We are sometimes admonished: “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Since there is rarely a logical reason to shoot messengers, such advice should not be needed. But it is, because bad news hurts, and organisations find it difficult to deliver such news to the person in charge.
One of Friedrich Hayek’s obvious-once-pointed-out observations is that society is full of local knowledge, often of a subtle nature and only fleetingly exploitable. That is one reason why decentralised market processes tend to work well. When a hierarchy has to exist, Hayek’s insight is the reason why bosses should want to receive truthful assessments of what is going on the shop floor (they don’t) and subordinates should be happy to provide them (they aren’t).
What makes matters worse for any organisation is that the same dynamic is taking place at every level. Each middle manager is a fresh obstacle to the flow of truth up a hierarchy of wastebaskets. Sensible managers try to let information flow freely, but many are happy to reinforce the barricades for their own peace of mind.