Like any group of people, members of an IT staff don’t always get along. In this guest post, workplace expert Jennifer Michelle has some advice for when trouble brews.
When your IT team starts to break down, it can put your whole company in jeopardy. Miscommunication, lack of focus and disruptive arguments are just some of the fallout of a team that’s coming apart.
Here’s what IT managers can do about it:
1. Take off your blinders
Fixing problems with your team requires clear vision. You have to be willing to look at what’s going on – and own up to what you might not have wanted to see. Is there a policy that’s causing the problem? For instance, is the on-call calendar leaning too heavily on the same people?
What about personality clashes — for example, if a network admin is so hard to work with that the rest of the team tries to avoid fixing problems rather than deal with him. Not a good situation to have – and it’s worse if you’re not letting yourself see it.
Be aware, too, of upper levels causing the trouble – a higher-up who vents his frustrations on the staff can easily cause your team to break down.
There’s always more than one side to a story. Make sure you get everyone’s perspective. Find out what people are thinking – and be sure you set some time aside to talk with people individually, too.
You’ll likely uncover a lot of anger and resentment – but hear it out. Until that gets expressed, it’s going to be hard for people to come up with solutions. Allow for some venting. Then, when you’ve got a complete picture of the situation, meet as a team and start developing new ways to work together.
3. Review your hiring
When your staff is dealing with an unqualified member of the team, there are going to be problems. Take an honest look and see if everyone on your staff is well-suited to their position. Having unqualified people on your team not only brings down morale, it causes a huge workload imbalance for the rest of the staff.
Resentments fester as people feel that no one must be paying attention to their work. This is one of the most difficult situations to deal with, but it has to be faced when it occurs.
Once you’ve identified the problem, decide on a course of action – then implement it boldly. You want to make sufficient impact that everyone is snapped to attention, to tell them that things are going to be different.
That doesn’t mean change has to be brutal – just clear. Change a policy. Introduce a new process. Fire the brilliant jerk. Let your actions make a statement, and use the change to re-bond your team.
5. Reward teamwork
After you’ve announced the change, make a point of stating how much you appreciate your staff and admire their work. Then reinforce that by rewarding them when they work together as a team. Take your team to lunch when they pull off a difficult change to the code. Set up a regular team bonding activity to get them working well together again – anything from Friday video game challenges to build-your-own sub day.
Creating a team that works well together requires you to be alert to when that team bond starts to weaken. The best managers pay attention to the personality mix of their team, the policy impact on their department, and the way new hires are acclimating. The worst problems are those that are avoided, so face problems with your team head on. That way you can restructure as needed, making your team stronger and more productive.
About the author: Jennifer Michelle specializes in workplace wellness for techies. Her downloadable Techie Wellness™ DIY Kit teaches IT managers how to foster innovation using the principles of workplace wellness, team bonding, and community outreach. For more information, please visit: http://techiewellness.com.