It is often said that IT professionals are difficult to please and have high expectations. However, this may be due to unrealistic demands from management and HR rather than the employees themselves. It is not uncommon for IT workers to be expected to devote themselves entirely to their company, including their personal lives. But where has this approach gotten us?
At a recent international conference on sustainability and the circular economy, HR experts stated that IT workers require a different approach. They claimed that IT workers are not interested in sustainability, team building, or company activities. However, I argued that people are people, regardless of their profession, and that a change in mindset was needed from HR experts who labeled IT workers as a "special breed."
The issue is that some HR professionals believe that their role is to bring the employees to give their all to the organization, not realizing that their job is not to take care of people but the members of the organization who perform certain roles for their employer.
No more, no less.
Not a single employment contract prescribed more than that, yet in practice, we witness attempts to control employees' lifes disguised under the pretense of looking out for their well-being.
Well-being in the workplace
Yet, a question remains e.g., when it comes to caring for people in the workplace, what exactly does it entail? Which aspects of an individual's personality should be left in the hands of company leaders, HR departments, and People & Culture experts?
Companies throughout the world allocate billions of dollars towards supporting their employees' mental health and well-being initiatives, with the belief that it "develops key psychological strength" and "resilience" in their workforce. This type of support is especially beneficial during times of crisis, such as a pandemic, earthquake, or war. In addition to fostering more resilient employees, organizations that provide support in these situations gain supporters and build loyalty.
However, stress in the workplace is a growing trend that extends beyond crises and emergencies, and raises several questions that must be addressed:
• Why do we accept stress in the workplace as a daily occurrence that needs to be treated?
• Why do companies spend billions treating symptoms instead of addressing the underlying causes (factors) that lead to workplace stress?
• Why do we seek solutions to the problem on a personal level instead of examining organizational structures, rules, and practices that are unsuitable for human nature and dynamic markets?
• When did organizations begin to infringe on employees' personal space and claim the right to change them?
• When will employees be treated as independent adults and social beings who can assess what is relevant to them and for whom frameworks for interaction with others will be created, instead of being served solutions?
Teamwork vs. Heroes
Although in the organizational context, the team is the smallest unit for creating value; we continue to witness the glorification and accusation of individuals for success or failure.
Company leaders often feel they are dealing with unmotivated people, incompetent, lazy, and people who need more understanding of organizational needs. The result is that company leaders and HR people reach for studies that reveal how the brain works, think about behaviorism, measure culture, and design reward systems (?!).
At the core of every activity - an individual - and behind finding some universal solution, there is one single desire - obedience. Employees should think, feel, and act in accordance with the wishes of organizational leaders because only their truth is verified as the ultimate truth and the holy grail of success.
On the other hand, if the employees do not listen and work following expectations, the fault is not sought with the management and the organization but with individual employees. An excellent alibi for deepening the problem and not looking at the bigger picture and inappropriate organizational systems and further encroaching into the world of individuals.
Working on the mindset?
By embracing the fact that organizations consist of interaction and communication and not of a collection of individuals - and that people are social beings who need interaction with other people to feel a sense of belonging and find relevant solutions to organizational problems - the possibility of looking at the organization from a new perspective opens up, and liberation from glorification and accusation on an individual level... from stress and labeling aka "difficult IT people".
Then we can stop thinking and "working on the mindset" of individuals and start considering how to free up the paths for unhindered conversation and interaction at all organizational levels - be it formal, informal, or on the value creation level. The secret is to focus on something other than the way or art of communicating but to see where communication takes place and to what extent company rules and practices hinder some communication paths and strengthen others.
If there is an imbalance between the declarative desire to build team spirit and company structures and processes, the resistance of employees to company activities such as special well-being activities, formats for socializing outside of work and team building is no surprise.
Resistance is (with reasonable exceptions) a smart reaction that reveals the meaninglessness, irrelevance, and mismatch of words and actions. And no employer branding strategy or team building could retouch that.
Sense of belonging
Why IT stands out as employees needing special treatment is difficult to assess. One of the hypotheses could be a shortage of qualified individuals, excessive employer branding efforts, and media coverage that portrays them as disinterested.
Another could be that IT workers are more likely to voice their dissatisfaction with the mismatch between their job duties and the company's offerings, given the current state of the job market.
Yet, even if team-building is being embraced as a positive company activity, it should not be expected that it may enhance job performance or promote lasting camaraderie. To do so and establish a stronger sense of belonging, employees need to grow together through work-related tasks & challenges.
Teams grow through mastering real problems.
And the same applies to all organizational change and learning activities. Without the relevance on individual, team, and organizational levels and meaningful discourse between colleagues, lasting results in terms of bonding are questionable.
This is where qohubs comes in and you can try it out for free with your team. Contact us to schedule an Experience Session now.
*A modified version of the article was published in the leading tech magazine in Southeast Europe Netokracija in June 2023.