Jenn Steele, who writes a blog dedicated to discussing how to manage the IT department called Leading Geeks, has an interesting post today, On Attitude.
I find that geeks easily fall into sub-optimal attitudes, which usually fall into two categories. The first is what I call the “stupid user” category, where they develop the attitude that anyone who doesn’t work in their department or on computers is too stupid to function. The other I call the “end of the world” category, where they develop a Chicken Little attitude about anything that goes wrong.
I know every one of you reading this has seen both of these, and probably suffered from them at times.
She goes one later in the post:
In my work environments, I watch for these attitudes and actively discourage them for several reasons. First, I really want to create a service organization inside my law firm. Second, it’s just more fun to work around positive people. Finally, I want better work product from my geeks, and, since they’re not attorneys, a positive attitude leads to better working results.
I find myself in agreement with what Jenn says, in theory. In practice, I wonder how many IT Departments don’t have issues with bad attitudes?
Look, the Nick Burns SNL skits were funny because everyone who watched the show knew someone just like that. Yes, it’s an exaggeration for comedy’s sake, but it’s funny because there’s an inkling of truth to it. Not only that, but I’d hazard a guess that most people not only knew someone like that, they also expected to be treated like that by their IT support people. That’s why people hate to call tech support! (I know, I’m one of those people who hates calling tech support!)
On the other hand, sometimes users actually do stupid things, and as a geek, you have to deal with those occurrences, every single day, one after the other. That’s mind-numbing, and after a few years of this, it is really, really difficult to not fall into that attitude. It’s especially difficult when that attitude is already present within the department when you get there. That, to me, is a large reason you have to stay diligent and look out for this attitude, because I don’t think, once it’s taken hold and been allowed to fester, you can ever get rid of it. (Barring a complete departmental overhaul, which is never good.)
So the question is, we know this attitude leads to poorer performance from your IT folks, we know it leads to disintegrating relationships between It and the rest of the organization, and we know that negative attitudes about the workplace lead to high turnover, so what do you do to prevent it? How do you recognize, and root out, poor attitudes BEFORE they become engrained to the job? On the flip side, what do you give your tech support staff to keep them happy, productive and on good terms with their users?
Personally, I’m not a manager, so I don’t have answers. I’m betting some of you, who do manage IT people, have some ideas though. 🙂
And I’ll be keeping an eye on Jenn’s blog for more information on how she does it as well.