So often those of us in the enterprise technology trenches forget one small fact: the IT gurus who develop technology and the customers who use it are people. That’s right, I know it can come as a shock, but we’re all just bona fide human beings.
Forgive my ranting; however a combination of events in recent days has left me scratching my head. Do the powers that be within our own organizations really expect the internal technology train to function at high levels of productivity and quality if they don’t ever stop for fuel or treat the drivers and passengers with respect? If creativity and innovation is the most sought after skill for companies to succeed in today’s marketplace, why aren’t the environments within those same companies even the least bit conducive to this?
Over the past few years I have noticed a significant decline in the way people, particularly IT professionals are treated within my organization. Since I work for a high profile, highly successful, large Fortune 500 Company based in the United States, my guess is what I see probably has a lot in common with many other large corporations. After all, the rants and ravings of one PacBell employee we all know and love, Scott Adams, most certainly struck a chord of familiarity with cubicle dwellers far and wide when he shared what he saw in his company through the eyes of his creation, Dilbert.
Depending on whether you fall on the management or worker-bee side of the coin, you may have a different perception of the overall motivation and climate within your IT organization. However, the bottom line is that we all put our pants on one leg at a time and are all in this boat together. If we could step away from the task and the busy-ness long enough, we would see that we are all just people trying to live our individual lives while convening in a common place called work to get a job done. It sounds simple until you consider the complexity of each person coupled with the group dynamics involved.
What’s the point, you might ask? The point is people do the work and people will make or break all the efforts within your organization. And, while scare tactics, management by fear, and command and control may work in the short-term, it most certainly will not work in the long term. It breeds resentment and a steep downward curve in the productivity of everyone involved.
Without getting into psycho-babble or a touchy-feely discussion of needs, people, or the human condition, I’d like to present to you a list of the top nine things you can do to make your world a better place to work.
Connect with People
People grow from connection. It is a simple universal principle. All of us yearn for it and feel better when we get it. Have you ever talked with a co-worker and found out that you share the same passion for a favorite hobby? It feels good, doesn’t it? The business benefits of this are that you then work more effectively with this person in the future and grow your professional network. You win; the organization wins.
There is only so much one person can do in one day. In addition, whatever else someone is dealing with in their personal lives ranging from major life changes to whether or not they got a good night’s sleep impacts the day. Contrary to popular belief, no one can work effectively with never ending impossible deadlines and workloads. The machinery and equipment on your production lines and data centers need preventative maintenance and downtime. Your people assets need even more of the same.
Treat People with Respect
Much of what our parents taught us when we were little still holds true today and it goes beyond saying ”please” and ”thank you”. While I’m not saying you need to become buddies with the people you work with, you will cultivate better working relationships if you value one another as individuals. Individuals do radical things like say hello to one another in the hallways, acknowledge each other for what they bring to the table, and express concern or sympathy when someone experiences a personal challenge or loss. The mere minutes it takes for you to do these things will come back to you twenty-fold both personally and professionally.
Unless you’re running an emergency services organization like a hospital emergency room, your work and your systems are not a life and death matter. Consider this good news. As a result, you can afford to take a deep breath and maintain some perspective when the inevitable deadlines, glitches, and problems come your way each day.
Tailor Rewards and Recognition
If you’re looking to reward your group for a job well done, remember that not everyone thinks a team luncheon is a reward. What you might interpret as a kudos, bonus, or reward might be interpreted by the recipient as punishment. This means your efforts have the exact opposite result than what you intend. What is the answer? Know your people and tailor your message and actions.