Calmer Gentler IT

By | 2015/08/18

Maybe it’s my old(er) age, but it seems the typical IT department lives in a state somewhere between panic and chaos. Personally, I enjoy working in a calmer and kinder environment.panic

Since IT often includes helpdesk and support, a sense of urgency is certainly expected, and there are times when it’s “all hands on deck” to fix a major problem. But most of the time, IT outages are not life-or-death situations. So, why is panic the standard MO for so many IT departments?

It’s hard to remain calm and kind when people are imploding around you. When a department’s operational goals are taking a hit because systems are down, the head of department may decide to share his frustration in less-than-helpful ways. Or if a revenue-generating web site dies, the pressure to fix quickly can turn people into…well…something else. The response for many of us is to mirror that person’s behavior. If they’re upset, we’re upset. We let negative attitudes infect us.

Remaining calm in this type of situation is hard, but not impossible. The first step is showing empathy. The department head is not likely to continue yelling if you agree with him that things are bad.


Picture this: the Director of Warehouse Operations is upset and yelling because the printers/scanners/whatever are down and it’s impacting his ability to ship orders.

Now picture the automatic response of a frazzled IT support person. Often the angry attitude of the Director of Ops will cause IT support to respond defensively. Your department has equipment that is this important, but you never thought to order backup equipment? Are you serious?

If we think about this with empathy, we see that this is a legitimate problem – warehouse staff needs working equipment or the orders can’t ship. The Director of Ops is panicking, because he has to report daily shipment metrics and this outage is impacting his ability to show good numbers. Perhaps it even impacts his department’s bonus or incentive pay.

IT is in the perfect position to build better relationships going forward, by responding well in situations like this. Instead of joining the panic and mirroring the attitudes of the panicked people we serve, we should respond with empathy – putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes to really understand what they’re feeling so we can work together on the BEST solution for the company.

If you are an IT leader and your department seems frazzled, set the example by staying calm under stress — did you know this is an indicator of success?  Your staff follows your lead. If your department operates in panic mode, you can influence the environment by showing a better way.


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