Do Politics Have Any Place In The Office?

by drjim on December 1, 2016

Politics can interfere with what a team should be doing

Politics can interfere with what a team should be doing
Image Credit:
Robert Couse-Baker

Oh my! Politics has always been a contentious issue, but it sure seems as though in the past few years it has become even more so. In England the Brexit vote and in the U.S. the 2016 presidential election created hard lines between people who normally work side by side. How should an IT manager use their IT manager skills to handle it when this kind of issue creeps into the workplace?

The Challenge That Politics Creates In The Workplace

When there is an issue that comes up for a vote that can divide a workplace, it often comes down to the IT manager to use your IT manager training to play the role of mediator. Worker’s strong feelings about the issues that are up for vote can allow tensions in the workplace to rise. As the day of the big vote gets closer and closer, IT managers will be trying to keep things in the office civil and trying to maintain some semblance of being productive.

When HR professionals were surveyed prior to the 2016 election, what they reported was that they had detected an increase in hostility in their workplace. This was up sharply from the last time that they had been surveyed. As bad as things had gotten, the HR professionals were hopeful that once the elections were over, things would return to normal in the workplace.

One thing that a lot of companies consider whenever there is a “hot button” issue that is on everyone’s mind is banning any discussion of that topic at work. The thinking is that if there is a discussion, then it’s just going to lead to an argument and then things might get out of hand. However, there is a downside to this approach. The National Labor Relations Board has made it very clear that discussions of some public policy issues such as wages and working conditions is protected speech.

What An IT Manager Can Do

One of the big reasons why this round of voting seems to have caused such a big issue in our workplace has to do with some of the issues that have come up. Topics that have been raised affect a number of racial, religious and ethnic groups. This can result in members of your team feeling discriminated against or even bullied when workplace discussions about the vote come up.

As IT managers one of the things that we need to realize whenever these charged political times come around is that our team’s productivity is probably going to take a hit. The team’s discussions about the latest campaign twists will end up taking up time that could otherwise be spent working on work tasks. A question that you are going to have to answer as an IT manager is how you want to plan your team’s activities around the upcoming vote.

You need to realize that anytime there is a vote, once every vote has been counted roughly half of the people in your office are going to be happy and half are going to be upset. This means you need to decide what you want to do the day after the election. Some firms decide to not hold important meetings on that day and some elect to not launch new products because they feel that everyone will be too distracted.

What All Of This Means For You

As though being an IT manager was not hard enough to do all by itself, it turns out that there are situations that we need to monitor in order to be an effective leader. These include political events where a major vote on some important issue will be coming up. We need to understand the impact that this may have on our team.

When members of your team really care about a vote, this is going to boost the level of tension that exists in your workplace. Hostility may also increase. You may want to simplify your life by banning all election discussions, but you’d be on dangerous ground here and may not be able to do it. If the election brings up sensitive topics, then you are going to have to realize that the team’s productivity is going to take a hit. You may want to hold off on important meetings and company events until the election is over and done with.

If we lived in a perfect world, then the events that happen in politics would stay there and not intrude in the workplace. However, that’s not the world that we live in. Instead, IT managers need to realize that what is going on in the world of politics can enter into our workspace; however, we need to take action and do some IT team building in order to make sure that our teams can continue to be productive.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How should an IT manager deal with face-to-face conflicts that happen in the workplace because of politics?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I asked you if you had any bias, I’m pretty sure that you’d think for a moment and then say that no, to the best of your knowledge you are basically an unbiased person. This is good news, but unfortunately you are probably incorrect. It turns out that despite all of our IT manager skills we all have some bias in us and it seems to show up when we are conducting our annual evaluation of our IT team. Is there anything that we can do about this?

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When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend

When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend
Image Credit:
Mike Mozart

No, hiring someone is probably not something that you do every day of the week. However, when you do do it, it is a very important task. You really need to pick the right people to join your IT team if you want to keep its performance high. This of course leads to the big question of what is the best way to select the right person. A great number of us tend to rely on people who are recommended to us by people whom we respect. However, is this really the best way to go about making this important decision?

