My boss stepped into our shared cubicle space and rested his arm on top of the fabric wall. He peered down at me. “Hey.” He always started with a quiet “hey” when he was about to ask me to do something new. I glanced at my whiteboard filled with projects and statuses, and steeled myself for the fresh request.
“Hey. I just got out of a meeting with Lewis.” I groaned inwardly. Lewis was my boss’s boss, and while Lewis was a fantastic human being, meetings with him were usually in the context of projects. Big ones. I put on a fake smile to mask creeping despair. “Oh? How did that go?”
My boss ripped off the band-aid. “Lewis wants a monthly summary from everyone of what they’ve been doing. So, on the last Friday of the month, make sure you have all your project statuses updated, including key milestones. Your whiteboard is great for you and me since we share this space, but now you’re going to need to log your statuses into the project database.” He smirked. “Like a big boy.”
I died a little inside. One of the reasons I’d left consulting to join this company was because of how thoroughly I loathed timesheets. At the consultancy, timesheets were life. Customers bought hours. We billed against those hours. We had to justify the billing in an annoying level of detail. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the value of timesheets. I did. I just hated the time-sucking tedium of tracking the time and then filling out the sheets, especially if I’d gotten behind. And now a new form of timesheets?!? No, thanks.
I logged my objection, somewhat under my breath to avoid being overheard. “Are you serious? You know what’s on my plate. You know how busy I am–how busy we all are.” I traced a wide arc with an outstretched arm, sweeping across an IT group that was overworked, project-laden, perpetually on-call, and burning out. “Do we really need to be taking time to explain what we’re getting done? Does Lewis not understand what the IT team he leads actually does day to day? I know projects are behind, but we’re doing our best!”
I continued my tirade, my ire rising. “Dude, I was here all Friday night to be ready for the Saturday maintenance. I fell asleep IN THIS CHAIR just so we could get that core switch replacement done. I’m not asking for a medal, but I’m feeling a little unappreciated all of a sudden.”
I stopped, realizing if I didn’t shut up, I was going to say something I’d regret. I was already pushing boundaries.
My unflappable boss stared down at me, arm still propped up on the cubicle wall. He wasn’t upset, but it was clear he had a point to make. “I know what you did Friday, and what you do every day. You know I do. You get good reviews from me. And from Lewis.”
He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I don’t know that I should share this, but I’m going to anyway. Keep this to yourself.”
He continued. “Logging project statuses and accomplishments is about Lewis building bridges with the rest of senior management across the company. The guy Lewis replaced was so difficult to deal with, that the business still dislikes and distrusts IT even though he’s long gone. Lewis is fixing all of that. He’s mending IT’s relationship with the rest of the business. If he succeeds, we get the headcount we need. You don’t have to be on call 24×7. You can go on vacation and leave your laptop behind. You’ll have time to go to a training class. But it starts with Lewis being able to take all of what this department produces and explaining to the business why it matters.”
He paused again, glancing between me and my project whiteboard. Then he made one final point that brought it all together. “Don’t think of it as a status report. Think of it as…bragging. As advocating for yourself. As an opportunity to be proud of all the cool stuff you get done in a month. What we do in IT matters. Let’s help Lewis tell that story.”
About three months later, I sat on the panel interviewing candidates for our open req. I was going to have a junior network admin to train.
My “network fables” are fictional tales based heavily on my real-life experiences as a network engineer.