The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss



  • As IT pros it is sometimes, actually almost always, our job, as determined by our bosses, to take requests, demands, tickets, etc. from end users (or even customers) with a grain of salt and do what we believe is in their interest or what they "meant", regardless of what they say. This generally makes sense, as ridiculous as it sounds, the average person asks for something random rather than communicating what they actually want. Amazingly, this doesn't seem to be a problem in restaurants, but is in IT. Where the disconnect in "how to communicate desires" happens, I do not know.

    This works because presumably we are in a position of power over the end users, either because we actually sit above them in the organization, or we are directed to act "to do what is good for them, rather than what they think that they want" by someone higher in the organization that either of us, often a CIO or CEO. Basically we act on behalf of the organization rather than the end user. The chain of command makes this make sense.

    Because of the chain of command, we are not being capricious, nor are we breaking the rules, we are clearly following our IT mandate.

    Now a different issue comes up with we aren't dealing with an end user but are instead dealing with someone above us in the chain of command. The same logic cannot hold in this way. Everything that allows us to work this way with end users works only because the chain of command allows it, or demands it. We are simply doing our job as it is defined.

    If we try to reverse this and do the same to our bosses up the chain, we hit a logical impasse. Our boss(es) are who defined what our job is and how we behave. Once we start "ignoring what they say and do what we feel we should do for them" we are picking and choosing when we listen and when we don't, when we follow the rules and when we don't. This changes everything. Our bosses are not end users, the chain of command logic is broken. Our job duties, how to perform them, when to listen and when to ignore, all these things are set by the same people we would have to stop "believing". At which point, when do we listen and when do we ignore? In all acceptable cases, it is management that determines that. And that's why that logic fails when it is management that we consider treating in this way.


  • Banned

    Any time my boss or someone in the CoC tells me to do something unusual I just respond with, you're the boss, whatever you say goes.

    There is 0 grounds to disobey or disregard what they say. You're paying me, you are the business. If you want X, you get X.

    In a case like @Dashrender's though, the fix is to tell the boss they are inept, there is no other answer to be had there. Maybe do it tactfully though?


  • Banned

    Or maybe more poignantly "sure thing boss, will get it done!"



  • One of the core problems with using the "end user technique" with a boss is that when it is an end user, they are powerless to do anything about it. Management dictated what happened to them, not IT.

    When IT does this to their own boss, they are at fault, there is no management chain protection. If, in an odd case, this behaviour is demanded you are at an impasse - any action you take puts you at fault, there are conflicting requirements.



  • @scottalanmiller said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    One of the core problems with using the "end user technique" with a boss is that when it is an end user, they are powerless to do anything about it. Management dictated what happened to them, not IT.

    When IT does this to their own boss, they are at fault, there is no management chain protection. If, in an odd case, this behaviour is demanded you are at an impasse - any action you take puts you at fault, there are conflicting requirements.

    Yeah but there is a time where blindly following policy doesn't make sense either. can't ever account for everything you will encounter. It's a balance.


  • Banned

    @wirestyle22 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    Yeah but there is a time where blindly following policy doesn't make sense either. can't ever account for everything you will encounter. It's a balance.

    If your boss tells you they want you to jump in place all day long, you'll jump in place all day long. If they tell you to not do something, you don't do it.

    If they tell you to drill a hole in a wall, you drill a hole in a wall.

    You're paid to do as they tell you, not to question them.


  • Banned

    Only if something is illegal would you say "no I'm not doing that". Otherwise as your employer, you do ask is asked of you.



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    Any time my boss or someone in the CoC tells me to do something unusual I just respond with, you're the boss, whatever you say goes.

    There is 0 grounds to disobey or disregard what they say. You're paying me, you are the business. If you want X, you get X.

    In a case like @Dashrender's though, the fix is to tell the boss they are inept, there is no other answer to be had there. Maybe do it tactfully though?

    Wow - I love how you say - yes sir how high sir - but me - I'm supposed to say - screw you, you're an idiot.. thanks.


  • Banned

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    Wow - I love how you say - yes sir how high sir - but me - I'm supposed to say - screw you, you're an idiot.. thanks.

    I didn't say that, your boss told you to do something impossible "make all of this conferencing software work all of the time", but your boss refuses to do the very same thing that would be expected of any person on the planet which is to read the content presented to them.

    If my boss said, Dustin, I want you to jump in place all day long and do nothing else besides stopping to use the rest room and you'll get paid.

    Guess what I'm doing today?


  • Banned

    The difference is an order, versus a vague "I'm to stupid to figure this out, can you make this stupid proof?"



  • @wirestyle22 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @scottalanmiller said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    One of the core problems with using the "end user technique" with a boss is that when it is an end user, they are powerless to do anything about it. Management dictated what happened to them, not IT.

    When IT does this to their own boss, they are at fault, there is no management chain protection. If, in an odd case, this behaviour is demanded you are at an impasse - any action you take puts you at fault, there are conflicting requirements.

