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Learning to Say No in the Workplace?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the knowing-your-limits-and-not-getting-trouble-for-it dept.

Businesses 723

Ummagumma asks: "I'm trying to find out how those of you who work in the IT service industry, tell customers 'no', when the requests are unreasonable for whatever reason. There is a culture here of 'piling-on' work with regards to IT - and, unfortunately, I've never learned the proper way to tell people 'no'. It may sound simple, but in this economy, where jobs are tough to come by, I don't want to be seen as the impediment to getting things done Any suggestions on telling people that their work request can wait? Especially in a way that won't jeopardize my future here? I've searched the web, but most of the sites that supposedly have information of this type just want you to sign up for their seminars. I'm looking for actual, real-world experiences, and how the people of Slashdot deal with this issue on a day-to-day basis."

"Here is my dilemma: I'm a relatively new employee (~2 months) at a software engineering shop. I am the sole IT person for a 100+ person company, with 50+ remote VPN users, 40+ developers, 30+ servers, firewalls, etc. I do it all, from desktop and application support, to security, to servers. In the past, the IT department has been seriously under-funded, and there is an absolute ton of catch-up work that needs to get done. At this point, I could work 70+ hour work weeks for a year, and still not be caught up, between project work, upgrade, documentation and day-to-day stuff.

I've inquired about more IT budgeting (staff, equipment, etc.), and that just is not going to happen for quite a while."

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SCO: The GNAA-Nigerian connection (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811391)

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am Mr. Darl McBride currently serving as the president and chief executive officer of the SCO Group, formerly known as Caldera Systems International, in Lindon, Utah, United States of America. I know this letter might surprise you because we have had no previous communications or business dealings before now.

My associates have recently made claim to computer softwares worth an estimated $1 billion U.S. dollars. I am writing to you in confidence because we urgently require your assistance to obtain these funds.

In the early 1970s the American Telephone and Telegraph corporation developed at great expense the computer operating system software known as UNIX. Unfortunately the laws of my country prohibited them from selling these softwares and so their valuable source codes remained privately held. Under a special arrangement some programmers from the California University of Berkeley did add more codes to this operating system, increasing its value, but not in any way to dilute or disparage our full and rightful ownership of these codes, despite any agreement between American Telephone and Telegraph and the California University of Berkeley, which agreement we deny and disavow.

In the year 1984 a change of regime in my country allowed the American Telephone and Telegraph corporation to make profits from these softwares. In the year 1990 ownership of these softwares was transferred to the corporation UNIX System Laboratories. In the year 1993 this corporation was sold to the corporation Novell. In the year 1994 some employees of Novell formed the corporation Caldera Systems International, which began to distribute an upstart operating system known as Linux. In the year 1995 Novell sold the UNIX software codes to SCO. In the year 2001 occurred a separation of SCO, and the SCO brand name and UNIX codes were acquired by the Caldera Systems International, and in the following year the Caldera Systems International was renamed SCO Group, of which i currently serve as chief executive officer.

My associates and I of the SCO Group are therefore the full and rightful owners of the operating system softwares known as UNIX. Our engineers have discovered that no fewer than seventy (70) lines of our valuable and proprietary source codes have appeared in the upstart operating system Linux. As you can plainly see, this gives us a claim on the millions of lines of valuable software codes which comprise this Linux and which has been sold at great profit to very many business enterprises. Our legal experts have advised us that our contribution to these codes is worth an estimated one (1) billion U.S. dollars.

Unfortunately we are having difficulty extracting our funds from these computer softwares. To this effect i have been given the mandate by my colleagues to contact you and ask for your assistance. We are prepared to sell you a share in this enterprise, which will soon be very profitable, that will grant you the rights to use these valuable softwares in your business enterprise. Unfortunately we are not able at this time to set a price on these rights. Therefore it is our respectful suggestion, that you may be immediately a party to this enterprise, before others accept these lucrative terms, that you send us the number of a banking account where we can withdraw funds of a suitable amount to guarantee your participation in this enterprise. As an alternative you may send us the number and expiration date of your major credit card, or you may send to us a signed check from your banking account payable to "SCO Group" and with the amount left blank for us to conveniently supply.

Kindly treat this request as very important and strictly confidential. I honestly assure you that this transaction is 100% legal and risk-free.

Signed, GNAA president

PS. If you have mod points and would like to support GNAA, please moderate this post up.

| ______________________________________._a,____ |
| _______a_._______a_______aj#0s_____aWY!400.___ |
| __ad#7!!*P____a.d#0a____#!-_#0i___.#!__W#0#___ |
| _j#'_.00#,___4#dP_"#,__j#,__0#Wi___*00P!_"#L,_ |
| _"#ga#9!01___"#01__40,_"4Lj#!_4#g_________"01_ |
| ________"#,___*@`__-N#____`___-!^_____________ |
| _________#1__________?________________________ |
| _________j1___________________________________ |
| ____!4yaa#l___________________________________ |
| ______-"!^____________________________________ |
` _______________________________________________'

Re:SCO: The GNAA-Nigerian connection (-1, Troll)

abradsn (542213) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811425)

Doesn't anyone get tired of this lame crap, that people post? How can we take you seriously if you won't even put your slashdot handle at the front of your post?

Get fucked you baby raping faggot american (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811558)

America, you have less than 20 years as the largest economy on earth. Start buying up bomb shelters and survival supplies, because the rest of the world is ANGRY and ARMED.

You have been warned.

You know what they say (3, Funny)

n0nsensical (633430) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811404)

Tell them "No means no!"

omfg (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811435)

there is no way this post deserves a -1

well fuck you too (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811450)

stupid nazi mods. there is no way this deserves a -1. maybe a 0. die

ridiculous (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811468)

this is what I can't believe about slashdot. the 50000th beowulf cluster, "but does it run linux", "in soviet russia" joke will get modded +4 or +5 funny, and this gets modded -1 redundant. there is far more redundant stuff on slashdot with far higher scores. yes, i am bitter

Re:You know what they say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811487)

I guess the secret is a lower user number. if my number was like 2643 [] , maybe my stupid and redundant jokes would get modded +5 funny too.

Re:You know what they say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811528)

really, how in the name of God can this be considered -1 redundant while I always see the same joke posted multiple times in the same thread with all of them modded up? this happens all the time with simpsons jokes especially. just answer this question, you can go ahead and screw me at -1, but I have to know what the logic is behind this. oh, wait, there is no logic.

Sexual Harrassment (1, Funny)

bobobobo (539853) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811581)

Thank god! I thought this was another gender sensitivity discussion, whew!

