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Thanking the messenger

I used to think that, as manager, it was my job to announce bad news ("server B is down, and it ain't gonna be up for a while. This may cause the company to miss a big deadline. Oops.") as well as good news ("Server B is repaired, the company can start doing business again").

However I've recently realized that its better sometimes if I let other people announce the good news. And it may not be the reasons you expect.

My job as manager is to shield the people that work for me from the management BS that prevents them from getting their job done and rewarding them when they do good work. I also realize that the person that announces "everything is fixed" gets the credit for fixing it. Even if the announcement thanks the person that actually did the repair, there is a psychological factor that makes people associate the good deed with the messenger. It's the opposite of "shooting the messenger" but the same dynamic is happening.

So recently when we had a potentially disastrous outage I made sure that I announced the status updates initially ("Things are down. This is bad. Very bad") and along the way ("Things still aren't better, but we have some new clues about what is wrong"). That's me trying to be the good boss that shields staff from the political BS that gets in the way of doing their work.

However, when things were finally fixed, I let the person that fixed them send out the announcement, ("We're back up and running"). That way they get their moment in the spotlight, and the messenger, associated with the successful repair, is the person that did the repair.

However I then did a "Reply All" to that message adding a few CC:'s (my boss and any key players forgotten previously) thanking all the people that were involved in fixing it, and highlighting what they did. Thus, providing positive visibility for the team (something that is rare for IT groups). And, of course, since that message comes from me, I receive some of the good spotlight too. It's not only important that I share the spotlight for my own self-worth and career, but because politically speaking, I can get more done for my group when meeting with higher-ups when they remember me as the guy associated with good news.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

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