I Was Told Mistake



A lot of times in IT I’ll hear the phrase, “I was told”. For example, “I was told we are going to use Chef.” This is the worst possible phrase you can use. It suffers from two major defects:

First it uses the passive voice. I think the passive voice is the enemy of productive and clear communication. In this context the passive voice shadows the listener from the person that did the telling and subtly tells you to not question the statement.

“I was told to use Chef.” Who did the telling? Your mom? Your five year old son? Your boss? Their boss? The teller implies that it doesn’t matter; you should just accept the statement because, “I was told”!

But this isn’t the worst part of the statement.

I was told takes the teller completely out of the chain of responsibility for actions and results in their business. If I was told to do Chef and it doesn’t go well, then that’s not my fault at all. I can go about my career life with great pride in the fact that I’m only doing what I’m told and can chalk up failures to management or the crazy Chef evangelist.

I was told needs to die. It’s the death knell of a career. It lulls its teller into a rejection of responsibility, and their skills fade away into oblivion.

Here’s a secret: even though I wrote that on the Internet for the whole world to hear, you’re going to go to work tomorrow and hear I was told. It will be like the car that you buy and then see it everywhere. Everyone using the passive voice! Obfuscating the actions of others into an unquestionable force that we should all follow!

And as that happens, I have some advice for you. Take charge. See what needs to change and change it. Call out a problem, suggest a solution, and solve it. Don’t complain about funding. Don’t complain about the other team that is stupid. Don’t complain about management and I was told yourself into oblivion.

Stand up, take action, make the world a better place.

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