IT Managers Need To Learn How To Avoid Thinking Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can impact what an IT manager can accomplish
Negative thoughts can impact what an IT manager can accomplish
Image Credit: Kiks Balayon

I have bad days at work. The cause of a bad day for me can vary, but generally it all comes down to some interaction that I’ve had with someone that did not go well despite all of my IT manager skills. When the day is done and I’m finally at home, it can be difficult to shake the memory of the day and what went wrong with it – it can just keep replaying over and over in your head. For some IT managers this is a huge problem and it keeps them from being as effective as they could be.

The Problem With Rumination

Let’s face it: it is perfectly normal for any of us to spend time thinking about how things have gone at work. A lot of times we’ll spend our time thinking about the things that didn’t go so well and how we could have made them go better. However, if you find yourself unable to stop thinking about such things even when you desperately want to, then you’ve got a problem on your hands that no amount of IT manager training is going to help solve.

Cycles of uncontrolled worry like this are called rumination. Rumination is defined as being the uncontrollable, repetitive dwelling on the causes, meaning, and implications of negative feelings or events in the past. This probably is not going to make you terribly happy if you find yourself unable to let go of what happened at work today, but scientists are starting to discover that people who can’t let go may be good candidates to develop depression further down the road.

So why do some of us have this problem? The answer is there is no one answer. However, scientists now think that it may come from a combination of personality, genetic, and personal learning history. It turns out that the more time that we spend dwelling on problems in an unhelpful way, the more likely it is that we are going to find ourselves getting locked into an unhelpful pattern. Once this happens, then all of a sudden even small triggers can end up sparking a negative cycle of dark thoughts for us.

How To Deal With Rumination

If you think that you might fall into this “high worrier” category, then you can check to see if you have the other symptoms. Scientists have discovered that people like this are less able to control their attention and block out distractions. The good news is that there appears to be two different ways that we can learn to deal with this problem.

The first has to do with what is called “mindfulness”. The key to using this technique is that you need to learn how to observe yourself from within your head and without judging or evaluating yourself. We really can’t stop ourselves from “seeing” how our day unfolds. However, it’s what we choose to do after it is all done that is under our control. If we can find a way to play the role of a disinterested 3rd party who is simply watching what is going on and is not involved, then we’ll be able to take a step back and not be so involved in what is going on.

Another approach to dealing with this problem is called “cognitive behavioral therapy”. Using this technique, when you find yourself thinking about events that have happened to you during the day, you need to also evaluate just how likely the things that you are worrying about are likely to happen. At the same time, when you are remembering a situation at work, the goal is to attempt to recall in in the most positive way possible. Remember, our memories are not fixed things – we can change them into anything that we want them to be.

What All Of This Means For You

There are a lot of challenges that come along with being an IT manager. Much of what we do is to interact with other people no matter if they are on our team or in other departments. Sometimes these interactions can go badly and that night we can have the interaction playing through our head over and over again. Too much of this is a bad thing because it’s going to get in the way of things like IT team building.

Scientists tell us that if we find ourselves engaging in cycles of uncontrolled worry then what we are doing is called rumination. For an IT manager this can be very bad because it can also result in us being less able to control our attention and unable to block out distractions. In order to deal with this situation, there are two techniques that we can use. Mindfulness allows us to remove ourselves for a situation but still be able to observe it. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows us to evaluate just how likely it is that something is actually going to happen.

When you are an IT manager, bad things are going to happen. At work there will be disagreements with other people, conflicts, etc. When this happens, it’s good that we can reflect back on these events in order to understand what happened, but we don’t want to ruminate on them. Use the techniques that we’ve described and see if you can take control of your own thoughts!

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

Question For You: What would be the quickest way to snap out of it if you found yourself ruminating?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you would like to know who on your team is performing at their peak level and who is just coasting along. The realities of life mean that despite your IT manager skills you can’t spend all of your time with your team and so you may never be able to answer this question by yourself. However, the members of you team know who’s performing and who is not. Would permitting peer reviews help to find out who the best workers are or just provide a way for complainers to complain even more?