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Identification of a new workplace malady: Bureauvirus


You’ve heard this story before; you’ve probably seen it. When the bureaucrats move in, they take over the parts of the system within their control and pervert them for their own comfort and convenience. Sure, on some level they might acknowledge that the “core business” of the organisation is xyz, whatever it might be, science in my case, and they might even lie that they see their role as “facilitating” xyz, and possibly they’ll prattle on about efficiency too.

“Just helping you do your job.”

“Removing obstacles from your way.”

But we all know it’s bullshit: these people do not become enablers; they become gatekeepers.

They do not “remove obstacles” – they impose them; every day, more and more compliance overhead, and their net effect is undoubtedly and significantly negative.

I want to rage at them, but some of them are my friends. That’s part of the problem, of course. Individually they’re just people, like we are, doing what people do, and not evil; well-intentioned, mostly. But, like viruses that invade a host cell and co-opt its reproductive “machinery” to make more viruses instead of more healthy cells, they proliferate, build fiefdoms, and take more and more resources away from the core purpose of the organisation.

Any project that wants my expertise has to pay more than $200 per hour for it. Less than 30% of that is my salary. The rest is to pay for all the parasites clinging on to me.

That’s unfair. Some things are inevitable. Of course my hourly rate has to reflect the cost of running the building I work in, payroll, IT, depreciation on my equipment and all the rest – maybe two times my salary, I reckon – but not the flotilla of records managers, team leaders, theme leaders, project managers, health and safety meddlers, and all the other bozos who wouldn’t recognise good science, or indeed any kind of science, if it walked up and bit them in the arse.

The root of the problem lies with the suits, of course: the four fifths of our executive and board who are not themselves scientists, and don’t really know much about it, who have hired all these people and given them dominion over us. The voice of science is barely heard, any more, where I work. The viruses control everything.


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