RESPECT: Just a Little Bit!

Do you ever have those days, weeks, or months where life just gets you down? Too many projects to juggle. Too many battles too fight. Too many bills to pay. Not enough hours in the day.

Do you ever feel like this?

He looks how I feel sometimes...
My self-portrait!

The last few weeks have been rough. Getting my daughter Steph graduated and packed for Africa consumed much of my energy and emotion. I haven’t recharged yet. I can see it daily, as I allow typical bureaucratic in-fighting to get under my skin. Normally I’m more resilient. Now, I just feel flat.

Doing the right thing can be hard...I received lots of TWencouragement from tweeps. Like this tweet from Gordon Vaughn @aeroG of Houston, Texas:

Tweet: Doing right thing is about long-term perspective.What’s been really hard lately (for a career government employee who despises paperwork of any kind — except a paycheck, and those are electronic now) is putting in place legal documents to enable a 5-year exhibit contract, a never-been-done-before technology concept to capture innovative thought-processes, and partnerships to propel forward our next LAUNCH sustainability forum.

Bow Wave by artist Edouard Kamhi
Bow Wave by artist Edouard Kamhi

Think about a power boat slicing the water in forward progress. What’s left behind? The water has to go somewhere, and it’s powerful enough to swamp another boat.

If you travel through the air, you create a shock wave. The point is: with forward movement, you displace what was once there and shift it somewhere else.

It’s the same in the government. You can push forward and make significant progress, but at some point, the paperwork catches up with you. It’s simply a given…

The cost of doing business with the government: paperwork.

But in the midst of all the scrambling the past few weeks to make sure we document the cool things we’re doing at NASA, a colleague made this comment to me:

“What’s different about you, Beth, is that you respect the bureaucracy.”

Ok, I’ve got to admit. I was horrified. I abhor bureaucracy. It’s the bane of my existence. When I asked what she meant, she explained. Though I push the envelop and make people crazy with my new ideas, I respect that legal documents make everything work.

I had to admit. She’s right. What I’ve learned through 25 years getting smacked around by the goverment: the law is the law. We can argue interpretation of the law (and I’m pretty good at arguing for flexibility), but we need our lawyers to bless our forward progress.

If our lawyers are with us, who can be against us…if you know what I mean.

I learned something new about myself in the midst of this crazy, chaotic, bureaucratic nightmare I’m in the middle of:

I really DO respect the difference between doing my own thing, and doing the right thing. Hopefully, they’ll always be the same thing.

Where’s Aretha when I need her? I feel like singing...R.E.S.P.E.C.T…just a little bit…!


Crosspost on BethBeck’s Blog.

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Just put a smile on my face.

The cost of doing business with the government: paperwork.

But I like what you are saying – it’s easy to just complain but you got to understand the limits and restraints built into the system.

Profile Photo Peter Sperry

You are correct, rules are rules and must be obeyed; however…….

I’ve discovered through painful experiance the importance of learning WHY a givien rule or law was established. Quite often, I am less eager to challange them once I understand the reasoning behind them. But I’ve also learned the most powerful arguments a change agent can bring to bear on a situation is “This rule was drafted for X reason which is no longer relavant so the organization can safely amend or retire the rule with no negative consequences.” The second most powerful argument is “This rule was drafted for X reason and the same result can be (or already has been) achieved through other means in this situation so the organization can waive the rule in this situation while retaining it for the future if needed.” When the powers that be understand you have done your homework and are willing to live within established rules; they become more more willing to amend or waive those rules as needed.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

I hate paperwork, too, Beth. Necessary evil.

But can we at least move to automated systems where what we fill out the first time is available every time such that the process is streamlined?

That’s what always bothered me about paperwork, was that I had to enter much of the same info over and over and over and…

Profile Photo Bill Brantley

The fun is when you learn to master the rules and processes. Then you can start using them against the people who hide in the rules and processes. It’s also important to realize the two different types of rules. There are the necessary rules that provide accountability and create the infrastructure for an effective workplace. Then there are the rules that created because of an inordinate sense of caution and/or fear of novelty. Being able to recognize the difference is crucial in knowing how to work the system to your advantage.