Give estimates (4, Insightful)

Sludge (1234) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811407)

Don't say no. Give estimates. Show your time table. Put the onus on someone else to fit it in, so they are clear on what the tradeoffs are going to be. In my line of work, things got complex enough that maintaining a Microsoft Project document was worth my time. The visual output was well received with management.

Re:Give estimates (5, Interesting)

nicolasf (657091) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811422)

Another thing you could do to limit the number of requests is to only accept work requests from authorized managers. So if John Smith wants you to install some software he will have to ask his supervisor to forward a request to you.

modulate parent up (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811454)

I'm with you there. Having support from management is absolutely necessary. Let your managers and those of the groups you need to deal with know that you're human and only have so much time; You'll hopefully then only need to convince 5-10 people what's needed. Spreading out the filtering of IT work requests to that many extras gives you rest, and puts the onus on deciding what a department needs on the managers, not some shitkicker who wants an upgrade to a machine just cos his intarweb is slow and he's a numbercruncher.

Re:Give estimates (2, Insightful)

fatboyslack (634391) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811480)

I agree. I work in a similar pressure environment (but different field) where I have three separate 'bosses' who give me work. When one of them comes to me with something new, I tell him/her what I have to do before I get to that, and how long it will take before they can expect an answer/solution. If something is unreasonable, tell them so. But, I'm pretty secure (I think) in my job...

Re:Give estimates (5, Insightful)

Frymaster (171343) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811551)

Don't say no. Give estimates. Show your time table.

the best "no" is a qualified "yes". of course, for this to work - and to avoid the bad blood that a "sure, but it'll be ten weeks and $9000" will generate - you must get everything in writing!

i can't stress this enough. a lot of clients don't really understand what they are dealing with and thus forget what exactly it was they requested. for your benefit and theirs make sure you get it all in writing! take minutes. do as much via email as possible. get a written specification before you start. that way you can always remind the client of what they originally spec'd and the changes they have made and how it is affecting time and money.

don't "underestimate" this advice! (5, Interesting)

Artifex (18308) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811574)

Give estimates. Show your time table. Put the onus on someone else to fit it in, so they are clear on what the tradeoffs are going to be.

Seriously, this is basically all there is to it. Use whatever calendaring software you have to break down what you're doing on a daily or weekly basis, if not hourly. Even a recurring to-do list is good. The idea is to show that your time is not an infinite resource.

If you can sit down and say something like "I can make time for this project this month, but it will require moving back those security updates for a week, and the database migration for a few days. Also, we're running low on shared drive space and there's no budget to augment the servers, so to add this in, I'll have to put everyone on a harsher quota for the next few days (and delete your mp3s off your shared drive)," and show how your time is mapped, they will see why they can't reasonably expect you to take on more work.

You'll also be able to get more actual work done, because the mere act of organizing your regular activities will let you see ways to cluster them for more efficiency ("oh, while this disk image is copying, I can hit that next item on the list, replace the video cable on that secretary's computer so she'll stop holding my mail hostage"), etc.

Also, at the end of six months or a year, maybe you can use the resulting log as evidence that you need an assistant or a pay raise or both. It's also good for remembering what to put on your resume, if your small company decides to lay you off and replace you with two kids who just graduated and also happen to be related to the VPs...

Priority lists (1)

xixax (44677) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811578)

Give lists of projects with estimated times.

Tell them they can pick projects (in order of priority) up to your available working days.

"I can spend next month installing Minesweeper on your laptop, but I'll send a time summary up the line saying I did that instead of patching for Blaster"


Leave that job (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811409)

Sounds like you're being taken advantage of. Tell them they need to provide the resources if they want the support. If they won't staff the department properly, you need to be vocal about it or else they're just going to blame you when things inevitably start deteriorating.

Re:Leave that job (3, Insightful)

Worminater (600129) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811441)

Leave that job? Is that truly viable in the current job market right now? A friend of mine graduated with solid marks via comp sci from a decent school a year and a half ago. 40+ interviews later, he just started school back up to pad his resume more as he has not had anyone express interest on the east coast. Im not sure leaving what sounds to be a stable job in my opinoin would be prudent right now:-p In the 90s? Hell ya, but now?

Become a Bum in One Easy Step (4, Insightful)

edward.virtually@pob (6854) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811499)

Leaving a job in this economy is a fatal error. You won't get unemployment insurance (or food stamps) and you won't find another job. Nobody will care that the expectations were unfair or the working conditions intolerable. Put up with it somehow or become a bum. Your choice. I speak from experience.

Re:Leave that job (1)

chiasmus1 (654565) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811503)

It is sometimes fun to leave a job. It can even be exciting. A new future and a new line of work. I say new line of work because that what is likely to happen if you get in the habit of leaving jobs. In this economy you cannot be sure you will find something else in your field.

Real World?! (1, Funny)

ultrapenguin (2643) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811411)

I'm looking for actual, real-world experiences, and how the people of Slashdot deal with this issue on a day-to-day basis.

See, you are suggesting that people reading slashdot actually have a life, or know how to deal with it :)

Re:Real World?! (1)

Justin205 (662116) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811444)

See, you are suggesting that people reading slashdot actually have a life, or know how to deal with it :)

I know I don't have a life... /offtopic

On topic: Hmmm... I don't really know, but like several other people said, demand more resources, and that sort of stuff... If they want IT stuff done, then they'd better give you those resources (*evil grin*).

Re:Real World?! (3, Insightful)

RTPMatt (468649) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811548)

the real question is how i can tell everybody that i know outside of work 'no'. I mean at least you get paid at work! i know slashdotters understand me when i say that i have no desire to fix anybodys parents, aunts, or friends computer!

Re:Real World?! (1)

Schmelvic (74744) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811571)

This is easy. Take all your work frustration out on them. You have to be nice to the customer, but your friends and family will forgive you.

Saves on therapy too.

Re:Real World?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811575)

yeah yeah we have one
for instance we drink coffee,
isn't that a proof ?

I have always wanted to say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811413)

"Hey, you know, instead of that _____, I got some salty chocolate balls here, and they are really good. want to give them a lick or two?"

and the produce some chocolate balls sprinkled with salt.

I am not sure if you will get into trouble with this - so if anybody have a throw-away job where you'd like to try this, please let me know the result, eh?

actually - that comes also makes an interesting corrolary: what would a woman say?

Tell the truth!! (5, Insightful)

Basehart (633304) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811415)

I've told customers in the past that we're not taking on any new clients until our production system has been upgraded to handle increased workloads, and in almost all cases they were willing hold until we were ready. They appreciated the fact that we weren't spreading ourselves too thin, risking long term failure for the sake of padding our short term coffers, so just tell the truth.

