Hello operator? A bumbling boss is on the line

The entire company is put on hold after the boss asks for the administrator password to the corporate phone system

It's a bad sign when the non-IT boss asks for an administrator password. Often it leads to some kind of disaster: being fired, a tech mess to clean up, and more such requests in the future. A few years ago my boss asked for the administrator password to our phone/voicemail system and, surprise surprise, ran into some snags.

It was a Friday morning, and I was planning to be out the following Monday for my kid's birthday party. My boss, "Sheryl," stopped by my desk and surprised me by asking for my administrator password. It would be an understatement to say that I was concerned.

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Sheryl is proficient with Microsoft Office, for example, but the phone/voicemail system isn't her forte for sure. She usually left the tech details to me, so this request was unusual. She'd never mentioned our phone systems before. What did she want with the password?

I asked, and Sheryl replied that she wanted to play around with trying to improve the handling of phone calls in the organization. I asked her what she wanted to improve, but she said she wasn't sure exactly. I told her I could provide phone call statistics from the system for her to review, but she insisted on taking a look herself.

I had a sinking feeling that I was facing not only a potential disaster with the phone system, but that this was only the beginning of Sheryl wanting to "take a look" at other systems as well. At that moment, I didn't see any alternative other than giving her the password. She is the boss, after all.

I gave her the password, but I also showed her how to back up all the settings on the phone system before she changed anything. In addition, I handed her the 500-page phone system administrator manual for reference.

Before leaving for the weekend, I made one more backup of the phone/voicemail configuration and stored it on one of our servers. Then I left, hoping for the best.

On Monday during my kid's birthday party, I got a call on my cellphone. I didn't recognize the number, so I didn't answer it. It rang again a few minutes later from the same phone number, but I let it go to voicemail. My phone rang a third time, but I was busy with the party and decided I'd look into it afterward. I helped my spouse clean up, then checked the voicemail from the unknown caller.

That caller turned out to be Sheryl, dialing from her personal cellphone, which is why I didn't recognize the phone number. She told me that the office phones weren't working.

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