Deep dive introspection quasi-prolific pontification blabbering ensues.  You’ve been warned.

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One thing that institutions of higher education do not teach, as far as I can tell, is how to manage the human side of working in IT.  To be fair, there’s a good reason for that: The majority of institutions are focused on learning “how” to work on things, not the “who” it’s for aspect.  This is unfortunate for a number of reasons.

This lack of human-awareness within the IT world leads to miscommunication, misperceptions (or is it misconceptions?) about team members, managers, customers and even vendors at times.  I’ve seen it repeated over and over since the 1980’s, and it doesn’t appear to be getting “better” as of 2016.

Managing personalities in IT is tough, no doubt.  Certain personality traits seem to lead people into certain roles within IT, which in-turn, often reinforces the stereotypes we continue to hear.  For example, the perceptions IT folks have about other IT roles, such as network engineering, software development, information security, and so on.  We’ve all seen the jokes and cartoons that play on the stereotypes with each of these roles, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about basic 101 group psychology.  This is bigger than just something management can address.  It has to be addressed by everyone involved in IT.  This includes FTE’s, freelancers, consultants and contractors alike.

So, with all that oxygen exhaustion, here’s my list of “how to behave when working in the IT field”.  Enjoy.

  1. Constructive Criticism
    1. Engage conversation professionally; with maturity.
    2. Try to understand the other person’s motivations/values/priorities, even if you do not agree with them.  (you cannot change someone’s priorities if you don’t understand them first)
    3. Start with a private conversation.  Do not EVER start by complaining to other people.  You would prefer the same I’m sure.
    4. Choose your words carefully.  Do not start with angst, or emotion.
    5. Keep the discussion professional.  Think of it as though you’re being asked by the CEO to deal with it, but it’s not your dog in the fight.  Keep it impersonal if possible.
    6. If you witness someone whining about another team member, step in and ask them to deal with it offline. Stop wasting time trying to build consensus on a personal gripe.
  2. Work like a Team
    1. Always strive to put the team first.
    2. Share credit for successes, and accept blame for failures.
    3. Try to apply objective valuation to others.  Just because their personality doesn’t work with yours, does not mean you have to push them out of the environment.  If they have skills or capabilities that benefit the team, deal with it.  Life doesn’t always fit your daily menu.
    4. Consider your personal experience with regards to judging a coworker.  Just because your “friends” don’t like the person, do you have to give in and hate that person too?  No.
  3. Avoid the Poison Pill
    1. Avoid the Poison Pill in your environment. You may have more than one.
    2. Do not become a poison pill.
    3. Steer new hires clear of the poison pill.
  4. Match Problems and Solutions
    1. If you can’t think of a reasonable solution to a problem, don’t waste anyone else’s time complaining about it.
    2. If your upper management is “risk-averse” rather than “innovation-centric”:
      1. Tie every solution to a cost and savings.
      2. Else: Tie it to potential markets and new revenue streams.
  5. Seek a Common Ground
    1. When pitching ideas to other teams or upper management, ALWAYS pose the problem AND the solution in their terms.  Make seem as if it’s their problem and you’re helping them to solve it.
    2. Position every cost with a return.  If you simply tell management that “product x will cost $$$$” and offer “it will make us better”, it means nothing to them.  Convert that into their language.  Example: “Product X will cost $$$, but the improvements it will offer will save us $$$$$ within Y months.”  Think of how you perceive their explanations of non-IT issues and how you glaze over.  Same thing in reverse.

This isn’t really new.  Everyone from Tony Robbins, to Seth Godin have tried to drive this same stuff home for a long, long time.  It’s just that it’s not intrinsic to the technology world as a business function.  And it should be.

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