C.Y.A: Cover Your Ass

The Workplace Wellness Guide on mindfully and strategically not being thrown under the bus by your colleagues- whether you're in the office or working remotely.

On the 21st June, I saw an amazing TikTok video of a woman who said to stitch her video (create a video of your own and add it onto a piece of the original content creator’s video) with something the viewer had learned from a workplace which they would never forget.

I knew I needed to share CYA- other known as Cover your Ass. I came across this term on my very first day at a former job years ago from a colleague who was honest enough to tell me that if I didn’t bother to put anything in writing, other colleagues- including him- wouldn’t bat an eyelid when throwing me under the bus to save themselves. I really appreciated the honesty; I just didn’t know just how rough the corporate world could be, and just how many buses one could be thrown under without truly experiencing it first-hand.

After my stitched TikTok video, I realized from the mass of comments that so many people were never aware of this concept.

Another TikTok creator created his own video weeks later about CYA, and again, it was evident that not many people had come across this term and its use. I wanted make sure that hopefully others wouldn’t fall into the trap of blindly trusting the spoken word of a colleague and potentially fall victim to having to ask the question, “but why would they do that to me?” Corporate is never easy and being able to navigate your way around it can make life just a little bearable when you spend majority of your time with people you might not even like.

The concept of Cover Your Ass is very simple- it just requires you to remember to do it and then actually implement it. I’ll break it down and try not to make this too complicated.

1. Always have a notebook and pen in every meeting.

Meetings were a regular activity in many of the places I have worked, and nothing saved me more than making sure to write everything said in a meeting down. Well, not everything. If it had to do with me, I wrote it down. If it might have had something to do with it me and a supervisor, management or anyone else decided to reassign that duty to someone else, I wrote it down. This is probably the step where you use the most concentration- because you’re writing everything down and you want this to be correct.

For any other form of information being communicated, try to write down notes, or remember as much information as you can for the follow-up email.

This is more of a subpoint but just as important. You might get telephone discussions, online calls (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype etc) that will require you to take down information, so you haven’t missed a thing. For those emergency meetings that can happen where you are without pen and paper, try retaining as much information as you can. This is for the next step.

2. Next is to get behind that computer and type!

Type an email to the relevant person or people. Something along the lines of “To confirm from our previous meeting, the duties I need to prioritize are…”, or “As per our telephone discussion earlier”, and for those whose bosses love to text them, “Your text mentioned the following I would like to confirm with you.” This step is all about leaving a paper trail! I always believe that if it was said out loud and never put in writing, did it ever actually happen? For the other person whose ass needs saving, it didn’t happen, so prepare to lay out on your metaphorical tar road and wait for that bus.

3. Get a POE- Portfolio of Evidence

This is a trick I learned from a supervisor, who mentioned to me that the I.T. Department could, from time-to-time, be asked to casually erase or edit information in previously sent emails to ensure that an employee that a subordinate didn’t like could be ‘hit’ with a double decker bus. It happened often. It’s no surprise that not everyone who is employed will actually be liked at all. One of many reasons that being my own boss became even more attractive.

So, after writing your email, and hopefully receiving a response, print those emails out. Make sure all printed emails show who the email was sent to, and the date and time. If you feel like it could be difficult to print this all out at work without any Nosey Nelly’s noticing, save it all onto a USB, and get it printed somewhere else. Get yourself a file and slip it in there.

For all things holy, don’t leave the file at work where just about anyone can pick it up and look at its contents. Put it in a drawer, under other files, under your desk somewhere unnoticeable or if you have a car, leave it in there. In some workplaces, privacy doesn’t always exist.

This post isn’t to create a negative view on corporate workplaces or even to create any kind of fear of your workplace and its staff. There are some amazing places to work for, amazing departments to be a part of, and fantastic colleagues and management who make waking up and the commute to work so much easier. Not every workplace will have the kind of culture of watching your back or even intentionally try to make you feel unsettled. There are many places th