What We Can Learn From The NBA

I must confess that if someone recommends someone to me when I’m in the process of trying to fill a position on my IT team, then I’ll give it a lot of weight and there is a very good chance that I’ll end up hiring that person. However, the researchers who study such things are telling us that this may not be the best thing to do – when we handle hiring this way, we tend to make a lot of mistakes.

The researchers wanted to find out what the impact of managers making hiring decisions based on recommendations from their network was. It was the impact of that decision that was going to be the hard part to measure. They looked around for areas where they could both collect data and make measurements and in the end they discovered the National Basketball Association (NBA).

One of the reasons that studying the NBA was so attractive was because of the immense amount of data that was available to the researchers. They had 34 years of data and the records from 146 different managers. These were the managers who were able to find new players for their team through their personal contacts. In most cases these personal contacts came from the manager’s former professional basketball team.

What the researchers discovered was that the managers who used their networks to find new players ended up creating basketball teams that underperformed teams that had been created by managers who did not use their networks to hire new players. Basketball teams who hired players by using the manager’s social ties with a former employer ended up winning 45.2% if their games. However, teams that were built not using a manager’s social ties ended up winning 50.2% of their games. Using just a single player who was hired using social ties had the impact of lowering a team’s ability to win by 5.2%.

Why IT Managers Make Bad Hiring Decisions

So this is all very interesting; however, I would venture to say that none of us are currently considering hiring NBA basketball players to join our IT teams. However, the good news is that I believe that we can learn a lot from what the researchers have discovered while studying the NBA. One of the reasons that we are making hiring mistakes is because we are trying to speed up the process. We’re turning to our social contacts because it makes the hiring process more convenient for us.

There are other reasons why we may be relying just a bit to heavily on our social contacts when we are making a hiring decision. Business gets done by people doing favors for each other. The IT manager is no stranger to this. There is a good chance that when someone makes a recommendation to us we are going to feel a need to do a favor for them by hiring the person that they recommended. The problem with doing this is that it can cloud our ability to judge the person who is the best person for the job. In the end, the performance level of our department will decrease.

One of the things that the researchers had to take into account was that we might be getting bad recommendations. Just exactly why this would be happening is a bit unclear – the person who is making the recommendation would have to want to do us harm. However, what the researchers found was that even when the manager’s hiring decisions were closely monitored by the team’s owner in order to prevent any mistakes from being made, the teams still performed more poorly when hiring decisions were made based on social recommendations.

What All Of This Means For You

When it comes time to fill a hole in our IT department, as the person in the CIO position we are going to have to get involved in the hiring process. We’re busy people and even though we know how important this process is, we would still like to get it over with as quickly as possible. That’s one of the reasons that we may be tempted to turn to our social contacts to get recommendations on who to hire.

However, this may be a bad idea. Research has shown that when managers make hiring decisions based on social recommendations, the performance of their team can be negatively impacted. The researchers studied the NBA and used over 30 years of data. What they discovered was that teams that hired players based on the coach’s social contacts with his previous team tended to do more poorly than teams that did not use social contacts when hiring. There may be many different reasons for this including a desire to speed the process up, doing social favors for people that we know who are making the recommendations, etc.

Look, making the right hiring decision when we are trying to fill a position is hard work. The impact of our decision may stay with us for many years. What research is showing us is that we can’t farm this task out to the people who are in our social network. Instead, this is a job that we’re going to have to take on and do by ourselves.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much longer do you think that it will take to hire someone if you don’t use your social contacts to find a candidate?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The job of an IT manager is to use their IT manager skills to manage their IT team. There are a lot of different parts to this job; however, one key one is the management of the IT team staff. As we all know, this can be a tricky thing to do well and it can end up taking up a lot of our time in part because most of use really don’t have any IT manager training on how to do this. However, maybe there’s a different way to go about running an IT team. What if IT manager’s didn’t have to manage anyone?

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