Expose yourself… but CYA!



A critical part of working in your office is the CYA (Cover Your Ass). It’s sad that you have to do this, but with offices that tend to have a few ambitious colleagues, gossips and backstabbers, it pays to be careful.. you don’t want to find out the hard way like me.

CYA applies to pretty much everything you do.. and especially for activities you think may cause any sort of controversy, new activities, or involves the aforementioned colleagues.

Why CYA? 2  big reasons that come to mind include not getting blamed for any mistakes, and ensuring you get credit for your successes.

Here are a few tips that worked for me

  • Keep copies of your emails sent, and received,  for a month. Longer if the topic could be a problem at a later date.
  • Get everything in writing – for example a dubious instruction from a boss, decisions made by others that could have ramifications down the road, or an IM from a colleague saying “boss said you should do this”. You may need it as proof or to refer to later. I find this happens a lot with one specific project that keeps coming up every few years and as each newly promoted VP changes the direction on this project made his predecessor.. “WHY did YOU make that decision on this project?” says the new VP. “See this email from previous VP” says me.
  • Summarize meetings and calls – sometimes you are ambushed on a call, or you get called into a meeting that you think might be a cluster  Fxxx. For example a recent experience I had where a colleague booked a call and I suspected she would try to give me direction on something against my job duties and and against my bosses wishes. I first tried to decline the meeting (I considered asking my boss to attend but since this was only suspicions I thought it inappropriate). So  I turned up  very late “because a prior meeting overran”  but “unfortunately” they had already given up and ended the call.  Sadly she didn’t take the hint though and so rescheduled. I showed up on time and asked them to record the call. When they didn’t do that (“technical issues”), after the call I emailed them and summarized in bullet points out what I saw as the outcomes and key points of the call. Copied in my boss. And I saved it for later.
  • Warn your boss – When I see a potential problem approaching I warn my boss. Depending on  how bad the issue is I may address it directly or offhandedly. She knows me though and tends to see through the subtly. But it keeps her aware and ready to have my back.
  • Expose yourself – Exposing yourself is a key part of covering your ass. I tend to work hard, head down, and  forget to communicate what I am doing and my successes and initiatives.  If you do this, people will forget you or assume you aren’t doing anything worthwhile. Getting and maintaining exposure for your projects with your boss, and colleagues and higher-ups is key. Produce reports and summaries of results and successes frequently and encourage your boss to share them broadly – it will make her look good as well as you. And don’t forget to give credit to others where it is due.


What experiences have you had where you had to CYA?


You’re late for an important date!


I hate being late. I am always 5 minutes early. Or earlier. And I don’t understand or relate to those people who are late.  But if you are like me you probably have noticed that most meetings don’t start till 7 minutes past the start time. (Its rare in my office, although I does happen rarely, for a meeting to start on time). So for every meeting I end up sitting for almost 15 minutes twiddling my thumbs waiting for a meeting to start and listening to irrelevant chatter. What a waste of time!

The other day I was stuck in a call and subsequently late for my next meeting which I was hosting. As I joined the meeting a colleague of mine commented that she was worried about me because I am always on time and seemed amazed I could always be on time 99% of the time. I hadn’t realized my timeliness was noticed by others and it concerned me that my behaviour was different from others!!

The reason most of my colleagues are late for every meeting is that they are so “busy“.  They arrive a few minutes late and make an apology which relates to this level of workload/meetings etc. They make an entrance of sorts and share this message with everyone in the meeting.  So does this mean that being on time is considered as not busy?   Do fellow employees, or my boss, think I am not busy because I am on time?

Being on time isn’t hard. I schedule my time to allow me to be on time. I drop off prior calls at the end saying I have a “hard stop”/”another call to attend”.

But it seems that the early bird is being penalized – being seen as not busy, plus you waste time waiting on meetings to start.

So today’s office secret: always be  5-7 minutes late for meetings.  (Any later and people will think you aren’t coming.) You’ll look busy and be perfectly on time for when the real meat of the call starts.

New for the new year

Its a new year at work. I have noticed in my almost 20 years at the company that a few changes often happen around this time which are apparently critical to the business, and to the success of the company. If you are new to your company, or a new manager, or simply along term employee like me with the “back to work blues”, the below is important for you to consider to be “successful”.

  1. A new internal logo or group name.  Creating either or ideally both of these each  year is believed to inspire staff and help the group align better to business and market needs. Bonus that the person who came up with these gets a high five and lots of kudos for creating this. It takes the last month of December for him to do this strategy which is always a nice rush, and then the staff take 6 months to update everything with the new name and logo.  When he leaves (in 2 years) the new person can do this all over again. This doesn’t seem to align with any significant changes in strategy or process. Buy hey, sometimes there are free trinkets with aforementioned new logo/group name on it which are always useful.
  2.  A new mission statement.  Again to motivate and keep staff on track. Takes months to create, especially all the marketing materials and flyers and posters and employee communications around it. Its very secret though.. can’t have people knowing about the statement in advance. Usually it has a few “planks” which consist of some fancily worded re-worked versions of grow revenue, cut costs, differentiate the business plus more individual ones like being a team player, innovative or motivated.  Staff have to be sure to throw these “planks” into conversation and slides on a regular basis, as well as weave into any goal planning documents. Easy to do though since the overarching concepts don’t change year over year.
  3. Training the new management. Every 18-24 months many managers in my company switch jobs and new roles are created for senior management. Staff tend to stay unchanged although with frequent downsizing, there are less staff than there used to be. No changes to management however. And the company gets increasingly top heavy. Anyway new managers/roles means staff training the management on what they do, why they do it etc etc. This can take 6-12 months until new management understands the business division. Then they stay for another whole 6-12 months before moving on and the process is repeated. Assuming staff’s roles/work is essentially unchanged, staff can save time by creating a templated slide deck to pull out when needed and simply changing the date as well as adding the new logo/mission statement planks as per 1 and 2 above.


