Five things you should never tell your boss

There are some things your CIO definitely doesn't want to hear.

In the information biz, more isn't necessarily better. Though full disclosure and transparency are buzzwords today, that doesn't mean your boss wants to hear about everything going on in the office. In fact, there are some things your CIO definitely doesn't want to hear, and if your career is going to thrive, you'd better know what they are.

We asked a group of Computerworld's 2008 Premier 100 IT Leaders to talk about the kinds of messages they never want to hear from their staffers. Here's what they said.

1. All about the technology -- and nothing about the business. Acting like the business is terra incognita is a no-no. "Never tell me you don't know what the business wants but you'll build it when they decide," says James E. Schinski, CIO and vice president of Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator in Carmel, Ind.

Joseph J. Tufano,vice president and CIO at St. John's University in New York, agrees, saying IT workers need to tell him how technology can help the organization and its staff do their jobs better. "You bring so much more credibility to the discussion when you're presenting technology in the context of business," he says.

2. There's only one solution. "People can sometimes develop a fondness for a certain technology or programming language or manufacturer into almost a religion, but it's never the case that one type of solution is the proper one for all situations," says Neal Puff, CIO for Arizona's Yuma County. "And when you develop an attitude like this, you're viewed as an obstacle or a roadblock. People will assume you're just going to like it this way and you're not going to like it any other way."

3. Bad opinions about your colleagues. It's a simple rule that can get overlooked when your team is struggling with a missed deadline or a failing project, but think before you point a finger, because bosses generally don't want to hear about it -- especially if you haven't tried to work it out on your own.

"I want a team that works together and not one that's political, and if I see it happening, then I think people are trying to score points," says Kumud Kalia, CIO and executive vice president of customer operations for Toronto-based Direct Energy, an integrated energy company and part of Centrica PLC.

Of course, there are times when you need to discuss personnel issues with your boss. For example, Kalia wants to know from managers when workers are thinking of leaving. Just be sure the boss really needs to know about the situation; then be discreet and objective.

4. There's no way. Robert Strickland, senior vice president and CIO of T-Mobile USA Inc. in Bellevue, Wash., makes his position very clear: Everything is possible.

"It may be impossible to deliver the exact goal, or it may be impossible to deliver the goal in the way it has been outlined, but before you say it is impossible, tell me some of the challenges you may face, and we can have a conversation about overcoming those challenges," he says. "You may be surprised by what you can accomplish if you let go of your biases."

5. A surprise. CIOs almost universally say they don't like surprises -- particularly unpleasant ones. Ian S. Patterson, CIO at Scottrade Inc., a St. Louis-based online brokerage firm, says he always prefers to hear news -- good and bad -- directly from his workers. So when someone comes by and starts with "I want to give you a heads up," it really catches his attention.

Moreover, it's a good bet that your boss prefers to hear that news sooner rather than later, says Gregory B. Morrison, CIO of Cox Enterprises Inc., an Atlanta-based media company and provider of automotive services. "Getting help early could help keep a small problem from turning into a disaster," he says.

NEXT: Five things you should always tell your boss

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

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