Wednesday, February 8, 2012

kicking over anthills

I pushed some boundaries at work today. I don't know if I was pissing people off or not, but I was definitely causing a bit of a ruckus.

I was a bit crabby last night, as one of my team members told me about an Important Thing broken at work that really should have been fixed a while ago. I started writing an email last night, then decided to wait until this morning so I could hassle people in person. Good choice, right?

This morning I sent an email to This Guy and his boss (who is also my boss). In some company cultures, this is a kind of sandbagging, where you escalate an issue above someone's head to get their boss to yell at them about it. In the Male Status Game, this ends up as a shaming maneuver that makes someone lose face. I didn't really mean it that way, though. The two of them combined should be able to produce an answer as to why Important Thing was broken, and whether it was going to be fixed. If it wasn't going to be fixed, I needed to know that, so I could implement some kind of workaround.

Unfortunately, I was a bit irritable this morning, and the response of "Important Thing is really high-priority for us, we're working on it right now" didn't really hold water. I call bullshit when you say that something is "high priority," but it's been broken for weeks, there's no estimated time for fixing it, and the entire company is going "Gosh, I guess we gave up on the Important Thing. Too bad it was so incredibly expensive." The magic words at our company are "this is blocking us from getting things done," and that, erm, stimulated some activity. Important Thing got fixed within a couple hours. One of the Ops guys got leaned on to do it, but the situation was really not okay. Every team desperately needs the data that Important Thing provides.

When I put it that way, I think I was just fulfilling one of my key roles in the organization, which is to get irritated and say, "This is needlessly stupid. Can we please fix it now?". If I ruffled feathers unduly, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

I think it says a lot about the difficulties of humans that in the most transparent company I've ever seen, we still need to work on our internal communication.

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