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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.

Is that any different than other department in that respect? Yes and no. All departments form affiliations, and that's what I'm describing and that's why there is resistance to changes in the IT area, but the IT department forms stronger affiliations. If you have any knowledge of the Marine Corps and their esprit de corps, it's that sort of thing translated into the corporate world. And that's a standard deviation different from the esprit de corps among typical employees and their departments.

If you were to suggest a 12-step program to help IT managers change their behavior, what would be included? IT managers are generally very bright people and in order to make any behavioral change, the individual has to understand why that change is needed and has to want it to happen. Because IT folks are numbers, technically driven people, we lay out the data for them. It could be any of the management assessments that look at, in very real terms, the anonymous feedback that's given on their performance as managers. We often start that way and we ask them to react to that very real data, and we begin to slowly work through the engagement process where the person comes to want to do something differently.

Would that assessment data show IT managers that they are seen as aloof? Yes, or something like that. When one is dealing with a person who has great capability, very real great capabilities, and believes in those capabilities, they are going to have an ego that supports that. We have to present a realistic view of the person, not to destroy them but to cause them to take pause in what they are doing.

What kind of reactions do you see after presenting the data to IT managers? First, it is usually anger, and often anger at us, and disbelief. But then we continue to talk. We try to do it in a technical way. They are always engaged, as I say, by data. We try to have, as well, performance data about the organization in and of itself and where it is trying to go. We sort of engage and come to an understanding that we are all in this together. When we talked about the arrogance and insularity (of IT managers) what that really means is that they are not a team player necessarily. When I talk about them not being a team player, it sort of sounds as if they haven't done anything at all to support the organization, and I certainly don't mean that at all. They do. But as far as really allowing the organization to work in its very best way, they have to become a team player.


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