Re:Tell the truth!! (1)

Eric Savage (28245) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811477)

Agreed. Another tactic is to simply lay it all on the table in simple terms. "I'm booked up till next Thursday afternoon." It puts things in a context anyone can understand and if you are specific it's hard for them to argue with you or fault you for it.

What I would do... (5, Interesting)

Worminater (600129) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811417)

Is simply lay out the time. Say, "Yes i will do it, once i have this done as well as this" No need to say no, just show them that for you to say yes will require them to wait for it to get done an unreasonable amount of time. They complain? Then you may get staffed correctly soon enough:-p

Have you not learnt anything? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811420)

The BOFH [] will show you the way to happiness and funds whenever possible.

Answer No (1)

Dragunov (576378) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811421)

My experience has always been to tell customers both internal and external what the constraints are. Meaning you what will slip because of your latest requests and how bad do you want it. If you are not willing to pay an outsider for this service it is probably not valuable enough to interrupt other work. In other words put up or shut up!

Well... (1)

TheAntiCrust (620345) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811423)

Be very polite. Thats the biggest thing. Tell the person that their request just isnt feasible at this point in time. If they are persistant, recomend a temporary solution to thier problem. If they still arent satisfied, get technical with why you cant help them. They will get confused and then leave you alone. If that still doesnt work, they probably have a reputation for being whiny, so just tell them its impossible and leave it at that.

Clearly Define your job and tasks (1, Interesting)

ogfomk (677034) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811424)

You will have to clearly define your job and tasks and have a schedule for events. If you can not qualify what you do, then it will not be understood by others. No matter how good you are, if you can not describe what you do and how it takes time to do certain tasks, then you will not be able to sell your work.

You are selling your work and job.

Cover your arse. (5, Insightful)

PeteABastard (542565) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811426)

Make sure you have a list of priorities from your boss.
Follow the list.
When someone asks for a low priority task, let them know that your boss has chosen your priorities and you have three months work before you will get to their task.
Try to help them to get their task done themselves quicker than you doing it.
Of course you will probably not be thanked for this. Peter

It depends on management (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811427)

If you can get support from management, you can do anything. Unfortunately that means you end up at their mercy if they still want you to do EVERYTHING. Not much to do about it there.

At my last job I would often be asked at 5:20pm to do dumbshit stuff like get a full OS reinstall done on a half dozen machines in a department that needed an upgrade. No amount of explaining that this is not just an extra half hours work would mean a thing to those above me. If it were a one off I'd be fine with it, but from day one my job consisted of staying back insane amounts of time to get these things done, when the people who used the machines had set hours that never varied. No overtime either.

I ended up quitting, and while you might not consider that an option, if it comes down to working yourself dry and being used/abused then it's an option. Get on management until they relent, to get another IT person if you need. If you don't do it now changing later is all the harder. Hell, you're new at this job - do you know if the last person quit because of insane expectations like this?

Simple... (2, Informative)

darkpurpleblob (180550) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811428)

Just tell them 'no', and explain to them the reason why the request is unreasonable.

Only one thing to do... (0)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811430)

I'm a relatively new employee (~2 months) at a software engineering shop. I am the sole IT person for a 100+ person company, with 50+ remote VPN users, 40+ developers, 30+ servers, firewalls, etc. I do it all, from desktop and application support, to security, to servers.

Only one thing to do...pray! ...oh and find out where the closest supply of Jolt is. You're gonna need it.

I think you're approaching your job wrong. (4, Insightful)

tambo (310170) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811431)

In almost every type of employment, your job is to make sure your supervisor is satisfied with your work. Their job is to oversee you and make sure you're doing a good job for the company.

Now, if you drop that into the guise of any client-oriented job - be it law, medicine, IT, or even a lowly customer service job - satisfying customers is not your primary and sole responsibility. You have to balance each client's interests against those of the company, other clients, and the priorities of your boss.

If a client is expecting too much, your mission is not to do everything they say - that's a great way to throw your priorities out of order. You're letting them detract from your other responsibilities. If you don't feel right telling them that they're not your only client, then apologize, tell them that you have other duties as well, and refer them to your boss. Let him deal with it. That's why he makes more than you do.

Really - I can't stress this enough. Keep your boss up-to-date on what you're doing, and let him guide your priorities. If anything or anyone is straining those priorities, let him deal with it.

It's really that simple.

- David Stein

Re:I think you're approaching your job wrong. (4, Insightful)

arnie_apesacrappin (200185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811530)

Really - I can't stress this enough. Keep your boss up-to-date on what you're doing, and let him guide your priorities. If anything or anyone is straining those priorities, let him deal with it.

This is the absolute truth. I'm the sole Network/Network Security person for a company of about 1000 associates, spread across four sites in North America. Production down emergencies come first, but after that everything is prioritized.

I keep a list of every outstanding task I have, and regularly ask my supervisor to look at the list to see if priorities need to be changed. That way, when people come to me with what they consider to be emergencies, I can decide where I think it should go on my list. If they find that unacceptable, they can talk to my supervisor.

I think it also helps to explain risks when I push back on requests. When poor planning results in someone wanting a network change during the day, I explain to them that if they change they request doesn't work, it could affect all 1000 people in the company and ask if it is really that important. Anything that is actually that important usually gets support from my supervisor, his supervisor, etc.

Trying to manage people's expectations will also help. If people know that task X takes Y days, it helps them plan and also gives you better ground to stand on when you have to push back. One of the best things I did was to put in place a policy that non-emergency changes would only occur Wednesday and Sunday nights. It fits my schedule and forces people to plan.

A good phrase is, "Poor planning on your part does not constitue an emergency on mine." If you can figure out a nice way to say that, let me know.

Your Signature is Gay (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811534)

Nobody gives a shit about you being a lawyer and it doesn't affect moderators. It's all in your fucking head. Get over yourself. Lawyers are a dime a dozen these days.

Where I work (5, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811432)

We avoid this problem with a simple rule: Any work for "the techie" for has to be passed by "the techie's boss." Really, for anything not sopmewhat urgently needed, only management-level personnel should be able to assign longterm tasks.

After all, your manager is supposed to, well, manage. And if not him/her, then a project manager of some sort. Any decent sized corp I've worked for had one of those. If you're getting snowballed with lots of work, then at least those above will be aware of it, and more can be done to manage your time.

Re:Where I work (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811483)

It's not about long term tasks. It's about two dozen short tasks (say 15 minutes to several hours).

Everyone thinks that their task is "urgent", but in reality they could probably find something else to do in the meantime.

Re:Where I work (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811516)

The other thing you can do is - if you can set up an intranet for this - make people enter a request to have work done. Have them assign a priority to it. You then can juggle the relative priorities, or have people escalate "critical" issues which need immediate resolution. Escalation could mean having their boss talk to your boss.

