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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.

Do IT managers feel under siege? There are always demands. It's sort of useful to look at the IT manager in the university setting. In the university, they are aloof because they know their area. But in the university setting there are lots of people that enter into that category, but still IT folks maintain a persona of aloofness. This is in a setting where everybody is a specialist and everybody has that giant ego. For the most part, they (IT professionals) get away with it. This sounds like I don't like IT people - I actually really do and certainly respect their knowledge and ability. But it's their attitude that gets them in trouble in organizational settings. It is (an attitude) that they know it all, and that everybody else is a fool, and all that everybody else does is just mess up their systems.

Do IT professionals have a problem explaining what it is that they bring to the business? For the most part, they don't try to explain very much. That's part of their problem. They just want people to bow to them as they come into the room. They are not talented in dealing with people. They don't understand that in doing that they are generally being very off-putting to the person they are dealing with. It's a matter of learning how to be part of an organization. Every time they are dealing with the rest of us they have very little patience.

Outside of the IT department, how are IT managers and their departments perceived? They are seen as difficult to get along with. The phrase you will hear most often is 'difficult to get anything out of' and that means, typically, services.

It sounds as if a lot of people try to avoid IT departments. True? Yes. They would if they could. That's absolutely correct.

Isn't that detrimental to the business and the IT department? It is detrimental to everybody actually because the IT folks have a lot to give. They have a tremendous amount of knowledge and they can solve problems. They have a lot of capability but most of that is hidden from the public (others in the company). They do themselves such a disservice by not engaging. Other workers in the organization generally don't know their capabilities because they never allow them to be seen.

If you are someone who has to deal with the IT department, how do you get them off their high horse and deal with you as an equal? When I had the clout of a dean, I could force them off their high horse. In a university setting, deans carry a lot of clout. They knew what their (IT workers) bounds were in having to engage and being more reasonable. For the other part, when (IT and non- IT) employees are interacting, the best approach is to engage personally and try to learn about their interest, their family and set up a relationship. Unfortunately, because of the boundaries that are set up by IT folks, that takes more of an effort.


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