So your management fails at IT, huh?

Recently on a mailing list sysadmins were describing horrible management they've experienced. Here is my reply:

First, I want to say that my heart goes out to all of you describing terrible working conditions, bad management, and so on. I have huge amounts of sympathy for you all.

Health is more important than anything else. If your job is driving you crazy and giving you high BP, my prescription is, 'Try, try, then quit'. Try to change things, talk to management, work to create the workplace you desire. Try again, I'm sure you feel like you've tried a lot, but people aren't mind-readers... make sure you've had serious conversations with the right people. However step three is quit. Send resumes and get the hell out of there.

It is vitally important that we don't feel any guilt about leaving a bad job, especially if we've made a "good faith effort" to turn things around (as I'm sure you have). Just like when people being laid off are told, heartlessly, "Sorry, it was a business decision" there are times you have to tell a company, "Sorry, it was a personal decision". (I want to acknowledge that not everyone is in a position where they can just up and leave. Being able to do so is quite a privilege, but I think people that work in IT are more likely to be in this position than most fields.)

There are two reasons we shouldn't feel guilt about leaving these kind of "bad jobs". First, our health is more important than anything else. Second, it is important that we don't try to 'save' companies that are intrinsically bad at IT management. I say this not as a joke and I don't say it lightly. If you feel a company is incurably bad at IT, it makes the world a better place for that company to go out of business. IT is the lifeblood of companies. It is a requirement for nearly any facet of business to function in today's world. Companies that treat IT has an appendage are dinosaurs that need to be left to die.

IT is not a "speciality". It is a skill everyone should have. Any CEO, COO, or VP that doesn't understand IT and IT MANAGEMENT that ALSO thinks they don't need to understand it is fooling themselves. Expecting only the people in the IT department to have IT and IT management skills is insane. Expecting that IT and IT management astuteness only needs to be found in the IT department is insane. Companies don't have a 'math department' that people run to any time they need to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They expect everyone to have basic math skill and only turn to mathematicians for advanced or specialized mathematics. Similarly a modern company must expect that every staff person understands the basics of IT and every manager, VP, and CxO executive should be expected to understand IT and IT management as it is a fundamental, essential, part of doing business.

IT and IT management is as essential to a business as accounting is. You don't expect your CEO and other managers to be experts at accounting, but you expect them to understand a lot more than just the basics. However if, during a job interview, you learned that the CEO didn't know that accountants existed, or thought financial statements "magically wrote themselves" you would run like hell as fast as possible, right? You would reject any job offers and hope, for the sake of the well-being of the economy, that such a company disappears as soon as possible.

Why wouldn't you do the same for a company that treats IT and IT management like that?

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Companies are both culture and talent driven. Companies in 2013 have to have understanding of IT at a cellular level. Siloing off the IT department is an error in culture, and that is an element of a company that is almost impossible to change, especially the larger it gets.

Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that understand IT, and work with them, have empathy for them. Those are the places that will attract talent, and will survive by natural selection.

IT Management is on the comeback, as we work our way out of the burst bubble of the DotCom boom. I just hope we don't continue to make the same growing mistakes that were made in the hyper growth.

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