One benefit of this system is that it keeps an accurate and easily accessible log of what is in the cue, and what you have accomplished.

I know. (4, Funny)

fruity1983 (561851) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811434)

I recently saw a very good video on the subject of telling your boss (and thus your customers?) when enough was enough.

It was called Fight Club, I think.

Me? I'd be very careful who I talked to about this. It sounds like someone dangerous wrote it... someone who might snap at any moment, stalking from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 Carbine-gas semiautomatic, bitterly pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. Might be someone you've known for years... somebody very close to you. Or, maybe you shouldn't be bringing me every little piece of trash you pick up.

Document! (5, Informative)

faust2097 (137829) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811439)

I will share with you a tidbit of wisdom from those of us in design: keep track of how you're spending your time. Keep a detailed record of what you are spending your time doing and who is asking you to do it. Show this document to your manager and have them prioritize your time so that there are some rules in place. Managers are there to make sure you can do your job, make them work for a change.

I'm reminded why I bill hourly now.

Re:Document! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811478)

I agree with you, but would like to add that keeping accurate records of where you spend your time also helps you increase your own personal productivity. If you can identify areas that you yourself can improve, that both makes you more valuable and keeps your job moving all the more smoothly.

Admittedly it can only improve you so far, and one person can only do a finite amount; but you may as well have that amount the best it can be.

Re:Document! (0)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811519)

Eww. A detailed record is so insulting. Either they know what you're doing an appreciate you or you should probably start looking for a new job now as it won't matter what you do.

Personally, I'm a morning person so I come in early a lot and don't mind. Weekends I get overtime for, though I typically avoid these. In the case of serious overload, put together a todo list -- if anyone complains about a job not yet done, show them the list. If they think they're a high priority, direct them to your boss. Finally, make sure you start asking for an assistant before people start complaining that work's piling up.

Re:Document! (1)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811520)

I tried this, but my manager was not impressed when I carefully documented the fact that I was spending 3.5 hours a day on /. reading and posting!

NEVER SAY NO (5, Interesting)

ozzee (612196) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811440)

The right way is to propose and alternative.

Scenario 2

PHB says - "I want X done asap".

overworked IT engineer - "No problem, which one of A,B,C,D, .... W would you like me to hold off on while I do X ?"

PHB ... goes away and does not come back until it's more important that A...W

Scenario 2

Customer - "I have this way out idea that will really be cool to do !"

Overworked engineer saya - "Fantastic, you know, we have a procedure for new projects, go fill in the form and we'll prioritize it".

Customer goes away and forgets the crazy idea.

Most of the ways to deal with anyone it to give them your problem. If you do this then you filter most of the nonsense. The golden rule is to never say no but to "Prioritize"! No-one will ever complain that you don't do your job if you are "prioritizing!".


El_Ge_Ex (218107) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811511)

No-one will ever complain that you don't do your job if you are "prioritizing!".

Worst case scenario: Having to explain that removing the origin of the idea from the gene pool would be easier....

Just a thought


Respect my Authoritah (-1, Flamebait)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811445)

When the boss comes around and is all tellin' me what to do and stuff, makin' all these stupid requests, y'know, I tell her to SHUT HER HOLE, before I kick 'er in the nuts!


Itemize and timeline (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811449)

You'll need to speak management speak (and that means Powerpoint and Project) to get your point across.

Make a list of all the existing items. Put them into some form of project timeline (Mr Project, MS Project). Show the dependencies, requirements, funding estimates and man-hour estimates.

Make management assign priorities to tasks. I don't mean broad categories like "high" and "low", but actual numerical order. No equal priorities.

Generate a nice GANTT chart that shows you'll finish sometime around 2015, if and only if no new projects crop up.

You need nice pretty charts and graphs with lots of primary colors and some nice page-transition effects to catch the attention of most management types.

Re:Itemize and timeline (2, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811502)

Been there, done that, they forget about it in 20 minutes.

They do appreciate the pretty pictures though.

Re:Itemize and timeline (1, Funny)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811513)

No no no. This reminds me of the Dilbert sketch when the boss asks everyone round a big table "Can anyone spare any time to work on an important productivity study?". One propellor-head puts his hand up and the bos says "Good. Goooood ... ".

What you need is to put people off indefinitely. Be very vocal in saying "I can do that but not for at least three weeks". Two weeks is not enough - people can wait that long, but three weeks is well nearly a month.

Tell them... (1)

WeblionX (675030) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811453)

How about you offer to explain exactly what you have to get done now, what you will have to get done later, and why their work doesn't matter as much. If needed, start going into technical details about everything, true or false, in the hopes that the jargon makes them go away.

policies? (3, Insightful)

cballowe (318307) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811455)

I think what you're looking for are policies. You want something endorsed by whoever is above you that details what you are and aren't supposed to be working on as well as what work gets priority. Maybe from 8-noon you handle new requests and 1-quitting you're on project stuff? Make it known that helpdesk stuff isn't the bulk of your job.

Also -- consider talking to people in each of those groups you outlined earlier. Maybe a couple of developers could be roped in to screening questions from their fellow developers before passing them up to you. It sounds like you're with an IT heavy company - the individual user groups can probably take some responsibility for their own actions.

Implement LDAP or AD and give a user from each group power to manage users within that group. That way you don't get called for password changes etc.

There's lots of things that you could work on to take load off of you. People do need to understand that you can't do everything. If you can get a work priority policy past the boss, at least you can start keeping track of the piles and whe a user says "why isn't X done" you say -- management says it's not a priority so it will be done when P D and Q are finished. ("when will that be" -- "6 months to a year") The users will go to their bosses and ask about the policy -- either the policy will get changed by your management, or they'll stick to it and back you on following it.

With Apologies to Abbott and Costello (2, Interesting)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811456)

'Hey Abbott, hey Abbott! I think the recession is over!'

'Why is that Lou?'

'I just heard an IT guy say he's not available for overtime.'

(Okay, to avoid downmodding, it was originally 'I think the war is over (wwii)' 'why' 'I just heard the woman next door talking back to her maid'. The idea was that if someone gave a maid a bunch of shit, she could go be a Rosy the Riveter. Sorry, google no help. Go find some old time radio mp3s. Or tapes. Or CDs.)

Tell them the truth (1)

NTmatter (589153) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811457)

Instead of telling them "it can't be done," or "it's beyond my abilities," why not simply tell them the truth. "It will cost you (the client) an ADDITIONAL [large amount] thousand dollars above the current budget to implement what you (the client) wish. If you supply the necessary fundage, your additional requests and changes to your initial design documents will be implemented." This way, the more obscene the request, the more the customer will be deterred.

I see this kind of problem in general (2, Insightful)

greggman (102198) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811458)

and not just in jobs.

