Ah, the Bureaucrat, also known as the “by the book” executive. Your nightmare boss or your perfect boss, it depends on your perspective. There will be no clocking off 5 minutes early every day to catch your train, but you will get every single employee entitlement and training that’s officially available to you. And if SOPs are your thing, chances are every part of your role is standardised. If it’s documented, it’s the bible to the bureaucrat. If you have ever started in a new role and been thrown in at the deep end with no training, no buddy, and no structure, you will appreciate that this type of boss is not so bad and they will have arranged for a smooth introduction and induction. Maybe that’s why so many Bureaucrats seem to work in HR!
But if this all sounds very irritating then worry not, help is at hand because once you accept that you can’t change them, you can only change how you work with them, it becomes easier. With the Bureaucrat, you may find yourself quoting rules and regulations like scripture quotes.
How to recognize a Bureaucrat
The bureaucrat is a manager who values process and rules. Bureaucrats resist new and innovative ideas, preferring to base decisions on what's been done in the past. They have high respect for the chain of command within organisations.
How to deal with a Bureaucrat
Follow and know the rules, regulations and procedures. Be persistent when introducing new ideas, present them well, as this is one of the hardest managers to persuade to change. A great strategy is process mapping. Get some MS Visio training and map out how things are done and how things could be done. This is a proven tactic I have used to manage change with a Bureaucrat person. They cannot argue with logic, record it in black and white and keep emotion and opinion out of it.
The disadvantages of working with a Bureaucrat
You may find them inflexible and rigid and this could lead to frustration on your part. There is no “bending the rules”. For example, with a hiring manager Bureaucrat, ff the ideal candidate applies for a role 10 minutes after the cut off time their application won’t be accepted, even if the Bureaucrat is cutting off their nose to despite their face, they won’t hear of making exceptions.
The advantages of working with a Bureaucrat
If you don’t have this particular leadership style yourself, actually you could make a really good team as a Bureaucrat type and an opposing style can balance each other out sometimes. Yes, there could be conflict on occasion, but the Bureaucrat could keep you grounded, and you can encourage them to be less unyielding. You might be fighting a losing battle there, but having to find ways to persuade them to do things your way forces you to think inside the box as well as outside it, and dig deep to achieve your goals while keeping within the confines of regulations and rules.