Does this sound like your company or is it just mine?


Unwelcome input


We have all been in the situation where a colleague has given input or unwelcome feedback on your work (or asked to review your work) without you asking… but how do you handle it?

Having had input from a senior colleague on another team recently, I have been struggling with this.  This colleague doesn’t have the experience or knowledge and the input isn’t relevant or useful. However as she is senior to me, how do I tell her this? She is pushy and doesn’t listen at the best of times..

So my first port of call was Google. Not helpful really as I was looking for practical advice. So I called a colleague and she gave me some great nuggets which go beyond just this scenario..

A) Politely tell her “thanks for the input“. And don’t use it.  Consider it input and nothing else. That may be the end of it, but if she comes back and says “why didn’t you include my comments?“, and starts to get pushy then
1. Respond with “I considered all the feedback and input and incorporated where it made sense strategically. Thanks again though for your input“.
2. Who owns the program? If its not you,  ensure you have buy in from the program owner, so you can back up your argument by telling them that this was approved by the program owner and copy that person in.  Or, if you own the program, talk to your boss off the record in case this does escalate and they can support your decision. So you essentially shift the responsibility to someone else and let them fight the fight.

But she also came up with another nugget which is a biggie.

B) You don’t need to respond to everybody’s emails or questions.

Wait..! What…? I don’t!!? I always do.. Having been shouted at, and having had perceived
“issues” escalated in the past, I always felt I should respond to everything to nip possible escalations in the bud.  But that was years ago, what happens nowadays if I don’t respond?
This one I might try! Key thing here is to ensure you respond to important people.  In my example, the person in question thinks they are important but really they aren’t, and aren’t even respected that much in the company. Too late for me to try this though.

So I am trying A.  And keeping B in my back pocket for next time. Wish me luck!

Work encroaching on personal boundaries

Just got off a call where my boss’s boss, told the whole organization of over 75 people, that it was their job description to post the company’s programs on their personal linked in and twitter social accounts.

This follows on from my boss telling me earlier in the week to record something on my iPhone. It was mandatory and had to be on my iPhone.. also personal equipment.

Can companies mandate you to use personal property for work uses? Isn’t this tantamount to telling me to give my friend’s and family’s email addresses to the marketing department? Or requiring me to put a sales sign on top of my car and on my lawn?

Lunch and learn?

Ok maybe because its Monday and summer is over and I am having Monday blues. But today I was invited to a mandatory lunch and learn with my company.

“Lunch and learn”?

It was 12pm-1pm. There was no lunch provided by the meeting organizers. I have back to back meetings and so had no time to go grab my own food. And as I sit in the meeting, nobody brought food with them. Even if we had  brought food, its not easy when you are crammed into theatre style seating with no tables and brushing elbow with your neighbour who is upset by the strong smell of your tuna… So we just sat and tried not to let our stomaches rumble.

No lunch.

And what meeting doesn’t have “learning” involved in it since someone will be sharing some  information of  some sort?  But  unlike lunch and learns of the past, this wasn’t a useful training session where you learn new things of value to your job.. it was just another powerpoint presentation on normal business.

No real learning either.

“Lunch and learn” seems to me to be justification to simply hold another boring meeting over your lunch time.

Quick thought – meeting duration

Explain to me..  I attend a LOT of meetings. At least 3-5 a day. And the vast majority last the duration of the time allotted.

Why? Are people that good at anticipating the exact time the meeting will last? To the minute? Obviously, calls can rushed to fit things in, or content pushed over to another call. But I think another thing is at play – knowing they have time, people fill it with irrelevant content!  Especially social people who enjoy meetings and may subconsciously artificially fill the time with chitty chatty… argh.

Then there is the meeting that starts “we will probably get through this quick and not need the whole time”.. I sigh when I hear that because despite the fact that I have enough experience to know better.. these meetings NEVER actually end early. Participants still manage to fill the time.. that person who just has another question.. or feels the need to talk about something separate from the meeting topic which is irrelevant to you!

Saw a recent article on LinkedIn that had a thought about meetings – think about how many people are on the meeting, and they approx salary, and duration of the meeting. Say a 2 hour meeting, 50 people.. $100 salary an hour. That meeting just cost you $10,000.  If you had to pay that money out from your budget.. would you? If the answer is no, then don’t set up that meeting!