It is continually surprising to me how easy it is for a group of people to agree on something without knowing it.

Equally surprising is how often people don’t try to solve a problem because they can’t imagine solving it alone, and hence assume it to be intractable.

It seems to me that bureaucracy flourishes largely because of these two facets of human nature. Once a policy is in place, people assume that changing it will be very difficult. And, they don’t seem to wonder how many other people are looking at that same policy and thinking exactly the same thing. Or at least, they aren’t curious enough to go and find out.

A few weeks ago, I went to talk to my boss about the issues I ranted about in my last post. As it turns out, she agrees with me on all of the points made—no discussion required. Flexible hours would, apparently, be a good thing in her books. Ditto the ability to work from home, giving employees input into workspace setup, and providing opportunities for personal growth. Even my raise request was received in a fairly positive manner.

But (and you knew there was going to be a but), it seems that in almost every case, there is some bureaucratic hurdle to actually getting it done. First of all, there’s the matter of organizational policy. Inflexible hours are, it seems, a matter of organizational policy. That means that unless I bring in a note from my mom, I’m to be here at 9.

Secondly, although things like working from home, workspace rearchitecting, conference attendance, and raises are not governed by the same hard-and-fast rules, they are subject to a request system that appears to tend invariably toward the negative. Or, at least toward the “we’ll get back to you on that as soon as we get a chance”—i.e., never.

Luckily, I am not much for letting sleeping dogs lie. Especially when someone suggests to me that “creating a groundswell” might precipitate change. Hence (to begin with), I created a little survey to gauge the general feeling on flexible hours. I e-mailed it to everyone in my department. The response was encouraging—about 60% of the department took the survey, and of those, only 1 person thought that work schedule policy should remain as-is.

Unfortunately, I inadvertently violated what I can only assume is an anti-unionization policy—and received a brief dress-down about using organization resources (i.e. e-mail) to circulate my survey.

I remain undaunted, however. This is mostly because people keep asking me about the issue. You know you’ve got a winner when that guy who’s never said a word to you before wants to know all about the status of “the project”.

It should be noted that I am not in any way trying to start a union. I don’t want to be in a union. In fact, I generally disapprove of unions. I do, however, want to do everything possible to enable changes that I think will significantly benefit me, my co-workers, and the organization as a whole.

I wrote a nice note to the CTO, apologizing for my use of work resources, and explaining my motivation. Next, I’ll have to actually create a survey report so that I can pitch flexible work hours to management in general.

It continues to amuse and amaze me that I am the only one who is bugged enough by these policies to try to change them.

Perhaps I don’t have enough work to do.