#BlogElul Day 18: Ask

In the world of IT, asking for things is an activity that is somewhat fraught. First, there is the risk of rejection (which I wrote about on my other blog, today ). Second it often opens up a can of worms that, as IT pros, we really don’t ever want to deal with – the business side of things.

To ask for something – from a new server to permission to work from home to a network refresh to a day off – means, in many companies, means justifying the request from a business perspective. It means spending (wasting) valuable time hacking away at an RFP, doing hours of research, and generally guessing at the minds of management to figure out which magical datapoint will make our case and win us the request.

Many of us sidestep the entire issue by somewhat passive-aggressively waiting until the thing we want becomes and unavoidable issue. We wait until the current server is hopelessly old, we call in sick but say we can work remote to keep from infecting others, we allow the network to reach capacity, we hold onto our vacation days until HR is pushing our manager because of “use it or lose it” policies.

Such tactics are not good for the business nor are they good for us, both in the short and long terms.

Recently I worked with SolarWinds CTO/CIO Joel Dolisy about this phenomenon as part of a talk we were giving (you can watch it here). I came out of those working sessions with a much clearer understanding of both where IT pros tend to go wrong with their requests, and how that creates a negative feedback loop – a poorly framed request leads to rejection which leads to negative feelings (about management, the request process, and/or business in general) which leads to avoiding making requests in the future.

The answer, believe it or not, is hinted at in Rabbi Davidovich’s blog on this same topic (asking) today. He writes:

“When a relationship is healthy, and everyone is “cool” with one another, you don’t have parents snittily insisting that you say “please” and in the proper tone. [You] Just ask. […] Lighten up. Get to a place where asking is enough. And then asking will be enough. “

What came out of my talk with Joel was the understanding that if the relationship between the IT pro (as an individual, or as part of a community within the organization) and management (again, as an individual or as a whole) is generally strained, then when management says “no”, the engineer reads into it things like “they think my idea stinks” or “it’s all politics”.

When the relationship is good (and I fully admit that in many businesses it is not) then “no” is simply one word in an ongoing conversation about how to do what is best for the business.

In those situations, it is nothing for the IT pro to JUST ASK.