I need a word or expression for someone who is using the rules (law or just company rules) as a tool to harm other people. Below is a story of A and K as an example of this behavior.

Citizen A applies for a parking permit. Citizen A knows there is a spot behind their building, and according to the city rules, the first applicant should get it. Officer K, who processes the applications, tells A to make sure that all the paperwork is in order, and sends A to get various signatures from other offices that are marginally relevant for the application. A collects all those signatures and returns to K. Instead of accepting the application immediately, K delays it for thirty business days, the maximum amount of time allowed by the law. Finally, K sends A an answer that another signature is needed from the Historic Monuments Committee within three business days, or the application will be considered invalid, as it must be finalized in maximum 90 business days. A succeeds by some magic and presents the signed application. K does some research on the parking spots near A's building, and rejects the application based on the fact that the building has no designated handicapped parking spot.


1 Answer 1


If K is doing this because

1 that is the way the rules say it should be done, and for no other reason, then he is being bureaucratic or a bureaucrat.

2 he simply does not want A to have the space, then he is being obstructive.

3 he hates A, then he is being spiteful or malicious.

In BE, there is also

K is “being a job’s-worth”(pejorative) – refusal to use one’s discretion or to help the person making the request. From the response to a request for permission, “I could not let you do that, it is more than my job is worth.” (i.e. “I would be fired if I allowed you to do that,” when it is clear that he would not be fired.))

If K is acting deliberately in order to inflict stress on A, then K is being “bloody minded”, i.e. Perverse, contrary; cantankerous; stubbornly intransigent or obstructive [with a view to gratuitously annoying the other party].

  • I have no idea why K is doing this in the real life, as I met many different K's, but I think this is a good answer, and I can use it to craft my fictional K. In many ways K reminds me of the main character in The Petty Demon of Fyodor Sologub. Aug 4, 2020 at 12:26
  • @Magicsowon Ah... the untranslatable по́шлость. You may find some help at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poshlost
    – Greybeard
    Aug 4, 2020 at 20:57

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