Why IT Managers Should Stop Putting Employees In Boxes

IT Managers need to stop classifying their employees by placing them in a box
IT Managers need to stop classifying their employees by placing them in a box
Image Credit:
jon jordan

As an IT manager, you by necessity meet a lot of people. Many of these people are on your team and so it’s important that you use your IT manager skills to remember who they are. Just because it’s important does not make this any easier to do. We have all developed a coping mechanism for dealing with this challenge: when we meet someone, we put them in a box.

Say Hello To The Box

So let’s talk about how this works out. At work, when we meet somebody we generally try to find out enough about them to be able to put them into one of three different boxes: the A players (people who perform well), the C players (people do not perform well), and the B players (everyone else). The problem with doing this is that it can end up harming us, the person that we’ve put into the box, and ultimately our team.

The reason that putting people in to a box is a bad idea is because people have a lot of depth to them that the box concept is going to allow you to miss. This is probably something that we should have learned in our T manager training. Placing a lot of people into the same box misses the point that those people have strengths and talents that can all too often be ignored. Another thing that as IT manager you need to recognize is that over time the people on your team may change their performance when at times they either stumble or improve.

Once you’ve classified someone as being an A player you will then start to make mistakes. It can be all too easy to believe that once someone body has been identified as being an “A” performer, then they will always be an “A” performer. Additionally, for some odd reason we often think that if somebody is an A player at one thing, then certainly they will be an A player at something completely different.

Why The Box Is A Bad Idea

So what’s an IT manager to do? It can be all too easy to classify people using the A, B, C method. Instead, one thing that we can do is a better job of responding to a member of our team’s performance more quickly. Giving out a bonus based on how they performed on a project is a good idea. If the project goes well, they get a good bonus. If it does not go well, they would get no bonus.

High-potential programs should be rethought. All too often team members who have done well in the past are placed on such teams and that’s that. A better way to go about doing this is to place team members who have been involved with a project that turned out well into the high potential program. If they are then involved in a project that does not go well, they should be removed from the program. Likewise, a team member who goes from a poor project to a good project should be added to the program.

Finally, a lot of this comes back to us. As IT managers we need to be actively managing the members of our team. It turns out that it really does matter how we assign projects, set expectations, provide feedback, and hold team members accountable for their performance.

What All Of This Means For You

As an IT manager you are faced with a lot of challenges. One of these challenges is that you will by necessity meet a lot of people as a part of your job. When we meet people it can be all too easy to classify them as being A, B, or C players. It turns out that this sure is not part of IT team building and in fact it is a mistake.

The reason that classifying somebody as being an A, B, or C player is a mistake is because not everyone is the same. By placing people into boxes you can overlook their special talents and skills. Additionally, people do change over time and if you’ve placed them into a box, you won’t realize this. The people that you think are A players may not remain A players and may not perform as well on other assignments. Job performance for any worker can vary over time. Starting things off by trying to place workers into boxes based on their GPA has been shown to be misleading.

IT managers need to understand that their IT department is made up of a collection of people who each have a different set of skills. We need to be careful to not quickly move to place people into boxes and instead understand that everyone brings something different to the table. Take the time to truly understand the people who are working in your department and you just might find that they are all A players!

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

Question For You: If you don’t want to put people into boxes, what’s the best way to determine who your better workers are?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As IT managers one of our primary job responsibilities is to use our IT manager skills to make sure that the members of our team have the information that they are going to need in order to do their job. This may sound like a relatively straightforward task, but in reality it turns out to be quite difficult to do. The reason that it is so hard is because despite all of our IT manager training we really don’t understand how information flows inside of our company.