If you’re like me, you find disrespectful, ‘ugly’, bully behavior completely unacceptable in the workplace. Within the IT space, it sadly seems to be commonplace, and even accepted or propagated top-down in some companies. Many IT people pride themselves on being the technology expert and think that’s enough. Improving how they interact with people is just not a priority for them. That leaves the rest of us in a challenged state for having to deal with these folks, especially when our own success is directly dependent upon working with them. So what do we do?
Many years ago I discovered this and it totally transformed my dealings with IT folks…
Warning, some people are genuinely toxic and there’s just not much you can do with those. However, what I’ve found is that the vast majority don’t intend to be toxic or difficult, but they lack (or choose to ignore) a self-awareness and social disciplines in how they deal with people. For that, we CAN adapt and maintain a better relation to get what we need for our own success, and decrease our frustration in dealing with them along the way. That’s a win-win for us.
It starts with our own perspective.
People typically impose on others their own way of viewing things, and then they interpret behavior through that lens. We only know what we know, right? The reality is, if we can get a view of the other person’s lens, then we shift our thinking about that person, and likewise our behavior will follow. We can never change another person, but we can increase our own knowledge and control our own behavior.
Once we get past making false assumptions about another person and what they’re “thinking”, then we can replace those with something closer to fact, and stop potentially taking their behavior personally. That right there, if it really takes root in us, already improves our position in the professional dealings with them.
We need to equip ourselves with an understanding of people so that we can relate to them where THEY are, especially if the ‘people’ to whom we’re referring are less savvy on the social interaction scale. The golden rule simply isn’t correct. You don’t treat people as YOU want to be treated. Instead, you treat people as THEY would want to be treated. That mindset shift truly changes everything.
When I was an IT VP I was very bottom-line, results-driven, and I had to be because the demands upon the IT organization were unrealistic, impossible demands. That’s very common by the way in IT for people to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and undervalued. That right there will also give you a new perspective in dealing with IT folks because it’s high odds they’re already in somewhat of a stressed state. Then when you come to them for whatever you need, you’re likely seeing the results of that, even though it’s not directed at you necessarily.
The trick then becomes in assessing that person very quickly, and then adapting your dealings with them to be more aligned to THEIR behavior and thinking. Here’s a simple example… If I need something from someone who is very task-oriented, they are going to be annoyed with me if I stand there and chit-chat with them before I get to the point of what I need. Compound that with them likely being overworked, overwhelmed, and undervalued, and quick volatility can be the result. However, if I need something from someone who is more relational, then they will be annoyed with me if I just come at them with what I need from them. You can see it’s a lose-lose situation UNLESS you take the time to observe people and then make intentional choices in how you deal with them to get what you need.
In summary, ‘ugly’, bully, disrespectful IT folks, which is completely unacceptable in the workplace, can easily be improved and disarmed by understanding them, meeting them for who they are, and then proceeding intentionally for what you need from them.