Guide your boss past damaging rumors and unfounded blame

If your department is getting a bad rap, fight the scuttlebutt with concrete goals and evidence of your efforts and workload

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If you want to try for better than that, here are some possibilities:

Assuming that you and your colleagues have an opportunity to turn your talk with the IT director into a conversation, you might try the old assumption-of-agreement ploy. The way this works is that you overtly state your assumption that the IT director agrees with you on some obvious, key points, like, "As you know, we're nearly 30 percent under strength here, and I know we don't have to explain to you that when we're stretched this thin, something is going to give. The question is how we make sure the people you have to deal with understand this in a positive way."

If the IT director cares at all about evidence and logic, you might consider having everyone keep track of where their time goes between now and his arrival, to show both the total hours you're all working and how much of your time goes to covering the open positions. You may report, "We're already working 50-hour weeks, and as you can see the extra hours are all going to cover the open positions. If you want us to cover the third shift we can do that. Just help us reprioritize so that we know what other work we should set aside so we can be on-call for the next outage. We probably should do this, too, because without a maintenance and repair budget, outages are more likely than they used to be."

Another possibility: While I'm not a big fan of service-level agreements -- they're an alternative to effective leadership, not a sign of it -- you might find them to be a useful technique, given the absence of effective leadership you've described.

The way this would work is if you state, "I think our failure here was that we didn't clearly establish that there would be a change in service levels after the staff reduction. Clearly, we've been too informal about this. A four-hour response to a third-shift incident is about right, given our current staffing. We'd be happy to put a plan together to improve this, if you like. As you know, though, this sort of thing isn't free -- it will either take part of the budget, or we'll have an opportunity cost because something else will have to slip to allow us to provide better third-shift coverage."

One other possibility is moving away from silos: Propose to the IT director that you and the other company locations provide enough documentation and cross-training that you share staff for rotating third-shift coverage.

No matter what else you do during the talk, part of the conversation must involve you and your colleagues asking the IT director what information he needs so that he can deal effectively with IT's detractors. By phrasing it this way, you help him understand his proper role in this, offer your aid, and make clear you don't consider your performance to be anything less than strong, considering the situation -- that is, you need to make your reality his perception.

- Bob

This story, "Guide your boss past damaging rumors and unfounded blame," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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