What I mean is my friends will ask me to fix their computer or install a new hard drive but they would never think of asking their lawyer friends to write them a contract. What's up with that?

Re:I see this kind of problem in general (2, Interesting)

zulux (112259) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811540)

What I mean is my friends will ask me to fix their computer or install a new hard drive but they would never think of asking their lawyer friends to write them a contract. What's up with that?

I have a policy with all my friends:

Windows Work: Pay my consulting rate, with travel time.
FreeBSD Desktop Work: Free.

I can install FreeBSD, with openoffice in under 30 minutes, and I rarely have to visit the computer again, and if there is a problem, remote diagnosis is quite easy.

Windows has to be installed behind a firewall - otherwise you get owned before the first service pack has been downloaded.

Hell, OpenOffice installes faster on FreeBSD than it takes me to type in the security code and go through the activation process in Windoxs XP.

Re:I see this kind of problem in general (5, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811542)

What I mean is my friends will ask me to fix their computer or install a new hard drive but they would never think of asking their lawyer friends to write them a contract. What's up with that?

Simple: Lawyers, Plumbers, and Car mechanics are viewed as professionals. They charge an exorbinant rate for fixing things. In business and at school IT is freely given out like candy. When folks aren't used to paying for something, they assume that it in fact costs nothing.

It also doesn't help that we (myself included) are often all to eager to volunteer our help. If we as an industry were populated by cynical and legalistic mercinaries we wouldn't have these problems.

Prove it (1)

saberwolf (221050) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811460)

The first thing you need to realise is that going to your boss and saying "I'm really overworked, I need more staff" will never be successful.

You need to start recording and queueing all work that comes in to you in some sort of helpdesk type system. You can then produce some statistics for how much time you're spending on things, how long people have to wait for their support calls to be closed.

If you can present a case showing that each user suffers say 2 hours of downtime a week you can cost that out and if it comes to less than the cost of more staff you stand a much better chance of convincing your boss that hiring you some help will actually be a cost saving.

If you really want to reduce the workload rahter that increase your staff you could try implementing a re-charging model for IT services. This works well where the company has different contracts or cost centres. You can sell it as being more fair "each contract only pays for the support it needs, not that of the others". Price up your time (including your overhead) and re-charge those costs to each cost centre.

I guarantee people will become more reluctant to call when they know it's going to take $50 off their profit this month for you to walk over to their desk. Plus you can show your boss that if he hires another IT guy he can bill his fellow managers an extre $4000/month!

Saying no comes with saying yes at the wrong times (4, Interesting)

LadyLucky (546115) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811461)

I can really only talk about my own experience here.

I've recently become development manager for one of our company's products. As such, it has taken a while to find my feet, both when interacting with sales & consulting internally, and when interacting with customers. I certainly erred on the side of saying yes too often, because I wasn't sure about saying no.

Not anymore. For me, it took mistakes, stress, and all sorts of complaints directed at myself or the company, whether or not it was my responsibility. It is this realisation that sometimes, I need to say no. People do get pissed off at you when you say no. But your job isn't to please people, it's to get a product out the door (well, for me it is, anyway).

So, you learn to say no when from the experience of getting a yes thrown back in your face.

This is a team skill (3, Insightful)

aradke (155615) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811465)

This is an incredibly important skill in the IT industry.

The only good way I've ever found to do this is as a team. You have to know that your teammates and team leader will back you up. Your manager is not part of this as the request may come from them but hopefully they'll learn to trust your 'no' statements and start backing you up on these too.

If you are on your own then it's more difficult but generally that requires showing the requesting party why you are saying no. This may include asking them to seek approval from someone else to drop what you are doing, sign off on the risk, etc.

And if you are a contractor or similar then you need to supply your reasons and if they still insist then do what they want after making sure they are fully aware of the consequences (and you have a written communication to them including your objections).

No need to say "No" exactly... (2, Informative)

stewartj (525869) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811466)

Two things we have here that are good:
  • a designated project manager who is the one point of contact with the customer, and is ultimately responsible for customer management
  • a change control process. if the customer asks for a change, we say "okay, we'll analyse that". then we get back to them to communicate the impact. "we can do the change, but we need $x, or y more people, or z more days."
So there's no need to actually say "No". You just have to point them to reality: there's only a certain amount of things a given number of people can do in a given time. :) We can do what you want, but we need more time, money or people.

Form a steering group. (1)

Fizzlewhiff (256410) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811467)

Get all your customers together with their wish lists once a month and prioritize what needs to be done. Managers love meetings and they will love hashing this stuff out and fighting each other for your time. The only drawback is you have to sit through it and listen.

take the burden away from yourself (5, Interesting)

aeoo (568706) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811470)

Instead of taking the full weight of the decision, why don't you tell your manager that clients want A, but you already have B, C, D in the queue, and ask the manager to prioritize these items for you. Something will have to be delayed, maybe it will be client's current request, or maybe one of the things that were previously in the queue, but you won't be the one deciding what gets delayed.

If you are in the position of power, then you should have enough power to make a decision without fear. If you are shaking in your boots, then shift the burden to the client by letting the client prioritize things for you. Obviously this is complicated if you have more than one client. Then you'd have to get them all in a room and have them talk it out.

The rule of thumb for power is that power should match your responsibility. That means, if you are, say, responsible for cleaning the floor, then you must be empowered to move things off the floor, to access cleaning supplies and so on. If you are a manager and it is your job to prioritize items and yet you are not empowered to say "NO", then something is terribly wrong, and perhaps, your project is going down the tubes anyway, and you should look for another job. Alternatively, you can just shut up and sort of roll with the punches and hope that clients will drown in the endless bureaucracy (let the thing that's holding you down hold your clients down as well) and eventually run out of steam. It really depends on the environment you work in. .02c.

Keeping on task (5, Insightful)

chuckcolby (170019) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811473)

There are going to be those that tell you "just say no". I know personally that sometimes that tactic isn't practical/feasible/whatever. I run into this quite often as a consultant; multiple clients have problems that require immediate attention.

The only diplomatic way I could find around this was in a prioritization scheme based on adverse impact. For instance, network issues supersede server issues, server issues supersede workstation issues, workstation issues supersede printer jams.

My initial problem was in trusting my clients to be understanding enough to "get it". To my surprise, when I laid it out, they were amazingly receptive, as most of them knew when it was their turn to have a network or server problem, they'd be at the top of the list.

I'm not sure how well that will play out in a corporate environment, but like my customers, your users may be more understanding than you are willing to give them credit for. You are one IT person. Everyone in the company can count to 1, I'm almost sure. They're also keenly aware of how out-of-whack the user/nerd ratio is. Conservative (read:CHEAP) companies will let it get to 70:1, users:nerd. Good companies will go 40:1. Exceptional companies will go 20:1.

