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Don’t just shrug, say something!

Updated: Jul 11, 2018

People don’t always listen to your advice. That’s bad and good. It’s bad because if they listened, they’d probably save time, money, and aggravation. And it’s good because it probably guarantees you employment for a number of years. But what to do when they don’t listen or act? Many IT people respond by either:

  • shrugging their shoulders

  • dismissing the customer as an idiot

  • planning their “told you so” speech

  • getting ready to be blamed later

Instead of these choices, ACT to protect yourself and your client. The medical community has a term, “AMA” – stands for “against medical advice” – it helps cover doctors and hospitals in the event a patient doesn’t listen and then suffers as a result. This is a byproduct of much litigation, I’m sure. But IT people can take a page out of this book. Often, they don’t have the patience or communication finesse to persuade someone to do the right thing. They are used to people trusting them or understanding the technical reasons why something should be done. Dealing with non-technical people can be a boring, tedious exercise in patience and frustration. Here are some ingredients to write the optimal “CYA” letter when you feel your advice isn’t getting through.

Ingredients for an effective IT “CYA” letter:

  • Make sure the first paragraph clearly states that there will be a problem if the situation is not addressed.

  • Convey the appropriate timing ( e.g “within one week”) – the more specific you are, the better.

  • Offer a simple resolution to the issue

  • Includes paperwork (purchase order, for example, or budget) to enable change. Don’t dwell on the tech details.

  • Stay positive in tone and not “doom & gloom”

  • Don’t make the recipient look bad to their supervisor(s)

  • Copy any necessary higher-ups on the situation – this one is delicate

  • Copy your IT staff (supervisor, team, management) as appropriate

  • Stay focused – doesn’t pull other subjects into discussion

There’s still a good likelihood your advice will not be heard or accepted. But, when the stuff hits the proverbial fan down the road, you’ll suddenly look like a prognosticator instead of an indifferent geek. And when someone says “why didn’t you tell me this would happen”, you can say “actually, if you re-read the note I sent you on August 15th….”

You’ll be furious if someone says “but you never told me.” And even more furious if you DID tell them and they forgot. Fix it with a documented, clear, positive warning.


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