Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How I became "a hothead and a rebel," part 2

I spent a few minutes today digging through my computer and found the e-mails that I briefly described in this story. They are as good as I remembered. Maybe even better. I think the reason they made such a strong impression on my first boss is that they are 100% honest with no apologies. I did not hold back even a little bit. I felt my boss and my manager were making a stupid and arbitrary decision, and I told them that.

Here’s how it all began, with IT’s announcement e-mail:

New Feature in Notes 6.5: Instant Messaging
05/30/2005 09:42 AM

Instant Messaging is a new feature in Notes 6.5. It will enable you to converse in real-time with other [corporate] users.

I installed the IM client within a few minutes of receiving this announcement e-mail, and quickly started IMing a co-worker that also installed the client. And then in the afternoon, everyone got this e-mail from our boss:

Fw: New Feature in Notes 6.5: Instant Messaging
05/30/2005 02:35 PM

Please do not activate this option.

[Our department] does not wish to have this feature, based on conversations with [our manager] and [another supervisor].

If you have questions, please see me.

Taken aback by this pronouncement, I quickly responded with a good bit of outrage in my tone...

Re: Fw: New Feature in Notes 6.5: Instant Messaging
05/30/2005 02:47 PM

Do we get any say in this matter?

Instant Messaging is a useful feature and if you require justification for its usage, I can provide it. [My co-worker] and I have already made effective use of the feature in the few hours we've had it running. It is silly to not take full advantage of the software that has been provided to us. As [IT liaison], I was partly responsible for Instant Messaging being implemented, and I (apparently naively) expected [our department] to embrace the feature.

It took a full day for my boss to manage a response, and it was written in his typical stilted one sentence paragraphs. And it was completely ridiculous in its content, as far as I was concerned…

Re: Fw: New Feature in Notes 6.5: Instant Messaging
05/31/2005 02:01 PM

In a discussion among [our manager], [another supervisor] and I it was seen as a possible additional consumer of work time.

We already have email and a telephone.

Why do we need another device which is like the MSN chat room type of set up.

It is thought of as a chat room type of service and it was not seen as needed and just another thing to occupy work time.

What can you provide to show that this is needed over and above the telephone and regular email?

I have to admit, I'm not that familiar with it and do not know of any benefits to having it over the above mentioned methods to communicate.

I am checking further with [our manager] and [the other supervisor]. We should try to be consistent on this matter if possible.

It didn’t take me long to generate a response. I knew it wasn’t going to be warmly received, but it was honest--and honesty is the best policy, right? I like that I even acknowledged my own snark. What a bastard I am...

Re: Fw: New Feature in Notes 6.5: Instant Messaging
2005-05-31 02:35 PM

How would the addition of a new communication feature consume additional work time? It is used to replace other communication methods. If people are chatting on Instant Messaging (IM), it is no more time consuming than those same people chatting on the phone or in person.

Yes, it would be hard to justify that we "need" IM, but why wouldn't we give it a try? It's not costing us anything to experiment with a tool that's included with the software we use. IM is real time text communication, bridging e-mail and the telephone. I find (and I am not alone) that many things are easier to explain in text, rather than over the phone. (As an admittedly snarky side note, wasn't the introduction of e-mail met with similar scepticism, as why would you need e-mail when you have regular mail and the telephone?)

I can point to hundreds of e-mails in my Lotus Notes that would have been better delivered as IM messages. (IM messages can even be saved, if there is important information communicated in them.)

On the [corporate website] today is a nice concise description of the benefits of IM. You may have seen it already, but I have attached it here for your reference.

As a closing note, no matter what is decided by [our Manager] et al, IM will continue to run on my computer. As [IT liaison], it is my role to embrace and experiment with new technology.

And so I was marked as a bad seed for the rest of my time in that department, which luckily was only until January 2006.

And it wasn’t until my 2005 performance review, which was on my last day of work in the department (and also served as an exit interview), that my boss confronted me about the e-mail. I knew it hadn’t gone over well, because he had vented to my co-worker about me (the source of the "a hothead and a rebel" quote), but he never said a word to me about it until that day. And, to my boss’ chagrin, I was again 100% honest. This yielded one of my favourite moments in my five and a half years in the department when my boss told me that I must not have realized how the e-mail’s tone came across--and I set him straight with, "The tone was deliberate."

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