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IT managers are aloof, insular, says psychologist

Patrick Thibodeau | Dec. 30, 2011
Organizational psychologist Billie Blair explains how IT managers and their staffs are different from the rest of us.

How do IT managers perceive themselves? They don't get many people engaging with them at all. Because they don't see any evidence to the contrary, they typically view themselves as reigning supreme in any organization.

What does it mean to 'reign supreme'? It means whatever you say is gospel, and whatever you say that needs to be done is carried out by whomever, your superiors and your subordinates. There aren't many hurdles to what you want to do and what you expect to do.

If IT managers have an Achilles' heel, what is it? They isolate and insulate themselves from any outside world, the outside world being the rest of the organization, and they form these cadres where they are true to one another. That's what brings them down every time; if they are brought down, it's the arrogance combined with insularity.

Do CIOs have the same characteristics of IT managers? No, they don't. They probably once, very long ago, started out that way, but anyone operating at the c-level has to be very agreeable with the CEO in order to stay in that elite group. C-level folks, who typically have been in their careers longer than IT managers, have learned a lot along the way. They have learned to deal very well with people and they have also learned to listen and adapt to what they hear.

Can't CIOs smooth out and mitigate some of the worst behaviors of IT workers? Yes. Whether they do or not is part of the reason we're in organizations. CIOs do have that responsibility, but it takes more work on people who are not keen on developing great people skills and see it as a badge of honor or courage when they don't. CIOs must make their choices, whether to spend a lot of time developing their people for the human side of things, or devote their time to being the advisor on things technical to the corporation itself.

Is the CIO treated by lower level IT managers as one of the 'others' in the organization? Yes, it's sort of like the one who has gone over to the dark side.

IT is under constant pressure to move to lower cost platforms, which puts some under threat of job loss. How does the human impact of a platform shift play in an IT manager's decision making? If the men and women in IT can get out of their 'us against them' mentality, they can manage to overcome that particular threat. The IT manager is going to protect his team of folks. It will likely make them (IT managers) initially more reluctant to embrace those shifts, cloud computing being one. More often than not the CIO will go to bat for his people to try to retain them.


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