and transformed into a structure that supports procedural efficiency and effectiveness. The key issue is always to ask yourself which approaches apply to your difficult administration and acting in ways that strengthen rather than destroy.


Written by Simon Riitho

Education World Contributor

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