I often find myself in a professional setting being asked to job. Jobbing, for those of you who aren’t nearly as dorky as I am, is a professional wrestling term for getting beat. When the unstoppable supervillain gets beat by the up-and-coming kid, he’s doing the job. And I get asked the Business Analyst equivalent far too often from almost every client I’ve ever had.
This usually takes the form of asking me to grace a decision with my blessing when it does not deserve it. For example, I once sat in a room with several of my peers and our client. The client had invested several hundred thousand dollars into a piece of software that we all felt was horribly inadequate. In order to have it work even remotely well, we had to write a wrapper application that helped us through the most menial tasks of the tool, and I personally consider that offensive. If an application is that bad, it should be questioned. Notice, I didn’t say replaced, I said questioned. It may be that some underlying aspect of it is worth the badness, but it may well not be.
We had come up with a handful of other alternatives, but because the client had already invested money in the project, they didn’t want to appear to be unsuccessful, and so they gathered us to discuss things. It wasn’t much of a discussion. We were told the purpose of the meeting was to get everyone to agree on the direction they were taking. When you have to have meetings to get everyone to agree on a direction, it’s not a good sign. They laid out their case, admitted that it wasn’t the best tool, but we’d already gone down the garden path a ways and might as well see it through. Then one by one they asked us to agree with that statement.
Well, ‘cept for me. When it got to me, I said, “If you are asking me if it is my professional opinion that what you are proposing will work and will do the job you are asking of it, then I can tell you that I agree. If you are asking me if it is my professional opinion that we should do this, I’m afraid I cannot.” The client hated me for at least a year.
I read a great quotation today from Comradde PhysioProffe which captures what I’m talking about. It’s only one sentence, so click the link and read it.
I approach my professional life as a professional. I am a Business Analyst, hired on as a consultant. I think it’s important that I do my job to the utmost in defence of a company’s best interests. But sometimes, companies aren’t acting in their best interests and want my okay on that. Most of my coworkers, not just Business Analysts, but in every job I’ve ever had, decide in their head that if a client is asking you to do something, it is your job to do it. This is partly true. But only partly.
You certainly aren’t going to make friends by saying no to things, and you have to know how to handle this diplomatically. Simply saying “No” and arguing is likely to raise tensions, especially when someone else is personally invested in a project. The most important thing I can stress is that we are not jobbers, we are people who are being asked for our professional opinion, and we are obliged to give it accurately and fully. Doing anything less means we have not done our job. Nowhere on any of my contracts has the phrase “yes man” appeared.
This is true of almost all jobs, and ultimately, it’s true of every scenario where you are asked to agree to something. If you don’t think it’s right, agreeing is lying, and lying is generally a bad plan of attack. You are not your job, so don’t allow your job to push you around.