I don't envy you your job, you've got to focus on efficiency. Good luck to you, it'll probably be either highly rewarding or we'll all see you on the 6 o'clock news pinning down your coworkers with an assault rifle. Let's hope for the former.

Re:Keeping on task (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811579)

I don't envy you your job, you've got to focus on efficiency. Good luck to you, it'll probably be either highly rewarding or we'll all see you on the 6 o'clock news pinning down your coworkers with an assault rifle. Let's hope for the former.

You forget the most common, you wind up burned out and scarred for life.

Let's face it, we are a victim of being just like everyone else. We just make our living pushing bits, not pushing paperwork. Management is often completely unaware of what it does take to keep business running. I do what I can to instruct them, but you also have to be prepared to let them find out on their own without you.

At my organization we have had several audits that recommended far more staff than we presently have. This is from outside consultants, who were paid a good chunk to come in. Their findings were more or less ignored.

Besides, it's far more satisfying to turn in a resignation slip than take out the office with a tommy gun. The look or fright on your VP/Director's face is priceless.

The middle... (1, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811476)

...fingers say it best!

I'm Sorry Dave ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811479)

I can't do that.

Substitute "Dave" with appropriate moniker, of course.

Doubt it will work, but it may give your boss/client the impression that you're sufficiently weird enough to leave alone.

Ask them to prioritise (1)

dew-genen-ny (617738) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811484)

I had a similar problem very recently - more and more projects heaped on me, all with similar end dates and certainly not enough hours in the day to complete them.

In the end, I created a spreadsheet for my boss, that detailed the different stuff I'm working on, and the importance, time required and other details for each project.

At the end of the day, your boss is payed more, _precisely_ to make these sort of decisions. If you put the onus on them to make the decisions, they can't criticise if they've already had prior warning that you've got too much work on.

A word of caution (1)

Attaturk (695988) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811489)

Take the nature of your employers into consideration before saying 'no' to them.
You might just end up being found "dead in the woods". []

My solution (1, Funny)

Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811490)

My solution? I've become intimately familiar with the "transfer" button on my phone. Customer is a fsckwit? "Let me let you talk to Don." Don't feel like handling this problem? "I think Mac is probably more familiar with your network than I am." Hell, I haven't done any real work since I started! I love my job!

You don't make any sense... (1)

GoRK (10018) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811496)

You say you are the sole IT person in a 100 person company where over HALF of the employees are SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS? That is seriously wacked. I don't believe a bit of it. I could believe it if you said data entry or something but GEEZ.

It's scary to think what kind of software you guys are dishing out if the company has 1) software developers too incompetent to fix their own little problems and 2) management too incompetent to realize how to effectively support their own internal infrastructure.

Anyway, It sounds to me like you have done too many favors beyond your normal job duties and now you are almost expected to do them (ie you are a big pushover) It is really remarkable how people stop having so many problems when you stop doing things for them that they should be perfectly capable of doing. Show them how to fix it themselves and the next time it comes up, then even if they can't remember exactly how clear their browser cache or whatever, they might just give it a stab and succeed without immediately calling you in to babysit.

Say Yes (3, Insightful)

clockwise_music (594832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811497)

From the words of a relatively experienced consultant:

Don't say no, say yes, and explain how long it will take (3 months) and when you can get started (in 6 months). Of course you must be very polite and empathise with them. Tell them that you understand how annoying their current problem might be.

Write a list of jobs, prioritise them, and then stick to the damn thing like superglue. If anyone has a request, listen to them, write it done, forward it onto your boss. Or alternatively if your boss is useless, stick the item at the bottom of the list. (my boss was so useless I ended up writing a small web-app to do this for me, and then for other people, and then for other people in different projects). But most importantly if you stick to your prioritised tasks you'll actually get some work done instead of constantly task switching, which wastes everybodies time.

Alternatively, if the request is just stupid, don't say "No, that's dumb", say "Maybe we could also (instead) do this, which would result in also having these positives, on top of what you've already said.". Diplomacy is the key!

Another important thing is to not let these users prioritise your tasks. They will all end up "super high" or something equally useless. Just use your own numbering scale from 1-10.

The alternative is to piss off all of your users, say yes to everything, look like you never get anything done, stress yourself into a heart attack by 40, write crappy buggy code and to hate your job. It's your choice.

Welcome to the real world!

Paper Trail (5, Insightful)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811500)

Most of the comments in this thread are entirely accurate. Do not say no, but rather, document exactly what tasks you're doing, ask your manager to prioritize, and have customers go through him/her to get to you.

If your manager is unreasonable, you will have to do the prioritization yourself. Most important, though, is that you very clearly document the time estimated and actual hours spent on fulfilling a task.

What I have also found to be extremely useful (consultant, yeah yeah...) is, before starting a task, outline the actual task deliverables. When finished, do a quick writeup on what you did, who it was for, how long it took, etc. Doesn't have to be long, just look reasonably nice

This takes a bit of getting used to and initially may seem like a waste of half an hour per task, but I have yet to speak to anyone in any level of management who didn't appreciate that sort of thing. It gives them concrete proof of what you're doing, it gives you a paper trail to fall back on when people claim you don't have enough to do, and it makes your boss look good, because they have something tangible in their hands to present to their management.

Also, though I know it's not entirely relevant, it helps me to occasionally look at Stokely's Golden Rules of Consulting [] . It's more geared towards independent contractors, but contains some very wise principles.

Whatever happens, don't get frustrated. I guarantee you, eventually your customers will begin to understand that everyone and their mom wants you to do things for them, and will learn to stand in line. And my experience has been that when something is truly truly earthshatteringly urgent, they become even more appreciative if you can bend the rules a bit. That's how we kept a fairly extensive bar stocked during my last operations role :)

A wise man once told me... (3, Insightful)

pastpolls (585509) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811501)

One employer I had told me never to say I could not... let them know under what circumstances I could.

I have lived by that ever since. I am a supervisor that is responsible for not only my time but the time of others. I never say no, I just let people know, without whinning, where there project stands... and what possible delays there may be. I have neen known to tell someone that I was planning to shelve their job for a week, and if they want they can give me materials now, or wait until I am ready to start. I usually let people know that I am just trying to be honest with them and not lend them false hope.

In my small firm I keep my schedule posted as well as the tasks of my subordinates (I don't put their exact shedules... can of worms I won't open). Most of the time people can tell where on the totem pole their project falls and will often hold the job themselves seeing that something more important is in front of them. Ultimatly communication is the key, not bitching. If people see things getting done and you working hard and working snart, they will rarely (I won't say never) get upset at how long something is taking.

