IT Managers And The Art Of Relaxing

How can you help members of your team to de-stress?
How can you help members of your team to de-stress?
Image Credit: Bernal Saborio

As an IT manager, you are in charge using your IT manager skills to manage a set of skilled IT professionals. This group of people can contain members who are, how shall we say it, “wound tightly”. What this means is that at times they can become very stressed out. As their manager, it is your job to help them to calm down even though none of us have ever had any IT manager training in how to do this. The least effective way of going about doing this is to tell them to “calm down”. There’s got to be a better way…

Why Is It So Hard To Relax?

It is our nature that when we run into a team member who is in the process of losing it, that we tell them to just calm down, take it easy. However, it turns out that this is exactly what they don’t want to hear at this point in time. It turns out that the ability to relax on command is impossible.

The challenge that you are going to be facing when one of the members of your team has become worked up is that it is very easy for our bodies to rapidly respond to stressful situations. However, the reverse is not true. It can take us 20 to 60 minutes to return to a relaxed state. When we tell people to calm down, they may start to try to hide the fact that they have become worked up. This is also a bad idea. Trying to hide our emotions often causes them to just “leak out more”.

As an IT manager, if you don’t learn how to deal with employees who have gotten themselves worked up, then you run the risk of creating a deep divide between you and that employee. When you tell someone to calm down, you may be masking your own emotions. You could be telling your team member that you don’t like the way that they are behaving and you want them to stop it. However, if you really mean what you are saying, then it could reflect a genuine need.

How Can We Get Members Of Our Team To Relax?

As an IT manager who is dealing with a team member who is stressed, you need to take the correct sequence of steps. The first thing that you are going to want to do is to acknowledge how they are feeling. There are a number of different ways to do this, one such way is to say “I can see that you are having a rough day.”

Once you get them to admit that they are stressed, you can move on and show them some sympathy. This can be done by asking open-ended questions such as “Can you tell me what’s going on in your life right now?” By doing this you will give them a chance to talk with you about their feelings. What you are going to want to do after they have done this is to acknowledge that this is indeed a stressful time.

There will be times when you are talking with a member of your team who is experiencing stress and they will become even angrier. If this happens, then you’ll need to take action to defuse the situation. What you are going to want to do is to suggest that they take a break. They can grab some lunch, go for a walk, or get a cup of coffee. Give them a chance to cool off and then you can have a more detailed discussion about how they are feeling.

What All Of This Means For You

Stress is a part of everyone’s life. We all have different ways of dealing with it. As an IT manager, you have a responsibility to your team to monitor how everyone is feeling. When a member of your team starts to deal with too much stress, it’s going to be your job to help them find ways to relax.

Just telling someone to calm down generally won’t do the trick. This is just going to cause them to become tenser. As humans, we have the ability to very quickly become stressed; however, it will take us between 20-60 minutes to calm down again. We also have to be careful because we may be telling people to calm down because of how they are making us feel. To get a team member to calm down, the correct first step is to acknowledge how they feel. Next you’ll want to show them sympathy for how they are feeling. If a member of your team becomes very angry, then you can allow them to cool off and then come back and discuss how they are feeling.

As an IT manager you need to make sure that every member of your team is being productive. What this means is that if someone starts to become very stressed, you need to defuse the situation for them in order to boost IT team building. Make sure that you do the right things and not the wrong things and you’ll be able to help them to once again gain control of the situation.

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

Question For You: If you happen to have two team members who are both getting stressed at the same time, what would the correct first step in getting them calmed down be?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As IT managers we use our IT manager skills to spend a lot of time each year conducting performance reviews with each of the members of our team. The reason that we’ve had the IT manager training to do this is so that ultimately the company can evaluate each person and give them a merit raise once a year. However, these days those merit raises can appear to be pretty paltry – they’ve averaged 3% for the past few years. Is this really motivating anyone?