Don't you hate it when you get a call from whatever buried bureaucracy it is that you need to reach and agreement with today -- legal, customer service, health insurance, whatever -- and you get someone who is actively unhelpful? Where they give you some party line, and if you have more questions, they get uncomfortably agitated?

Drives me crazy. I had a question today with someone about taxes and credits who was a government worker, and she initially gave me the, "I was contacted by X and have asked your question, as relayed by X, to Y. Y's answer to X's question is Z. The end," spiel.

You already know it's going to be a bad day. There's at least three levels of plausible deniability already. Maybe that's the wrong phrase. Three levels of pass-the-buck-ability?

"That's not what I was asking, exactly," is usually followed with, "That's what X told me your question was." /sigh I think I might be the subject expert on this issue. (And, in this case, X had my question down pat, so either there was a communication problem from X to this person, call them B, or B wasn't trying really hard, which I feel is the case here.)

Or, "My question is really A," which bags, "I will forward your question to Y." Why in the world would I want B to poorly translate another Q & A, this time from Y, to me in a week?

Of course I want a little more than a powerless go-between -- as that's how they're actively positioning themselves. That's what bureaucracy is. Lines of incompetence between the parties looking for action or, in cases like this, likely inaction. It's like a rebate.

I want to be able to say, "I understand that you're answering what you thought I was asking after speaking with X -- let's call that question X1. That's not precisely the question. I'm really asking about X2 [with a short explanation]. Does that make sense? Can you see how X1 is different than X2?" and get an answer in the affirmative.

Because otherwise we're going to be playing The Telephone Game, literal and figurative, all over again when you relay question X3 to Y, and we'll be stuck in this conversation all over again.

And these bureaucracy folks all too often refuse to listen to what you're saying, because they feel if they say they understand X2, that means they're saying X2 is okay or right, and they must feel even hinting that someone's got a point can cause them trouble in their own job. That's not what's at issue at all. You're just helping me be more confident you're going to relay the right question to Y so that we're not doing this dance again.

I don't need a written reply to X1 or X3. I need to talk to Y about X2 and get that down in an email or doc. If you ask that question as a devil's advocate, which requires understanding exactly where I'm coming from, that's perfect. But if you can't -- and if you say X2 doesn't make sense to you, you can't -- please step aside so we don't waste any more of X or Y's (or your or my own) time.

Sound good? /sigh Sorry. Vent over.

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