IT Workers Believe That The End Of The World Is Coming (Soon)

Why do IT workers have a negative outlook despite increases in IT hiring?
Why do IT workers have a negative outlook despite increases in IT hiring?

The Wall Street Journal Tech Blog is reporting that the folks over at Technisource Inc. have gone and released the results of a survey on how IT folks feel about their jobs based on talking to about 450 IT staffers. In a nutshell, nobody’s very happy right now.

Right now the U.S. economy is in the dumps, gas costs $4.00+ / gallon, milk costs $5.00 / gallon, and let’s not even get started talking about electricity and home fuel oil costs. However, IT employment is one of the few rays of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy picture. In fact, IT hiring is up about 10%. Yea! What’s so damming is that despite this good news, the survey reveals that IT folks are overwhelmingly negative about our prospects. Clearly we are looking at this as a “… glass half empty…” situation.

But wait, there’s more bad news! Here’s some other doom-and-gloom results from the survey:

  • 70% – said that the economy will get weaker
  • 59% – said that fewer jobs are available (not true by the way – tech hiring is up)
  • 20% – don’t believe that they could find another job
  • 17% – doubtful about the future of their employer

Ok, so now that everyone is thoroughly depressed, maybe we should ask ourselves why there is this apparent disconnect between what IT staff is thinking and reality? Is it that so many IT workers don’t feel that they have the perfect IT job? I don’t think so. Instead, I think that there are at least two reasons (and probably a bunch more). One is that within companies IT staffers are seeing a constant stream of “… we must find more ways to cut IT costs …” emails, programs, and words rolling down from leadership mountain. We all know that this generally leads to headcount reductions and so we await the inevitable chopping to begin.

Additionally, the median salary for IT workers has dropped to $73k in 2008. It was at $74k just last year. It’s not that big of a drop; however, what is much more worrying is that this is the first time that its dropped. It sure doesn’t look like anyone is going to be getting a big raise this year.

To wrap this gloom-fest up, let’s tackle one last question: what’s an IT manager to do? Let’s assume for a moment that you don’t have access to a pot of cash that you can use to boost everyone’s salary. Let’s also assume that you can’t guarantee everyone that their jobs are safe from the chopping block. Do you sorta feel like both of your hands are tied behind your back? Here are three simple steps that you can take to boost team morale and help everyone to become more productive:

  1. Change the focus from the short term to the long term: the depressing news is in the paper (or online) every morning. Change your team’s focus and get them to take a long term view. Have them anticipate how they will feel when the milestone is reached, the project is done, the users start to send their thanks back to the team.
  2. Work On Self Improvement For Each Team Member: You can’t guarantee everyone a job for life, so start to put some life into their job. Specifically, make sure that everyone has an assignment that stretches their abilities and makes them do something that they haven’t done before. Additionally, work out a skill training plan for each team member. You can’t control the future; however, you can help them make sure that they have the strongest resume possible.
  3. Strengthen The Team: Provide every team member with the ability to perform some task that makes the team stronger. Although you may not be able to cheer up each and every team member, if they start viewing their work as supporting the team, then all of a sudden their level of commitment will shoot up.

I’d just like to leave you with a few words from one of my favorite Broadway musicals, Annie:

The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sunJust thinkin’ about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
‘Til there’s none

When I’m stuck with a day
That’s gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And grin,
And say,

The sun’ll come out
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may

I love ya

You’re always
A day away