Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 1, Issue 25;   June 20, 2001: Illegal Dumping

Illegal Dumping

by

To solve problems, we change existing policies or processes, or we create new ones. We try to make things better and sometimes we actually succeed. More often, we create new problems — typically, for someone else.

When we solve one problem by creating other problems somewhere else, we're Dumping. Most of the time, we dump problems without the permission of the people who end up receiving them. Some examples:

  • Finance announces a lower maximum for petty cash purchases — $50. Some purchases that formerly came from petty cash must now use the requisition process.
  • To expand employee parking, visitor parking is eliminated. When you expect visitors, explain to them which part of the Fire Lane to park in while they run inside for a visitor pass that lets them into the employee parking area.
  • I say we ship the product as it is. Let Customer Service deal with the bug reports until the bug-fix release.

Why do we dump?

Illegal trash dumpShortcomings in accounting systems insulate problem-solvers from the problems they dump. For example, many organizations know the cost of processing requisitions, but few know the cost of preparing them. Since these costs lie outside the Finance department, Finance rarely knows the impact of lowering the petty cash limit, which might actually increase organizational expenses.

In the parking lot example, the gain of spaces is lower than it seems, because visitors now use the employee lot. And since cars now park temporarily in the Fire Lane, there's more risk of fire damage and injury. Unrecognized costs make the parking change less attractive than it seems, but we don't know by how much.

In the product release example, Marketing is free to press for premature shipment, because the increased cost of customer complaints comes not from Marketing but from Customer Service.

Shortcomings in
accounting systems
insulate problem-solvers
from the problems
they dump on others
Sometimes there's a positive incentive to dump. In the petty-cash example, we can expect an increase in purchase requisitions, which lowers the average cost of processing them. Cynical financial managers can thus improve their own organizational performance by depressing the performance of their internal customers.

Here are three ways to deal with dumping.

Don't dump
When you devise solutions to problems, avoid dumping. Collaborate. If others play a role in the solution, they should play a role in devising that solution.
Educate
Educate others about dumping. When everyone understands the concept, problem solutions are less likely to involve dumping.
Require impact statements
Require authors of procedural changes to prepare impact statements that estimate total organizational costs. Shift the focus from local departmental accountability to global impact.
Compensate dumpees
When costs shift, adjust budgets. You might have to be a manager or executive to do this, but if you are, recognize your responsibility. Don't permit one part of your organization to shift burdens to others without paying for the privilege.

If you can control dumping, dumping gains no advantage. This lets the steam out of much of organizational politics — and we all know how much time we spend on politics. Go to top Top  Next issue: Stay in Your Own Hula Hoop  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenRtjfSLspMCDIIZcTner@ChacaOiPhLgqstwZXjvUoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

The Lincoln Memorial at sunriseOrganizational Loss: Searching Behavior
When organizations suffer painful losses, their responses can sometimes be destructive, further harming the organization and its people. Here are some typical patterns of destructive responses to organizational loss.
Damage to Purple Loosestrife due to feeding by the galerucella beetleLateral Micromanagement
Lateral micromanagement is the unwelcome intrusion by one co-worker into the responsibilities of another. Far more than run-of-the-mill bossiness, it's often a concerted attempt to gain organizational power and rank, and it is toxic to teams.
Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and an early pioneer in the field of Public RelationsCommunication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges do they face, and what can we do about them?
Elia Kazan, award winning film directorOn Snitching at Work: I
Some people have difficulty determining the propriety of reporting violations to authorities at work. Proper or not, reporting violations can be simultaneously both risky and necessary.
Head of the philosopher Carneades (215-129 BCE)The Perils of Novel Argument
When people use novel or sophisticated arguments to influence others, the people they're trying to influence are sometimes subject to cognitive biases triggered by the nature of the argument. This puts them at a disadvantage relative to the influencer. How does this happen?

See also Workplace Politics and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Prof. Tom PettigrewComing February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenFlXpTZIEHGPjZEDRner@ChacCZtGwbQsIBBRyCxOoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.