I’ve found a delightfully exploitable social hack which I presented at UK GovCamp.
It applies to any uncooperative bureaucracy.
Here’s how it works. You ask someone to do something and they reply with “I’m sorry sir, that’s against our policy.”
You should say “I’m sorry to hear that. Please can you send me a copy of the policy?”
Turns out, most times, there is no policy!
Shocking, I know. So much of modern life rests on the whim of whichever call-centre worker you happen to get. If they can’t be bothered to do something, they can hide behind a non-existent policy.
Here are a few examples where it has worked for me.
A supplier refused to issue documentation via email and insisted on posting it out. Why? “It’s our security policy.”
I asked for a copy of the policy – so I could understand why I was allowed to send them documentation via “insecure” email, but they couldn’t reciprocate. Of course, there was no policy. They just didn’t know how to do email attachments.
A previous employer had an internal system which insisted that password could only be 8 alphabetic characters. No number, no special characters. Oh, and it had to change every 28 days. Again, asking for the policy showed that it was one person’s “overenthusiastic” interpretation of the IT department’s actual policy.
This happens repeatedly.
This isn’t a foolproof technique. Sometimes there is a genuine and well thought out policy in place.
A few examples of where it hasn’t worked.
- “My manager won’t let us share it.” (So I escalate to the manager and we repeat the process.)
- “Sorry sir, that’s an internal policy and we can’t share it.” (At which point you can apply for a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act to see how the decision was made.)
- “Certainly sir. Here is the policy which has been thoroughly reviewed by our lawyers.” (Fair enough, I guess!)
Anyway, this technique is now yours to try. See what works and report back.
Two important points to consider.
- This works for me. Of course, I have the confidence of a mediocre white man – your success may vary depending on your level of privilege.
- It’s rarely the fault of the person blocking your way. They’re stuck in a dystopian system which rewards them for denying you access. Don’t get angry with them – fix the system instead.
Share and Enjoy
My cheat for #ukgc18.
When someone says "I'm sorry, that's against our policy."
You should say "I'm sorry to hear that. Please can you send me a copy of the policy?"
Turns out, most times, there is no policy stopping you from doing the thing.
Do the thing anyway.
— Terence Eden (@edent) January 20, 2018