Section 4.3. What People Really Want

4.3. What People Really Want

Let's start with the basics. Most people work because they have to earn a living. Hopefully, they also enjoy what they're doing and their job or career brings them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Some people like the power or importance they derive from their jobs and others enjoy the daily interaction with co-workers, vendors, and clients. Some people like the problem solving and the challenges they get at work and others work for a personal sense of fulfillment or personal mission. Regardless of the reason people work, there are common elements about what people want when they're at work. Naturally, people want to be well compensated for the work they do, but every Management 101 class will tell you that money is not a motivator, but a demotivator. What does that mean? It means that you can't pay someone enough to like their job, but you can pay them too little to enjoy their job. Think about the last time you got a big raise or promotion. You were probably thrilled with the increase in payfor a while. After a time, you adjusted to your new income and that raise lost its luster. On the contrary, think about a job you may have had where you were asked to assume a larger role or greater responsibility and were not given additional compensation. At some point, you were probably a bit irritated (or downright dissatisfied) that you were not being paid more money. So, let's cross money off the list of what people want. Everyone wants more money, but if one is adequately compensated, money rarely solves the underlying problems. We'll assume that the folks that work with and for you are adequately compensated and that, like everyone else, they'd love a hefty raise or bonus this year.

4.3.1. Causes of Job Dissatisfaction

There are issues that can cause dissatisfaction, but once they're taken care of they don't buy you much satisfaction. These are often termed hygiene issues or housekeeping issues. Like housekeeping, if the room is a mess you might be dissatisfied, but once it's cleaned up, it begins to blend into the background and is viewed in a relatively neutral manner. You rarely come into your office and think, "Wow, this office is so clean, I am so productive!" though you may occasionally think to yourself, "If I don't clean off the top of my desk soon, I won't get anything done, I'll spend all day looking for paper!" So, let's run through some of these housekeeping issues. As an IT department manager, you may have control over some or all of these. If you're an IT project manager without direct control or authority over any of these things, it is still good to be aware of these issues. When these things are lacking, people become disorganized and frustrated. Anything you can do to reduce disorganization and frustration is a good thing. Let's take a look:

  • Company and administrative policies

  • Salary

  • Supervision

  • Working conditions

  • Interpersonal relationships Company and Administrative Policies

Policies and procedures that don't make sense drive everyone nuts. Some companies have lots of crazy policies that seem to have been written back in 1965 and haven't changed for forty years. Other companies are flying by the seats of their pants and have few, if any, written policies and procedures. Neither extreme is good or desirable.

Policies and procedures can be an excellent part of making your company (or in your case, IT department or IT project) run smoothly and efficiently. Policies and procedures can clearly delineate common areas of confusion, responsibility, or legal requirements and help everyone stay on the same page. The flip side is you can create so many policies and procedures that it takes a Ph.D. to understand and apply them.

We'll discuss setting up policies and procedures for your IT project later in the book. Again, it's not so that we can create a tangle of red tape, but to provide a framework in which team members can work more efficiently. If a policy or procedure doesn't drive efficiency, it should be re-evaluated. There are policies and procedures that are required by law, but one could argue that they drive efficiency by keeping the company out of court. If you're an IT manager, you certainly have to abide by and enforce company policies and procedures. However, you also have to create and enforce policies related to ITboth internal and external to your department. Creating policies and procedures that help your staff get their jobs done more efficiently should be your goal. Gather input from your staff and get rid of any that just don't make sense or that make things unnecessarily more difficult. If you start bumping up against company policies or procedures that don't make sense, take them up with your boss or the appropriate person in the company and try to get them changed. In order to be competitive in today's fast-paced environment, working through useless or nonsensical policies and procedures slows things down and causes unnecessary confusion, frustration, and often, expense. Lack of coherent policies also creates confusion and slows things down as well. Salary

We've already briefly touched on the salary issue. As a project manager, this is out of your hands, but if you're also the head of your IT department, you may have some control over this. Of course, we'd all love to make huge salaries, but that's just not going to happen in IT anytime soon. That said, if your company pays below market salaries, you'd better have some pretty cool perks to add on to the salary if you hope to attract and retain top-level talent. If you pay B or C-level rates, you're going to retain C or D-level staff. While you may not have much control over salary ranges in your company, you can make a business case for paying market (or better) rates. Someone with more skills and experience will ultimately cost your company less than someone with fewer skills and experience (assuming those skills and experience are relevant and necessary).

