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Big Boss Week 1: E-mailing the Big Boss June 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Big Boss, Management, Technology Trouble.
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This week is “Big Boss Week”, where I’ll present five days of useful tips for dealing with the Big Boss.

When it’s raining on your boss, it can sometimes be difficult to convince him that the problem is with his computer, not with yours. This happened to me recently.

Here’s the situation: we were running a live webcast on one of our sites. I had nothing to do with this webcast, but even though the Two-Year-Old — with the Big Boss’s blessing, no less — had slashed my department in half and taken away content management duties, it’s still my jot to troubleshoot.

If your Big Boss's IE is still in version 6, you might as well give up on getting any work done.

If your Big Boss's IE is still in version 6, you might as well give up on getting any work done.

So I troubleshooted — or is that “troubleshot” — in the simplest way possible: I opened the webcast on a computer that was not the Big Boss’s — which of course he could have done by calling his secretary and asking her to do, but that would have been more complicated* than just calling me. I told him I was viewing the webcast just fine.

Now, I’m not an IT guy, and I don’t know a whole lot about troubleshooting computer issues**, so I told him I would check a few more computers just to make sure and get back to him. The webcast was fine on all those computers too.

So I composed an e-mail to the Big Boss. But I didn’t hit send.

Because I had to think.

This is the first e-mail I composed:

I have checked the webcast on four computers and it has appeared on all of them. If exiting Internet Explorer and restarting it does not fix the problem, then you may need to contact Bob and ask him to figure out why your computer is experiencing difficulties.

What did I do wrong?

  1. Blaming the Big Boss: It’s never the fault of the person who signs your paycheck no matter how badly s/he screws up. In this case, it’s not the Big Boss’s fault, but I can’t very well blame him or his computer.
  2. Telling the Big Boss to Do Something: Never tell your boss to do something via e-mail. You can’t adopt the properly-servile tone of “pathetic underling” when you’re just sending words.
  3. Implying You Don’t Understand: Sure, you can tell the Big Boss you don’t know how to do something, but that’s not something you put down in recordable form. By saying someone else has to figure it out, you’re saying you can’t figure it out.

And so, this is what I came up with:

I have checked the webcast on four computers and it has appeared on all of them. If exiting Internet Explorer and restarting it does not fix the problem, then Bob or another IT person may need to check the computer and see why it is not displaying the stream.

I haven’t heard anything further, so I can only guess that the Big Boss made this someone else’s problem. And really that’s the goal of sending an e-mail to someone trying to make something into your problem: make that person shift the blame to someone else.

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* Because the Big Boss’s secretary at every company is completely incapable of using any technology beyond the phone, e-mail, and paging system. Nevertheless she (it’s almost always a woman) ends up on every committee and takes on a ton of responsibilities that all end up falling to someone else.

** Around here, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Comments»

1. CathrynG - June 1, 2009

Good advice for email the big boss: compose, think, re-write … finally, hit send!

In my experience, the administrative assistants (secretaries) are often more adept with technology than the rest of the staff.

2. Big Boss Week 2: Correcting the Big Boss « corporatespeak - June 2, 2009

[…] touched on this yesterday — being careful to e-mail your big boss so as not to say it’s his fault. Well, Top […]


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