When I joined my job, I replaced a guy that had all of the tools and processes in a mess. He wouldn't fix them and made himself essential to hold everything together. At the time, I thought of him as a bad guy that was trying to make himself essential.

However, I've just been told that my work to fix things doesn't "support any business outcomes" and therefore won't reflect positively on me in my performance review. So, I find that I don't have any motivation to fix things - just leave things broken and then react to people when they have problems.

Which means that I am now the guy with the broken things except I've made things more technically complex/advanced/automated that the previous guy.

How do I either change things or at least protect my reputation so that I am not seen as the bad guy?

  • 10
    Is there any way you can prove to the powers that be that fixing things WILL have benefit to the business?
    – user34587
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 9:33
  • Did you raise the issues you faced, after you joined?
    – user47813
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 10:38
  • 7
    "Am I now the bad guy?" isn't really an on topic question for The Workplace. Do you want help trying to change something? Do you want to know how you should react to the direction you're being given? Do you have a goal you're trying to accomplish? Editing your question to reflect this will help it stay on topic and prevent close votes.
    – dwizum
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 11:43
  • Does anyone besides you see the tools and processes "in a mess"? Are you trying to "fix" the problem only out of your own interest?
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 12:02
  • 1
    Cross-site duplicate: How can I convince management to deal with technical debt? (or at least it's a duplicate of the on-topic version of this question) Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 18:49

6 Answers 6


This is the plague of IT. We are often seen as a cost center and not a revenue center and we tend to be treated poorly... unless the Email server goes down, then we are suddenly valuable.

The way to deal with this is to first get authorization through management where you MUST demonstrate the clear benefit to the company by demonstrating risks, costs, and benefits.

Right now, they see this as not contributing to the bottom line. Your strategy, if you want things to change must therefore be to demonstrate how fixing things will benefit the bottom line, and also demonstrating the potential costs/risks to the company if these things are NOT fixed.

If you cannot do this, then leave things alone. Right now, you can blame anything that goes wrong on your predecessor and when management complains, you have the fallback of saying that they didn't authorize any fixes. Don't overstep your authority here or, despite your good work and best intentions this can hurt you,.

  • 2
    @Crossed the river styx, I would add that there are two kinds of companies in 2018. Those that view technology as essential to their existance, and those that see it as a necessary evil of business. OP should evaluate this when considering job opportunities.
    – MplsAmigo
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 14:14
  • 1
    @MplsAmigo I added the word "often" to take that into account. Yes, I know that some companies actually take savings into account and the cost reductions as a revenue positive item, but I didn't include that because it didn't seem relevant to this particular question. Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 14:16
  • In addition to this otherwise excellent answer, I would also advise the OP to dust off their CV and start looking for an employer that does understand the value of working IT infrastructure.
    – Cronax
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 8:38

This is a problem of visibility, marketing and lack of know-how, with some politics trow in.

People often only perceive visibility of work being done when things go wrong and they need to be fixed. If you do not go out of your way to show work done - if you often work fix quietly things on the long term and do not inform upper management of the time spent/work done, people may think you are slacking off.

As usual, document what your activities and projects, the time spent, and be sure to err on the excess of emails reporting improvements, projects done and things fixed.

Performance reviews need documented evidence. Be sure to have profusely lists of tasks done, how they improved the current and most importantly, the future state of affairs, and lists of machines/tasks/stuff created ordered by date, together with excel tables with evidence it was all communicated to upper management via emails.

IT people are usually often notoriously bad at passing up the hierarchy what they are doing, preparing baseline documentation sending announcements of what they have been doing or need for the next projects, and then non-technical people think nothing is being done to improve things.

You clearly have two options, going the route of the other guy, or marketing your work and keeping improving things.

I would also monitor systems and provide graphics of the health of systems and weekly statistics of service on paper, to show service done to upper management. They kind of love those beautiful number and graphics in paper. The key word is visibility.

I would also try to get support from some senior element on management that could advise how to play the game on the political/documentation/bureaucratic side. Over time such person could become a valuable ally.

Ultimately, this could also be a cultural problem. Often organizations whose focus is not the IT business do not value, do not know how to value, or even do not want to know how to value IT work.

PS. Have you done an audit/filled up documents and excels of the state of things before you picked up the work of the other guy? Have you documented what you have improved until now? Do not be shy of recommending external contractors to help in fixing something you cannot or do not have time to. Have you already sent a list of equipment and software you will need to do more improvements?

PS2. I have fallen into some of these pitfalls in the past and learn some of them in the hard way. If you want to be somewhat protect yourself and your work politically, you have to learn a bit how to play their game. I also had a couple of mentors over the years, especially an older and savvy general manager that supported me a lot in an hybrid IT tech/managerial role.

  • 1
    This is the approach I agree with most. The best argument for fixing the spaghetti you inherited is showing cost savings when the items are fixed. Tracking how long a fix with the current code takes from initial diagnosis to implemented fix vs. the time to fix some of the smallest flaws. You need to think like the people who are evaluating you. Significant evidence and realistic time estimates vs. cost per hour of troubleshooting incidents is going to be the best way to go with these folks.
    – Jennifer S
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 12:40

If your efforts to fix things inadvertently break other things, then that could be bad, especially if you were not asked to fix something.

If you were asked to do something and you chose instead to fix things, that would be bad. If you did what you were asked but took longer than needed because you were also fixing things, that could be bad.

A lot depends on the actual business priorities and the business impact these broken things have. If you want to fix things, first confirm they are negatively impacting the business, that fixing them will not introduce new issues, and that fixing them does not get in the way of our delay important business priorities.


You're not the bad guy. Fixing things to prevent future problems is part of maintaining a system. It's good for the business in the long run because it enables people to work in an efficient cost effective manner.

A problem that causes an issue for 5 employees for an hour can easily translate into more than a day of lost man hours. Removing the source of problems directly affects the bottom line of the business.

The job isn't just finding a solution to peoples problems. It's also about removing the things that cause these problems in the first place so everyone can get on with their actual business of the day.

  • 2
    Reducing total man hours lost to an issue is an easily measurable business outcome. The question says that they have been told what they've worked on hasn't supported business outcomes so it's not clear to me how your answer applies in this situation. Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 11:29

You haven't mentionned anything that indicates that the previous guy's work did not bring satisfaction to management. So whatever leads you to say that his methods were "bad" is either your personnal experience, or technical knowledge. There's a good chance that work that meets customer requirements, and is maintainable even by only him, would have been enough to satisfy management.

They probably still have the same expectations with you, and anything you could do to go the extra mile ( making things maintainable by others, introducing safer processes etc ) might be considered unnecessary hassle, or even be interpreted as open criticism. You really are walking on eggs here.

I wouldn't say you're the bad guy. But it is important to remember that not everyone sees work the same way, and that doing enough ( even if it's not your best, not the best for the company etc ... ) is often exactly that : enough.


You're only the bad guy to the person who replaces you. To anyone else, you're the guy they come to when things need fixed. The "good guy" in your position is the one who people get sour about because they never need to go to you. You just sit there and take the money for doing nothing because everything works for the users.

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