I was attending Microsoft’s on-boarding training last week and one of the managers there mentioned that a lot of IT geeky guys and gals don’t like to attend meetings, and deal with people etc. This was her opinion based on her 20 year career in IT, and even as a technical person who has successfully found her way into great leadership roles. I respected her outlook, and I gave her a little bit of my own outlook based on my experience which I will share with you.
First let me mention what I discussed with my colleague. Personally, I don’t mind attending meetings to much, I’m quite a social butterfly actually (outgoing, extraverted, “i” in the DiSC assessment, etc). So I’m not the stereotypical IT guy that is depicted in movies or that people have grown accustomed to describing to their therapist when talking about people that make them feel bad at work. Just a side note, I’m totally kidding with these sterotypes, I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with in IT and I don’t think I would pick any other field. Anyway, back on topic, I don’t like attending meetings with some non-technical folks for a variety of reasons that I will list below:
- Some of the non-technical people waste a lot of time asking about very detailed technical aspects that they just feel like asking about. Nothing will come from them learning this new information. HOWEVER, there are people that are geniuely interested in the details because they like to learn things, that’s fine, but it can be scheduled separately in a meeting where your IT person is prepared to discuss it in detail and teach you. Otherwise, they will be afraid to accept any meetings feeling that they constantly need to teach people things and are unable to commit to the agenda of the meeting which can delay assigned work.
- In every office there is that one person that says no to everything The person that says no to everything is just wasting everyone’s time and sometimes can be disrespectful in turning down ideas that aren’t their own. Yeah, we all know you think that you know everything, but in reality, no one knows everything and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (as they say). So if you set up a meeting, I’m going to look at it as an attempt for you to waste my time and energy and then at the end turn down the idea. If you hate all my ideas and say no to everything, then what is the purpose of inviting me to your meetings? If my ideas are all terrible, I will try to work on them, but no one person’s ideas are so bad that they should all be turned down especially in front of an audience of my peers. So if you want me in your meetings, respect my ideas. If you don’t like them, at least take some time to think about them and get a second opinion from someone else before you say no, because that’s the answer you will get to your meeting invites.
- Then there is that other person that wants no one to have all the power (they talk about knowledge sharing) yet they horde specialized knowledge they have. This type of person is probably the type that I dislike the most because they are hypocritical tyrants. They build up an empire of specialized knowledge and then use that to gain power and influence everything so that work is done in the way they demand it to be done. You are a big reason why top talent leaves the company and many people despise you; they may smile to your face but they wish you were gone and I know this because I’m a pretty decent guy and I wish you were gone. You also think that this gives you job security, but in reality it just makes you more institutionalized and will give you more work and more stress so the joke is on you.
- There is also the wall builder type at meetings. They really need to consider a job in masonry or architecture, no joke. This is the type of person that comes in to a meeting where we have spent a lot of time preparing, getting management on board, and researching deep technical solutions. This person comes in and after you have sold your idea and are ready to cash the check and they come up with some ridiculous excuse to stop the flow of work. I’ve experienced this one time where the reason they gave for not continuing with the project was based on a baseless technical assessment. The comment made was completely wrong, and they got away with it because everyone else didn’t know what they were talking about and I didn’t know how to handle a blatant liar that is a pay grade above me and has tons of power at the company. The end result was that the work was never done, the server remained slow and it caused imbalanced data growth on a server that was mission critical, even though the data was not! So when we cut you out of our meetings to get things done without your knowledge, it’s not personal it’s business.
- Finally, there are those meetings that are just too long or don’t work with our schedule. We’ve all got a lot of work to do, I’m not saying IT people are special in any way. If we’re responsible for keeping things running as non-IT folks are responsible for bringing in business, then there is a need to be outside of meetings doing work! If your meetings are too long and boring, yes I used the B word, then most of what you say will not resonate with anyone. Some folks love to have these monologues where they go on for hours about the detailed financial information of the last year without showing its importance to the average worker bee. So if your meeting is long, show the relevance to those in it and consider giving breaks and providing some interactivity in the meeting or even just some Q&A time. Also, just because a time is convenient for you and everyone else, if you need my help, then make it convenient for me. I’m not a teenage drama queen, but you know sometimes we have to work nights and weekends because systems cannot be maintained during business hours. You want to keep that SLA intact? Then show some flexibility in scheduling. Know the hours your team operates and try to be gentle working around them, or even flexible in terms of having to force people to come onsite we are after all in a world of IT where remote work and communication is becoming a norm.
These are my suggestions, I hope you find them helpful. Feel free to add your insights in the comments section below.