Techie, trust thyself and respect will follow

At a hospital communications job, a techie balances how much information to tell users and how much to listen to the IT team

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A botched communication

The evening of another scheduled maintenance arrived. I took my place, ready for action. Everything started on time, and I sent the necessary messages letting users know. The techs reported that all was working as it should. I watched the clock as it ticked closer and closer to the stated finish time.

The phone rang. I expected the all-clear, but the tech said there was a problem and we would be "just a few minutes longer." When this had happened another time, the techs had given me an estimated delay to pass along to the users, so I asked what it would be. The tech's reply surprised me: "There's no need to send out any messages since it will just be a few minutes more. No need to make us look bad."

"OK," I said to myself. But 30 minutes went by and I was getting nervous. I called the techs and got the same response: No need to send out the message. My instincts told me that users needed to know and keeping them informed would make the tech team look less bad than no message at all. But I waited.

Another 30 minutes went by. At this point, I was starting to panic but was told the same thing by the techs. Meanwhile, calls were coming in from angry physicians and nurses wanting to know why the system was not up and why they were not being informed.

I was sweating and going in circles in my mind about what to do, but was too hesitant to take any action. Finally, 90 minutes after the stated finish time, the system was back up. I had not sent out a single word of communication in that interim.

The next day, I caught serious flak from what seemed like every employee in the hospital, including my managers. My reputation and confidence took a serious hit. Fortunately, I was neither fired nor relieved of the communication duty.

Be strong

But I learned a valuable lesson: When it's your job on the line, don't let others influence you to deviate from the plan. They won't suffer -- but you will. And not sending information was a disservice to the users. I resolved that the next time this happened, I would trust myself and do what I thought best in the situation.

Eventually, this same scenario happened again. But this time I was the seasoned and battle-tested veteran. As soon as the tech called and said, "It's going to be only a few more minutes, no need to send out the communication," my fingers were already flying, writing and sending out the messages. Three hours later the system came back up. The techs were upset with me, but I felt I had done the right thing. I went home and slept soundly.

The following day, users and my managers showered me with accolades. And the next time maintenance was delayed by the infamous prediction of "just a few minutes," the techs told me to do what I thought best.

Send your own IT tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "Techie, trust thyself and respect will follow," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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