Another related issue is one that's been facing IT departments in the past four or five years and that is one of shrinking staff and expanding responsibilities. You and your staff may be tasked with more work and with higher levels of responsibility than ever before, but salaries don't necessarily get boosted to accommodate that. In some companies, the unfortunate attitude is akin to "You're lucky to have a job." In other companies, it's a bit more benigncloser to "We'd love to pay you more if we could afford it, but things are tight right now." Just take one look at what the stock market has done in the past few years and you can see that many businesses are simply going sidewaysearnings were flat, revenues were flat (or down) and were in no position to grant large increases. Still, you may be able to make a business case for increasing salaries for key members of your staff to retain that talent. The mantra is retain or re-train, and training new hires (even those with equivalent skills, experience, or talents) generally costs far more than a raise for key employees.

Finally, another trap companies get locked intoand this is more common for smaller companiesraises don't keep pace with the market. You end up with these incredibly talented company veterans with 5 or 10 years' of excellent experience and they're making less than if they quit and got hired elsewhere (or re-hired at the same company). This is one way that companies lose talented employees, and it goes back to the policies and procedures issue we discussed earlier. If your policies prevent you from keeping key employees' salaries at (or above) market, you'll lose them to your competitor.

As IT manager, you should lobby hard to ensure your team's wages are up to par. If you're an IT project manager, this may impact you because you may have staff being asked to take on more and more "special projects" and they may feel tapped out, overloaded, or just resentful at having to take on one more project for no additional pay. As companies continue to try to get as much productivity as possible out of each individual contributor (and that's a good thing, to a point), it's important that you also lobby to hire additional positions as the work expands. CEOs, VPs, and other senior managers often have the mistaken impression that as technology marches forward, the costs should go down (as efficiency goes up). Not so. For the most part, costs shift from one place to another and sometimes costs increase. It's important that you help your senior management understand this by preparing and presenting an effective business case. In this case, delineating the cost of errors, omissions, and rework due to short staffing might justify hiring (temporary or permanent) additional help. Supervision

Supervision is another housekeeping issue that can be the source of dissatisfaction. Often people selected to move into supervisory roles are those deemed "good workers."The problem is that a good worker is not always a good supervisor. A good supervisor is one that interacts well with others and is able to be fair, impartial, and relatively unemotional about employee behavior. A good supervisor also needs leadership skills, especially the ability to get commitment (and compliance) from employees being supervised. If you're an IT project manager, you are essentially supervising project team members during the project, so this applies to you as well. If you don't have supervisory experience, you should consider taking a supervisor's course or reading up on what constitutes good supervision. Since this is a primary work relationship, your supervisory skills will have a significant impact on the people you work with. If you're an IT department manager, you should carefully evaluate who you make a supervisor and be clear about the skills you're looking for. Poor supervision is often a source of employee dissatisfaction. Inexperienced supervisors tend to be micro-managing control freaks or hands-off no-boundaries types that let staff walk all over them. Neither is helpful or desirable, and good, consistent, fair supervision is key to job satisfaction. Working Conditions

Working conditions are another area that you may or may not have much control over, but that have an impact on employee productivity and satisfaction. If every time someone goes to make a copy, the copier breaks, jams, or catches on fire, you're losing valuable time and money. Not every company can afford first-class accommodations, but that doesn't mean it should skimp on important parts of the work environment. Adequate heating and cooling (you'd be surprised…), comfortable chairs (especially for programmers and folks that spend their 10-12 hours a day sitting), and reasonable personal space are all key elements. As an IT department manager, you can do your best to create a comfortable work environment within your sphere of influence. If necessary, lobby to get some of the corporate budget allocated for these things applied to your department. Even if you're such a geek (and that term is used with the highest respect) you only notice whether or not the network is up, decent working conditions are important to the vast majority of people.

