What to do when the boss meddles

There are some scenarios in which the boss masquerades as the IT department and dishes out illogical directives. Here's what you can do when the boss meddles.

In my last post, I wrote about some scenarios in which the boss masquerades as the IT department and dishes out illogical directives. Today, I'll talk about what you can do when the boss meddles.

Present your recommendations clearly

If you feel that the server that your boss wants to buy represents overkill, say so. Don't get mired in a prolonged discourse about related issues. Focus instead on the issue at hand.

You should raise pertinent arguments about not having enough space in the server room or a lack of UPS capacity. However, be sure to go back and reiterate on the inefficiency of the proposed expenditure clearly using unambiguous terms.

Don't argue

That's right - once you've made your recommendation clear, don't argue. Even if it's the silliest, most ridiculous and naive demand you've ever heard, keep your mouth shut. Feel free to reiterate your position, but agree to do it anyway.

You can say "I really don't think this is a good idea. But if it's how you want it, the team will execute it as per your instructions." In short: state the facts, without any hint of sarcasm or irony. You're not agreeing with the decision, but you're indicating your willingness to execute the instructions.

Take an indirect route

Recently, the director of my company asked me to arrange a meeting with the company that sold us our new IP PBX. I was in on the original selection and purchase along with the general manager. There were some minor outstanding issues remaining.

Due to some initial hiccups, the director decided to circumvent us and deal directly with the PBX vendors - hence the meeting. We ended up spending one hour talking about features of the PBX and drawing call routes on paper as the director attempted to understand how an IP-based PBX worked. To make a long story short, the vendor's team left the meeting without finding out the outstanding problems. At the behest of the director, their action plan was to arrange for another meeting, this time with a PBX engineer in tow.

I called the team leader after the meeting and within five minutes, outlined the exact issues that needed to be rectified. I also connected him with an end- user who was able to give clear, unbiased feedback on the state of the system. Hopefully, the vendor will be able to drill down and quickly resolve the root problems.


This might prove excessive in some cases. But if it's a really big project or there's a potential to mess up spectacularly, it might make sense to have your objection documented. It could be something as simple as an e-mail stating your professional recommendation versus your boss's explicit instructions.

I once encountered a company that was considering suing an ex-staffer who managed a database server. The server hard disk crashed shortly after he left, resulting in lost data due to the absence of proper backups. Thankfully, the idea was dropped as the majority of data was eventually reconstructed.

When I bumped into the said staffer months later, his side of the story was that repeated pleas failed to move management to allocate the necessary budget to purchase additional storage. As such, the automated backup process eventually failed as the size of the database grew beyond available capacity for regular backups.

Refusing to do it

Refusing to follow a direct order from management is almost a guarantee to get fired. An outright refusal should always be the last option on your list.

However, it might be your only choice if the directive is legally ambiguous or even outright illegal. Depending on where you live, you might be able to resort to legal recourse if you were unfairly terminated.


So there you go. I certainly hope that my recommendations are useful to you.


Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

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