Don't say no (4, Interesting)

El (94934) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811506)

Say "I'm inserting that into my prioritized queue of tasks to be done in slot #98, right behind fixing the mail server virus filters..." Your problem is you're letting people's new requests take too high a priority.

Attitude (1)

Talisman (39902) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811507)

I once worked with a man-hating lesbo (not a stereotype - she really was) who was the director of sales. That position, at that corporation, held as much power as the general manager.

She was a Cornell grad, and certainly nowhere near stupid, but her personality was best suited for a drill instructor, not a manager.

We had three different business areas under one very, very large roof so one day she calls me in and asks me to "consolidate all 3 databases."

One db was dBase, another was MS-SQL, and the third, so help me, was an ANCIENT db written for PICK!

She wanted this ASAP. So I explained to her that ASAP was 6 months, bare ass minimum. She (and her ilk) have NO IDEA the amount of work that goes into these projects.

She didn't like that answer, but told me to do it anyway. 2 months later I had a semi-functional interface written in Access. About that same time I reported the general manager to the owner for stealing company property. (He told me to authorize the purchase of a laptop for his girlfriend)

After that, things got very ugly, so I simply left before they had a chance to fire me. I was sleeping with a girl in HR at the time and she told me I beat them to the punch by about a week.

Not sure if this tale gives you any insight, I think I just wanted to get it off my chest :)

Anyway, the bright side is that a month later I found a job that paid 33% more, and which I absolutely *love* and it is what I'm still doing today.

In retrospect, I not only would have told her "no", I would have told her to jam it up her fat ass :)


I have the answer and used it, it works. (5, Insightful)

fuali (546548) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811512)

As far as the customer is concerned there are three elements that concern them. Time, Quality, and Money.

On any product they can't have all three. Example: If they want it quick (time) and the want it cheap (money), it will be lacking in quantity. Or If they want it cheap, and they want qulity, the delivery time will be long.

Saying "No" is not always the answer. But if you explain how their request will affect the one of the three elements (time, money, quality) they will either:

A) Give you more money.
B) Give you more time.
C) Expect less at delivery(cut-corners)
D) Withdraw their request.

And everyone wins.

The customer is always right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811514)

You don't say 'No' to customers, they pay your bills.

However, it sounds from your question that you are an employee not a customer. This is a different thing entirely.

What you need to do is manage your boss. This is a skill that needs to be learnt. Some bosses don't need managing, some do, and some are in between.

Here is an approach that may be suitable for your workplace. What you want is an approach that is transparent, shows you are busy, lets other people make decisions about what you work on, and doesn't get you involved in politics.

Every time a work request comes in, or you become aware of a work request, log it. You can log things simply in a spreadsheet. Draw up a simple form for other people to fill our for work requests they give you.

The two things you need to glean from this list are a Priority and a job size.

Put the jobs for the next 4 weeks or so in a grid on a whiteboard. Put the priority against each job, and when you expect to start it.

Your boss gets a more detailed report showing him/her all the jobs you have in the request list and which decade you expect to get to the end :-)

Now, people can look at your whiteboard and see at a glance :
- what you are doing now
- if their job is in the next 4 weeks
- if so, when you'll get to it

If they don't like the priority of their job, they can complain to you or your boss and get it bumped up, bumping someone else down.

When an area complains that their job has been bumped down, you tell them who told you to bump it down and let them fight it out.

When every job on your board becomes Priority 1 because people have got your boss to bump up their priority, introduce a new category "super-priority" in a new column, as in "yes I know your job is Priority 1, but my boss said it was only Super-Priority C, which means you get done after super-priority A and B.

I find that by the time you get to Super-Super-Priority people usually realise how dumb they are being, real priorities get allocated, and the cycle starts again :-)

Really, this is basic time scheduling. Everyone has to learn it. When you start a job fresh out of uni or whatever, where you only ever had to work by yourself, there are a lot of skills you have to learn about managing other people.

Even if you are prepared to work 70 hour weeks you are still going to need a schedule and priority list.


use mgmt and helpdesk (1)

avoelker (553711) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811522)

Management: You described your predicament well to us. Just say the same thing to your management. List your duties with rough estimates, and your manager will understand more resources are require, or tasks will not get done. It will then be your management's responsibility to buffer get more resources and/or buffer the IT requests of the company. Help Desk: Also, try setting-up a help desk to put a system between you and the hordes of requestors. Here is a good, free, web-based system:

Prioritize! (2, Insightful)

Redking (89329) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811524)

Remember the 80/20 rule while you're slaving away. 80% of your users are serviced by 20% of your work. Since each Slashdotters work environment varies, what specific task you should be working on will vary too. From what background information you've provided, I think it would be a good start to prioritize security because it would affect everyone on the company LAN and those connecting on the VPN. Find/resolve security problems, implement user documentation for smart password maintainence, standardize software used for secure tunnels, etc...

Once that is resolved, you should move on towards the next immediate problem that affects the most users. Maybe it's upgrading/fixing the server(s). You'll probably have to upgrade hardware or install new patches to keep the developers happily developing on a fast machine while the administrative staff can wait for the MS Office update, etc...

Good luck.

Peopleware is a good place to start (5, Informative)

xmark (177899) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811526)

You need to read Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. Although it's about software development, and not IT support per se, it speaks directly to your situation. No new age crap, no six-point programs, just smart, experience-based advice. It's a short read that will leave you saying "of course" on nearly every page.

You probably already understand one of its key points (or will very soon): it's not sustainable for you or anyone else to work more than about 40 hours, week in, week out, without turning crispy. Work is different from time in front of keyboard or slumped in your chair. You can rack up a lot of hours north of 40/week, but in the long run will have almost nothing to show for them. Additionally, the book will tell you how to say no, as you requested.

One more thing. If you are supporting 100 people, then your days are unquestionably one series of interruptions crashing into each other. There's strong practical advice here about how to minimize interruptions, and work toward having an environment in which you can actually get something done without having to use "hiding" tricks. One of the stories in the book is about a developer who was so bugged by interruptions in his cubicle that he took to working in a toilet in the men's room for an hour at a time. I hope you aren't near that point yet.

Here's the book at Amazon: [] but you can get at the library, and probably faster.

Keep a visible task list (5, Insightful)

bofh468 (628006) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811533)

Myself and my co-worker work for an educational services company. We manage a smallish network of ~150 UNIX machines and are responsible for maintaining them, the network gear, and network security. We also solve every problem that the applications developers can't figure out (which amounts to a lot). On top of that, we're continually striving to improve our network infrastructure. We're often dragged into meetings to plan and develop infrastructure upgrade projects.

Management's priorities are all over the map, and priorities can change every hour. This makes life incredibly difficult for us.