    Yeah but there is a time where blindly following policy doesn't make sense either. can't ever account for everything you will encounter. It's a balance.

    I completely disagree with this.

    Though while I do disagree with your statement, the reality that we live in says that there will be times the bosses don't follow the policy and blame you for stuff that's not your fault anyway.

    So for example - my boss says hey install Skype on my computer, I do so, she becomes infected by a virus from her use of Skype - boss blames me for not informing her that could happen, or any other ridiculous blame you want to come up... the point being that the boss demands X, you do X, and then something bad happens and you get blamed for it. this is a failing not of you, but of them, but sadly, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself from it. And if you end up fired over it... still not sure there is much protection you can get - even if you have email, whatever, showing that they ordered you to do it... because At Will employment in most cases. of course this is an extreme example.


  • Banned

    And this very post that you posted about is the proof to the topic.

    You were asked to fix something that is not able to be fixed. You can't force your boss to read the screen, and your boss hasn't told you "we need to have ever piece of possible conferencing software installed on all systems at all times and kept up to date for the potential vendor web conference, so install it all on all systems."

    You were given vague, do nothing orders. Versus a direct Install this on my pc



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    Wow - I love how you say - yes sir how high sir - but me - I'm supposed to say - screw you, you're an idiot.. thanks.

    I didn't say that, your boss told you to do something impossible "make all of this conferencing software work all of the time", but your boss refuses to do the very same thing that would be expected of any person on the planet which is to read the content presented to them.

    If my boss said, Dustin, I want you to jump in place all day long and do nothing else besides stopping to use the rest room and you'll get paid.

    Guess what I'm doing today?

    Where - where did I say "make all of this conferencing work all of the time" - OH yeah, I didn't. You, Dustin, inferred that from the title of my post perhaps.. but this was a ME question, not a request/demand, etc from my boss.

    She only called and asked that I get Skype working. period.


  • Banned

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    She only called and asked that I get Skype working. period.

    But that is just it, Skype does work, your boss being inept and not reading is what she is telling you to fix, with an improper request to you.



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    And this very post that you posted about is the proof to the topic.

    You were asked to fix something that is not able to be fixed. You can't force your boss to read the screen, and your boss hasn't told you "we need to have ever piece of possible conferencing software installed on all systems at all times and kept up to date for the potential vendor web conference, so install it all on all systems."

    You were given vague, do nothing orders. Versus a direct Install this on my pc

    What again are you talking about? Her issue is that she couldn't click on a link received via email and get to skype to be in a conference - I can most certainly 'make it work.' That topic has several solutions to make it work.


  • Banned

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    she couldn't click

    Literally means "she can't read". and "Do this for me so I don't have to think about anything".



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    She only called and asked that I get Skype working. period.

    But that is just it, Skype does work, your boss being inept and not reading is what she is telling you to fix, with an improper request to you.

    I'm sorry - not reading? what do you mean?

    She got a link - when she clicked it - it launched S4B... it prompted her to login - she put in her email address - S4B errored saying so such user exists in S4B.

    At this point the sales person should have told her to open skype.com and give her some kind of conference code to log into as guest.. but no, they had no clue how to help her.. so she reached out to me.

    Normal users have no clue the difference between S4B and Skype. And yes, she's a normal user. Like most CEO's would be.



  • @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    ... the point being that the boss demands X, you do X, and then something bad happens and you get blamed for it.

    This is why I will never blindly do something. I'm sorry, I don't care if you're the janitor, or the Master of the Multiverse, I'm not doing to do something just because the boss says to do it -- Especially if it is something that will come back and bite ME for doing what my boss said to do.

    Now that's not to say I won't do it. But I'm going to talk with the boss about it, get more details and have a conversation with him about why his request is a good or a bad idea, or why I don't understand why he wants it done in a particular way.

    Once I understand what the boss wants, and/or have my CMA's (Cover My Ass) in writing and documented, then I'll do it, even if it is still something I don't agree with doing.

    I have a brain, I'm going to use it.



  • @dafyre said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    ... the point being that the boss demands X, you do X, and then something bad happens and you get blamed for it.

    This is why I will never blindly do something. I'm sorry, I don't care if you're the janitor, or the Master of the Multiverse, I'm not doing to do something just because the boss says to do it -- Especially if it is something that will come back and bite ME for doing what my boss said to do.

    Now that's not to say I won't do it. But I'm going to talk with the boss about it, get more details and have a conversation with him about why his request is a good or a bad idea, or why I don't understand why he wants it done in a particular way.

    Once I understand what the boss wants, and/or have my CMA's (Cover My Ass) in writing and documented, then I'll do it, even if it is still something I don't agree with doing.

    I have a brain, I'm going to use it.

    OK truly doing something totally blindingly is lightly stupid.. as IT professionals, it's definitely not unreasonable to ponder the request, and inquire if it just seems wonky in some way, exactly as you mention.
    But there is no real CYA for a boss who is unwilling to accept their own blame in a request they make.



