Here’s a quick quiz for you: is workplace tension a good thing or a bad thing? No matter how you answered this question, that tension thing is always there – a constant presence in the workplace. It’s how you choose to deal with it that will have the greatest impact on your team’s performance…
Taming Competitive Urges
The desire to compete is one of the key factors that goes into the makeup of most IT professionals. It really doesn’t matter who we are competing with, we just like to see if we can come out on top.
The problem with this kind of mind-set is that all too often we end up competing with the people that we work with. When this happens, we start to look for ways to advance our career without giving a great deal of thought to others careers.
This kind of completion does nothing good for a team. Instead, it can tear a team apart. As more and more team members get locked into interpersonal competitions, resentments can form and ultimately this will end up hold the larger team back from being able to complete its goals.
As an IT manager, your job is to identify when this type of competition is occurring. Once you’ve found it, the trick is for you to redirect it into more useful channels. Examples of this type of redirection is to establish ways for your team to compete as a whole against other IT teams. Alternatively, you can identify industry best practice benchmarks and then have the team compete against those.
Dealing With The Borg
The TV series Star Trek introduced the concept of a race of creatures called the “Borg” which had the ability to think with a single mind. Although the TV show was fiction, all too often in IT teams a Borg like approach to decision making can take over.
IT managers have the responsibility to make the decisions that will guide what the team does. However, wise managers realize that they need to include the members of their team in these decisions in order to get their buy-in when the decision is finally made.
Problems can start to arise if an IT manager starts to allow others on the team to make the decisions that he or she should really be making. Once this starts to happen, other members of the team will start to “second guess” the IT manager and make and act on their own decisions.
IT managers need to very carefully stay on top of this type of decision making process. Yes, inputs from their team need to be gathered when a major decision needs to be made, but it needs to be made clear to the team that the ultimate decision will be made by the manager, not the team.
What All Of This Means For You
IT managers realize that tension is a powerful force that can motivate their teams to accomplish great things. However, if not carefully managed, these same forces can tear a team apart.
Workplace tension shows up in two different places most commonly. The first is the natural competitive urge that exists in many IT professionals. If an IT manager can find a way to harness this urge, it can be used to complete projects on time and to engage employees. Group decision making is another area where workplace tension can come to the surface. IT leaders need to be careful that “groupthink” doesn’t minimize their own decision making authority.
The last thing that any IT manager wants to do is to squash the natural tension that exists in a workplace. This is powerful force that you just can’t get anywhere else. However, you need to spend time each and every day to make sure that this beast is firmly in its cage – if it gets out, then there’s no telling what damage it might do!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: How would you know that workplace tension had gotten out of hand in your work environment?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
I’m pretty sure that your company has a vision. I’m also fairly certain that if asked, you’d be hard pressed to tell anyone just exactly what that vision is. Although we all basically understand that having a vision is good thing, the whole vision thing has been so badly handled that it’s pretty much a joke in most IT departments. However, if you really want to accomplish things, then you’re going to have to change this…