Our solution was to grab a big-ass whiteboard (you know, 4 feet tall, and 16-feet wide) and write down all of our tasks. No real detail... just enough to indicate what the task is. We mark which task we're currently working on. Whenever management comes by to give us more work, we take them to the whiteboard, write down the task(s), and insist they prioritize what's on there.

The amount of incoming work was enough to keep four people busy. We spent 2 hours daily discussing priorities with management. All tasks were important enough to keep on the board, and our Ops Manager maintained the priority list.

Then one day, the whiteboard filled up.

Management got the hint when we insisted on a second whiteboard. Instead of providing us with a second whiteboard, there's now whitespace available on the first board.

Just keep a list of tasks at hand, and make sure your manager knows what you've got on your plate. If you're given a new task, insist that he looks over your current list and assigns some priority.

Actually say the word No. (4, Funny)

sakusha (441986) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811538)

I had an insane boss once, each day as business started he'd roam around the office for his morning ritual, he made each employee look him straight in the eyes and say "No" three times in a firm but neutral voice. If he didn't like how you did it, he'd make you do it again. Yep, he was totally nuts.

List (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811543)

I've heard that a great (yet simple) way to manage requests is to give the customer write access to a spreadsheet that stores a prioritized list of work requests. You always work on whatever is at the top of the list.

This allows customers / bosses to assign new tasks as they see fit, but helps to make clear the fact that prioritization is necessary, and that a new request may be neglected or may push out other necessary tasks.

List the tasks and have management decide (2, Insightful)

awerg (201320) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811545)

Here is my suggestion to help you make progress.
  • Write a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Be sure to include the impact to the company and the time necessary to complete the tasks.
  • Arrange the list with a impact number. Like security issues a 1 and printer maping a 4.
  • Present the list of tasks to Management
  • Ask that they prioritize the list, or at least identify the first few things to complete
  • Once management has decided make a big poster with the priority list and post it on a wall near you. Identifing that the priority came from Management.
  • For every new request write it on the bottom of the list
  • When a task is finished mark it off on the poster. (to show your progress)
  • Now everyone will see your list and see the priority of their request.
The key is to get management to decide and display it for all to see.
It sounds like you have a lot of people who think you have nothing to do and they are really important.

More Staff (1)

CB-in-Tokyo (692617) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811549)

What is your Job title, and who do you report to? Are you the sole IT person, or the sole technical person? These items are important; because when you are going to try and change something you have to know who you are and to whom you are talking.

IT exists to serve the business. For an IT project to be approved, it has to be shown how it will benefit the business. If you are the manager and the tech, then I would audit the business, and create projects for cleaning it up. Show how cleaning it up would benefit the business, and how not cleaning it up hurts the business. Talk to the staff and find out about downtime before you were there; how often it occurred and who was affected. Quantify this with hard numbers (i.e. actual outages, and how they affected the business from a monetary perspective.) In that environment you can be sure that there have been issues. It should be relatively easy to come up with a project that involves either more staff, or outside contractors that will show a positive return on investment.

You are still fresh there and all the state of IT there cannot be blamed on you. If you take a proactive (sorry for the buzzword) role now you can make a difference and make the place somewhere worth working. You just have to make sure you are speaking the same language as the people you are presenting these things to.

If you are not the IT manager, then I would talk to my IT manager about doing the above. The IT manager is ultimately responsible for your department and would likely look favourably on this. Worst-case scenario, you get turned down, but get some valuable experience. Best case, you get to play a primary role in making your IT department function properly.

Good Luck!


Get their username! (1)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811553)

When they come to you with requests, always get their username!
Then you can provide them with the full user experience they so richly deserve.
MUH, HA, HA, HA! []

Obligatory sarcasm (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811555)

I'm looking for actual, real-world experiences, and how the people of Slashdot deal with this issue
For some strange reason the poster seems to be under the impression that the people on /. have ``real-world experiences''. That's like Seinfeld's Kramer going to a baseball fantasy camp.

Seriously, though, it's tough. In the corporate IT world your best bet is to hide behind some clearly define procedures or policies (yes, those things are useful). In the situations I'm familiar with (as a user putting in requests to systems support), what happens is this: I submit a request for enhancement or a trouble report; support opens a ticket and gives me a ticket number which I can use to track progress; after a couple of hours or days; I get an email telling me that the ticket is closed with a certain status; often the status is `rejected' followed by an explanation, like what I asked for is difficult to do and would only benefit a small group of people. That's usually fair enough for me, since I can often work around the issue, and if my workarounds create problems for other users, then support will be more willing to help out. I've never felt anything resembling outrage or anger if a request got rejected, at most I felt irritated (more work for me). But the key is that my requests have been in the queue, have gone through the system in a standard fashion, have been reviewed by one or more people (if I requested escalation etc.), and typically get rejected because there's a policy on what requests are urgent, standard, minor, or ignorable. Similarly, I hope that the support people don't get outraged or angry at yet another request to install an interpreter for an obscure scripting language when they are busy with more urgent things, because it's just another ticket in the queue that will be dealt with according to standard procedures.

In sum: documented business processes. And communication.

tell them the truth (0)

unclefungus (663751) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811556)

if it can't be done, or the strech is just to much work to be feasable, tell them. If they tell you they want it done any way, let them know about "don't say I didn't warn you". then leave. IE F*CK 'EM! They pay you to run the network and if they don't want to listen to the one person that knows something, thats not your proplem.

Change and incident managment (3, Informative)

shivan (12148) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811557)

yes, i will get a million geeks on my neck for saying this, and heck, before i became a corporate whore i was against this. But now i've seen the usefullness of this.

make up a system which includes procedures for change managment and incident managment. Everytime someone asks for something, ask them wether it is an incident or a change (or decide yourself), if its an incident (in which case you have break/fix situation), you know its a valid/urgent request and you can work on it. If its a change, you put it into a change managment system, together with the rest of the work you already have. Make this work visible (give out ticket numbers and such), so next time they want an update, you can refer them to your change managment webpage and they can see which project(s) are still to be fixed before theirs is started. This way, you dont come off as a sluggish worker AND you keep your customer happy.

ITSM, love it or hate it, but it sure is usefull.

Its like with drugs... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811563)

Just say NO!

no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811564)

I won't help you.

Am I the only one who... (1)

cliffy2000 (185461) | more than 11 years ago | (#6811567)

immediately thought of Milton in Office Space upon seeing the title of this topic?

"... I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and its not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire. "

Watch The Naked Gun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811572)

Specifically, the scene with the student driver where the instructor says:

"Extend your arm."

"Good. Now extend your middle finger."

Sure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6811573)

Put a sign outside your cube that reads NFW, followed by a smiley.
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