  • @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @dafyre said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @Dashrender said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    ... the point being that the boss demands X, you do X, and then something bad happens and you get blamed for it.

    This is why I will never blindly do something. I'm sorry, I don't care if you're the janitor, or the Master of the Multiverse, I'm not doing to do something just because the boss says to do it -- Especially if it is something that will come back and bite ME for doing what my boss said to do.

    Now that's not to say I won't do it. But I'm going to talk with the boss about it, get more details and have a conversation with him about why his request is a good or a bad idea, or why I don't understand why he wants it done in a particular way.

    Once I understand what the boss wants, and/or have my CMA's (Cover My Ass) in writing and documented, then I'll do it, even if it is still something I don't agree with doing.

    I have a brain, I'm going to use it.

    OK truly doing something totally blindingly is lightly stupid.. as IT professionals, it's definitely not unreasonable to ponder the request, and inquire if it just seems wonky in some way, exactly as you mention.
    But there is no real CYA for a boss who is unwilling to accept their own blame in a request they make.

    In that situation, it's one of you can't fix stupid.



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    You're paid to do as they tell you, not to question them.

    That depends on who your boss is. They are paying you for your expertise. Anyone can make a request. It's our job to interpret their needs and to do it in the best way possible. Sometimes there are considerations a non-technical user won't think about. That requires you to ask questions and help them understand how they can achieve what they actually want to do.


  • Banned

    @wirestyle22 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    You're paid to do as they tell you, not to question them.

    That depends on who your boss is. They are paying you for your expertise. Anyone can make a request. It's our job to interpret their needs and to do it in the best way possible. Sometimes there are considerations a non-technical user won't think about. That requires you to ask questions and help them understand how they can achieve what they actually want to do.

    No, you are misinterpreting what you are there to do. Being in IT or any other field has nothing to do with what you are expressly told to do.

    If my boss came to me and said Dustin, I need you to open this document and edit it because we are short staffed. Use photoshop or whatever.

    It's a legal request, you do it. You don't have to be qualified, understand the reasoning or anything else. You're given a responsibility to do it, so you do it.

    The example I provided above about jumping in place is the same example. You're being paid for your time, how you are asked to fill that time doesn't matter - so long as it's a legal request.

    Otherwise you're fired because you're not following through with your responsibilities.


  • Banned

    When you are asked to do something vague like "make sure this works", then you can do nothing besides the most basic approach.

    When there are alternative approaches (like using a web browser to join a skype meeting) it's on your boss/vendor to offer those solutions. Not on you to fix their ineptitude.



  • @DustinB3403 So you're boss says give access to our file server to all users. It has very sensitive data on it. You just do it?


  • Banned

    @wirestyle22 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @DustinB3403 So you're boss says give access to our file server to all users. It has very sensitive data on it. You just do it?

    It's not my responsibility to quantify the reasoning for the request, it's a legal one and they are the person responsible. Would I get a CYA for a request like that, absolutely. Would said CYA matter in anything but a court of law, no.

    Your boss is giving an express legal action to perform, so you do it. You aren't legal council for the company, you aren't being paid to question the boss. You're there to do as told unless otherwise not expressly being told to "fix Y".



  • @scottalanmiller said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    At which point, when do we listen and when do we ignore?

    You don't ignore, but IMO you inform/educate them of your expert opinion, then after, you do as told.


  • Banned

    @Obsolesce said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @scottalanmiller said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    At which point, when do we listen and when do we ignore?

    You don't, but IMO you inform/educate them of your expert opinion, then after, you do as told.

    Exactly, you can say "Boss, giving everyone access to the server is a bad idea. We can go about this other ways if you'd like that would result in what you likely need, can we meet and discuss?"

    If they say, "no, do as I said." you've done your job to offer a reasonable solution, so do as they said and open up the server.



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @Obsolesce said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @scottalanmiller said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    At which point, when do we listen and when do we ignore?

    You don't, but IMO you inform/educate them of your expert opinion, then after, you do as told.

    Exactly, you can say "Boss, giving everyone access to the server is a bad idea. We can go about this other ways if you'd like that would result in what you likely need, can we meet and discuss?"

    If they say, "no, do as I said." you've done your job to offer a reasonable solution, so do as they said and open up the server.

    I think that would be interpreted as questioning of the reasoning behind the action. If I discuss it with them and they still decide it then yeah, I'm going to do it. I'm also going to document everything including e-mails etc to cover myself as I always do.



  • @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    You're paid to do as they tell you, not to question them.

    This statement was the one I disagreed with



  • @wirestyle22 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    @DustinB3403 said in The Fundamental Flaw in Not Listening to the Boss:

    You're paid to do as they tell you, not to question them.

    This statement was the one I disagreed with

    yep, some definite talking out both sides of your mouth on that one.


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