When to Take "Barbaric Action" at Work. And How to Get Away with it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 8:00:00 AM

By Mark Tomalonis
Principal, WarehouseTWO, LLC

TQM. ISO 9000LeanSix Sigma.  All of these are effective programs that help your company be more profitable and provide a better end-customer experience.  And they all share a common foundation:  follow the rules.  But what if you are faced with a business situation for which following the rules is either unnecessarily detrimental to your customer, costs too much, takes too long, or simply does not make sense?  In these situations, take “barbaric action”!

What is “Barbaric Action” at Work?

“Barbaric action” at work is simply doing something counter to your company's policies or how you were trained, relating to your company’s operations.  Examples of “barbaric action” in distribution:

  • Exceeding limits on what you are authorized to spend, such as on expedite fees, premium freight.
  • Committing to a sales price in violation of company pricing policy.
  • Committing to terms of sale in violation of company sales transaction policy.
  • Overriding a value or step in your ERP (business software) system.
  • Creating a business transaction (such as sales order or purchase order) without involving the co-worker responsible and trained for creating such transactions.

Take “Barbaric Action” with Good Justification.  And Infrequently.

Sure, break the rules´╝Ź but do it elegantly.  That is, justify your decision with a logical explanation.  (“It was in the best interest of our good customer!”)  If you take “barbaric action” at work no more frequently than once per month and with good justification, you should be considered a creative, resourceful employee.  If you feel compelled to defy company policy more often than that, the policy might need revision.  If you take “barbaric action” every day, however, you might have issues respecting authority.  Get some counseling.  ;-)

The Key to Taking “Barbaric Action” Without Getting Fired

Yes, taking “barbaric action” is all about breaking rules.  Ironically, there is one rule associated with taking “barbaric action” that you must follow if you want to keep your job:  don’t leave “carnage”.  While “carnage” is literally defined as, “the killing of a large number of people”, we use it here to mean a significant disruption in business operations.  In the context of taking “barbaric action” at work, “carnage” can mean:

  • Causing significant but avoidable rework for co-workers.
  • Leaving inaccuracies in your system (such as inventory count).
  • Setting up a co-worker to provide misinformation to a customer (because you did not communicate your barbaric action).
  • Putting your company at financial risk or vulnerable to a law suit.
  • Doing something unethical or illegal.

How to Prevent “Carnage”

Consider the implications of your “barbaric action”.  Predict and prevent unnecessary fallout:

  • Tell someone what you did.  Always.  Then you’ll have two minds trying to determine how best to prevent “carnage”.  Two good people to tell:  your boss and the person who will have to deal with whatever carnage you may have created.
  • Document what you did.  Does your company have a CRM (customer relationship management) system?  Use it.  Enter a record of your barbarism.
  • Stay involved. Tie up loose ends.  Do whatever is necessary to clean up your mess.
  • Justify your “barbaric action”.  Explain what you did and why you did it.  If you think that the policy, rule or procedure that you defied is flawed, speak up.  Recommend how it can be improved.
  • Do not do something illegal or unethical.  Ever.  What are you, nuts?  Take the high road.  Always.  You’ll be rewarded in “Distributor Heaven”.  (Yeah, sure.  There IS such a place.)

Share Your “Barbaric Action” Story
Got a good example of how you took “barbaric action” at work and ended up being a hero?  Share it with us.  We love good stories!


About the Author
After a successful career in sales and operations management in the wholesale-distribution industry, Mark Tomalonis is now principal of WarehouseTWO, LLC.  He amuses himself by writing articles, such as this one, to help wholesaler-distributors execute their operations better.  Mark’s articles and tips are published in WarehouseTWO’s monthly e-newsletters.  Click here to subscribe.


About WarehouseTWO
WarehouseTWO, LLC is an independent “inventory-sharing” service created exclusively for durable goods manufacturers and their authorized distributors, and for any group of durable goods “peer” wholesaler-distributors, such as members of a buying/marketing group or cooperative.  To learn how inventory-sharing with WarehouseTWO can help your business, visit the WarehouseTWO website, or email info@warehousetwo.com.