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Why Bad Help Is Worse Than No Help At All

November 27, 2019

Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous.

– President Snow “Hunger Games”

Are you overworked at your job? Could you use some additional help? Couldn’t we all. The nature of the economy is such that people are scarce. Everyone is being asked to do more with less.

We could all use more help.

My job started about six years ago with a single site and fifty agents. Today we have five sites and over 2500 agents. Six years ago I was responsible for outages, projects, new sites, escalations, and pretty much any other IT operation that wasn’t assigned elsewhere. Today, I’m responsible for outages, projects, new sites, escalations, and pretty much any other IT operation that isn’t assigned elsewhere.

I started to feel the weight about four years ago. By then, I understood my role and had learned what resources I had available to me. I settled into the harness easily. In fact, I thrived. I loved, I still love the job.

As the years went by, I settled into a groove. Most people didn’t understand my devotion to a job that required being on call 24×7, working mostly with people in other states, being responsible for a myriad of systems that I had no control over.

But, I enjoyed the team, I enjoyed the client, I enjoyed the work we accomplished.

But, it started to get busy. Really busy. Each site added complexity. More users meant more escalations, more outages. Outages occasionally took over my life. They invaded my camping trips. They invaded my kids’ concerts. They became a part of my life.

Changes also. Any time a change was scheduled for my sites, I had to be there. “There” most often meant on the phone. Changes happen during “off” hours. We’re a 24×7 shop, but middle of the night is our slow period. So, I’d sometimes be up all night with a CCT and up the next night with an outage and all day in meetings and projects.

It’s not really so bad. . .if you love what you are doing. And I loved it.

But, I also wanted some help. I needed some help. But, I knew there was very little help coming. I had backup. . .soft of. Our Account Management team would answer the phone if I was completely unavailable, like on a plane, or camping out of cell phone range. But, they were backup in name only. They were not IT people. They could answer the phone, but they didn’t know anything about IP addresses or routes, or pings, or traces.

In fact, if there was an outage while I was unavailable, I had to do a bunch of work after I got back to get my records in line. Again, I knew what I was getting, and I was okay with it.

Back in August a funny thing happened. We made some management changes and I started reporting to a different manager. It was okay, I was told. Because the new structure, the new organization mean I would finally, after years of asking, finally have some help.

It’s been a long year. I travelled a lot. Enough, in fact to reach the second tier of Delta’s rewards program. We opened a new center. We had lots of work. I was also no longer working with the boy scouts, so I ended up taking few vacation days. I decided I’d take the week of Thanksgiving off and then the last two weeks of December.

My family wasn’t disappointed at all. Thanksgiving is a kind of big deal at our house. We start cooking the day before. We make more pies than we have people. (So far we have 19 pies and about 15 people.) We make three kinds of potatoes; mashed, potato salad and potatoes baked in with the turkey. We put out cranberry sauce every year and every year everyone ignores it.

So, today, being Wednesday, was the day to prepare for tomorrow. And I had it scheduled off. But, I woke up to a phone call and a three hour phone call. Something broken. And then, around 1:00pm, the phone rang again. And I spent another few hours on the phone. That triggered a mandatory 4:00 status call. And then about 5:00 another call and another hours long call.

Today was not a vacation. Not only that, but I found myself very irritable. Worse than normal. In fact, I rarely get irritable. Never, in fact.

So, what was different today? Today, was a day I wasn’t supposed to work. Not just, not supposed to, but not supposed to. Because I had been promised that help was coming. When I scheduled this week off, I counted on being able to disconnect, to leave my phone turned off. Turns out that wasn’t the case, but the hoping made me resentful.

Without the hope, I would have approached this week like any other “vacation” week that I had to be on call. I would go in expecting that I might have to take a call, or three.

I wish I didn’t have the hope, false hope, as it turned out. As President Snow said, a little hope is effective, but if you have too much it can become dangerous.

Happy Thanksgiving. Nobody call me tomorrow!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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