CYA – Cover Your Ass

There are some lessons that take you longer to learn in life and business. CYA (Cover Your Ass) is one of those lessons for me. It seems so simple yet I catch myself being a slow learner. It goes hand in hand with the old adage of “Trust, but verify.” I have now learned the hard way that if it’s not writing it’s best to pretend it doesn’t exist. If you are newer to your corporate career you will learn people often talk very different then what they put in an email. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a bad or a good thing but that’s the way things are now.

Now I’m not saying people are out to get you and this world is a dog eat dog world. However, I am saying that many times in larger organizations there will be challenges (opportunities in disguise) that present themselves and no one wants to be the fall person. Most people find it easier to kick the can down the road and when shit hits the fan say “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my department.” Inevitably, one of these challenges will fall on you. If it was an honest mistake, then own up to it, learn from the mistake/oversight and move on.

If you really aren’t the one to blame it can be a trickier situation. It’s always nice to have that saved email that gave you permission to do what you did. But before your next course of action consider will this matter in an hour, day, week, etc? Who is the source? Is this coming from an individual who has a tendency to always being in the middle of problems and chaos?

Personal Example

As stated in a previous post I work with capital equipment in the healthcare industry. And one time a customer purchased a piece of equipment for a larger price tag. Unfortunately, the customer learned after the fact they didn’t have the proper server requirements and had to pay for an additional upgrade that they were not anticipating. They were furious, they refused to pay. Consequently, this issue got escalated up to upper management in our organization and they were looking under everything with a microscope. Emails were written in the heat of the moment and as the old saying goes. Shit flows downhill. Ultimately, an email crossed my inbox that I don’t believe was intended to and certain individuals blamed me and our department. Due to that, I had a couple options.

1) Reply All – Clear my name and set the story straight. This would however make one of my managers look bad in front of their superiors. No one likes to look bad in front of their boss. And for all, I know this individual may not have all the facts which are contributing to the miscommunication.

2) Do nothing Accept being the whipping boy and move on.

3) Address Quietly – Resolve the discrepancy with the source.

I opted for option number 3. I wanted to help my manager save face. The more I can make my boss look better in front of her superiors the better it is for me. When these challenging situations come up sometimes it’s best to consult with a peer or a different manager to make sure you are processing everything clearly and doing your due diligence. An advantage of seeking out your manager is they will have a little background if this would cross their desk and they are equipped to answer any objections.

At the end of the day, we are all just trying to find our way and place in these organization. But never forget the power of documentation.


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