When I ask IT professionals why their users have blank passwords or use words like “password” for their password, the IT professional explains “my boss told me I had to leave it that way!”
The same goes for restricting Instant Messenger, or blocking web streaming sites that allow users to watch video and eat up the organization’s precious bandwidth. Then there are the issues of employees bringing in personal notebooks and connecting them to the network without any prior anti-virus checking.
Often the procedure goes like this:
- 1. The IT professional makes a suggestion, like removing games from the workstations or forcing a minimum password length
- 2. The executives tell the IT professional, “No way! You are messing up our family culture and are making our computers harder to use!”
- 3. Some IT professional will back down and say, “I am so sorry. It will never happen again.”
The IT professional in step 3 is wanting to remain in the good graces of executives and that is understandable. I want to encourage and empower the IT professionals to be willing to provide some push back to the executives such as, “I understand how you want to have the team members feeling comfortable in our friendly culture and how everyone needs to be able to easily log into the network. Would you allow me to share some perspectives nobody may have told you about?”
Assuming the IT professional receives a “go ahead” response, he or she can continue, “Other organizations have found that users spend a lot of time playing games and watching online videos instead of being productive. This time wasting can cost the company money. Also, short passwords are much easier to crack and it is important to protect our “family” by using good security practices.”
Notice that the executive can still say “no” and now they are better informed.
Some IT professionals are willing to take this extra “stand up for the company” approach and, as long as the IT professional is tactful, the executive will often have increased respect for the IT professional after the communication.
Successful IT Professionals focus on the long term benefits even when it means standing up to executives in a tactful way. If you are the IT professional, stick to kind words, be patient, and talk about “facts” instead of “opinions.”