The three rules of management: Document, document, document

An IT manager is reminded to document everything when the lack of a paper trail threatens a valued employee's livelihood

It's a cliche, but managers love to insist that the IT staff document absolutely everything related to the job. However, it's also a good idea for supervisors to heed their own directives, as I found out the hard way when I was the IT manager at a small company with a handful of staff.

Back when the recession first hit, we had to cut costs at the company. My boss, the CFO, and I went over everything with a fine-toothed comb to see what we could live without. Of course, it became much more difficult when we had to think about staff.

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One IT person was an excellent worker and we wanted him to stick around, though we didn't really have the funds to maintain his position. Eventually, we came up with an offer that all of us -- HR, the employee, the CFO, and my team -- found agreeable. He would work for us part-time but keep his full-time benefits, thus cutting costs just enough to reach our goals but still retaining him on staff.

Given that the CFO and HR had been involved in the process, I didn't document this agreement on my end, nor did I follow up. I assumed that the CFO would notify HR that it was finalized, and HR would process the necessary paperwork to put in the IT person's file.

Several months passed and all was well: We were pleased to have him on staff, and he was satisfied with the arrangement, especially in a bad economy.

A few months more passed. It was obvious that the IT budget wasn't too rosy, so I decided to leave for another job. I had a feeling the company was going to cut my position or reduce me to part-time, so rather than wait around to find out, I decided to jump ship.

Strangely enough, they didn't eliminate my position, but the company decided to replace my former boss, the CFO, with a lower finance person -- a director-level instead of a C-level position.

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