Remember that “Closed for Maintenance” page you got when you tried to visit lolcatz.com at 4AM after a hard night of drinking? I was probably the geek working on the system at that time. For IT workers, off-hours work is a staple of existence. Users expect services to be up 24/7, so the only time you can perform major changes is when no one wants to be awake hitting your stupid, stupid website. And trust me, all websites seem stupid when you’re up at odd hours working on them.
I have to do this sort of thing about twice a month with my current employer, and today was one of them. After finishing my work around seven, I started thinking about crawling back into bed and sleeping for another hour before taking a stab at doing anything else. By this time my wife just left for work and the house was super quiet. What the hell. I’d be more effective for the rest of the day if I got a little more rest, wouldn’t I?
Just when my nap was getting good, my cell starts going off. It’s my manager. We’ve been working on a particular technology project for a while without any success and he wanted to talk about it. Apparently he was able to schedule a meeting with the vendor of this product for 8:30 AM, and sorry for the short notice, but could I join it?
Yeah, sure. Why the flick not?
The vendor wasted no time in telling us that our lack of success was due to not following instructions. I called bullshit. We had one of their specialists on a web meeting with us twice over the past month and this supposed genius was also unable to resolve our issues. I asked for a consultant on-site to help us get stuff working. They balked, instead asking me to start the process over again from scratch to “level-set.”
Here’s the interesting part. I found myself refusing to follow their suggestion, and for all of the wrong reasons.
The twenty five year old version of me would have agreed. Sure, that makes sense. Reset everything, try the instructions again, and let you know how it goes. It’s a lot of work for me, but it’s worth it in the long run because we’ll have more insight into the source of the problem if it’s still broken. And there’s a small chance that doing it again will somehow result in success. Then I’d work at breakneck pace until finishing.
The current revision of myself, at age thirty six, loathed the idea, though, I found myself refusing. Listen guys, I already followed all of the instructions. I spent weeks on this. Your own tech support reviewed everything and couldn’t find a single problem with the configuration. I’m really looking for your guidance here. I believe in letting subject matter experts solve problems relating to their subjects. This means you, not me.
Although my stated reason sounded fine and was, for the most part, politically acceptable, it wasn’t the real reason I pushed back. Not at all.
Reason #1) Work begets work.
The minute we have this thing functioning correctly I’ll have to re-do the procedure on twenty other servers. I’ll be creating a project plan, setting dates, engaging other teams for their help in the implementation and roll-out. Incidentally, the scheduling will be off-hours, meaning there’s lots more 5AM work in my future.
Simplified: The longer I stall, the easier my job is. I’m spacing my work out. No one else will put the spacers in place but me.
Reason #2) I’m protecting myself.
Anyone who has ever worked with a vendor on technology stuff knows that it’s great to be able to blame shit on them. Without the vendor, it’s Your Fault. With the vendor, there’s a nice little buffer between you and blame. I’m wrapped in a warm layer of vendsulation. When anyone asks me how it’s going, I’ll just complain about how lousy they are, how the support staff sucks, how disappointed I am in the complexity of the solution. Everyone loves to hate the vendor, so it’s an easy story to sell.
Reason #3) Crankiness
Any day I’m waking up super early for work, I’m not going to feel like volunteering for an extra helping of ass.
Reason #4) The project itself is meaningless
Without going into the technical details, I’ll just say that the whole thing that we’re trying to fix here doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s a complete non-issue. In more corporate terms, there’s no business impact to doing or not doing this thing that we’re doing. Nada. Crazily, we also have an alternate solution which I proved is easy to implement, works and is free six months prior. But no one cares. The rumor is that someone higher up has a relationship with this vendor and wants us to implement this solution so they have an excuse to make a purchase and give them money. (Aside: I find it intensely hypocritical that the same people who write mission statements and ask you to believe in the value of your contribution to The Enterprise then turn around and do things with said Enterprise that are clearly self-serving and anti-Enterprise, i.e. they are taking advantage of the very same institution that they are asking you to unquestioningly devote yourself to.)
I can’t give any of these reasons on the call, of course, so I do the only thing I can. Stall. And pray that when it comes down to it, they won’t be able to get the stupid thing working either.
Because at work, good deeds go punished. I’ve done enough of them to know.