Let's add another dimension to working conditionsinformation overload. In today's world, the amount of new information we need to process is accelerating and we have to deal with more data than ever before. It's not your imaginationthe technological revolution over the past fifty years has caused more information to be generated than ever before in human history. Sorting the "need to know" from the "nice to know" from the "don't need to know" can itself be time consuming. There may be very little you can do to reduce information overload (some call it "data smog") but you can try to help your department staff or project team by not contributing unnecessarily to the overload. Be aware of the information demands and work to reduce non-critical information for your team. If you're interested in reading up on this, a thorough academic discussion of this problem can be found online at, but don't feel compelled to read itit may only contribute to your information overload. Interpersonal Relationships

Just the words "interpersonal relationships" brings fear to many IT typesafter all, it's about the technology isn't it? Sure it is, but in this context, we're talking about the importance of people being able to interact with one another. Ensuring that the work environment affords adequate time for social contact is an important aspect of work for almost everyone. Socializing during a break, at lunch, or between meetings should be allowed and encouragedto a point. Clearly, work has to get done, but there are some managers (though it's more often inexperienced supervisors) that expect people to work with their nose to the grindstone for 10 continuous hours a day. Breaks for socializing recharge people's batteries and bring enjoyment to the job.

The flip side of this is also important to note. You should not allow rude or offensive comments, inappropriate behavior, or threats of any kind. You should take immediate and appropriate action to curtail this type of activity. Some of this behavior crosses the line from simply rude to illegal when it creates a hostile environment, so making it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated is very important. As an IT department manager, you'll be bound to the company's policies and procedures regarding this type of behavior, but you can also model and foster a positive environment that encourages positive interactions and provides a framework for dealing with problems in an acceptable manner. As an IT project manager, you'll also encounter situations where people may behave in inappropriate (or illegal) ways within the project environment and you'll need to take appropriate action as well. When this negative type of behavior is not challenged and stopped, it becomes a major source of job dissatisfaction for those who are the frequent targets of this bad behavior. Again, these activities, if unchecked, could constitute harassment or worse and could land you and your company in legal trouble if you're aware of it and do nothing to stop it. If you're an IT project manager without direct authority to take action, notify your supervisor or manager or notify your Human Resources manager for assistance.

When these "housekeeping" items are in order, employees won't be distracted by basic elements of the job. If you don't deal with these issues effectively, the most likely result is that excellent employees will leave and you'll end up with mediocre employees (all the B and C-level folks, none of the A-level folks). Now, let's turn our attention to what helps people feel satisfied with their jobs.

Cheat Sheet…
Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

As an IT project manager, the things that cause job or work dissatisfaction are often outside your direct control. While you can't control them, you can be aware of them and understand how they impact your team. If any of the items listed in the previous section are causing your team to be less productive or effective, you can and should try to take steps to work with someone in the organization that does have direct control over these elements. Though you might not be able to effect change in these areas every time, it's important that you understand and recognize these problems if they arise because they will likely impact your team's overall success. However, make sure you remember the lessons you learned in Chapter 3 about managing in a political environment to make sure you approach the problem in a positive and effective manner.

4.3.2. Foundations for Job Satisfaction

If money is not what people want, then what do they want? A motivation theorist by the name of Frederick Herzberg proposed that people are motivated and their needs are satisfied by just a handful of things:

  • The work itself

  • Achievement

  • Recognition

  • Responsibility

  • Advancement

Keep in mind that people will only be motivated or satisfied by these things if the basic elements of a good work environment are present. As we discussed, those include money (compensation and benefits), working conditions (hours, physical surroundings, workload), relationships with supervisor and peers, and company policies and procedures. Any of these can create dissatisfaction when not present or when not positive, but once these items are present and accounted for, they become part of the background. Understanding the basics of why people work and what they want is important because it will help you as a project manager learn to manage people more effectively and will certainly help when you have to manage project team members over whom you have no direct or organizational authority. It's especially important to understand it's not really about the money because as a PM, you usually have no control over the project team's paychecks. Now that you understand you have several other highly effective tools at your disposal, let's look at how these various motivators come into play on an IT project team. The Work Itself

Many people seek out jobs that utilize their natural skills and talents. Whether they're landscapers or psychologists, plumbers or dancers, everyone will make a best effort to find a job aligned with his or her skills and interests. That said, not everyone has the opportunity to find a job aligned with his or her skills and talents. Hopefully, in your organization, people are in jobs at which they can perform at or above expectations. Most people, then, find satisfaction from the actual work they perform. That doesn't mean they enjoy all aspects of it. An IT manager may love designing the network infrastructure and hate giving performance reviews to staff or dislike having to develop a departmental budget every year. Every job has elements we don't enjoy, but the overall job responsibilities and tasks are a source of great satisfaction for many people, especially those in professional vocations.

Applying Your Knowledge

As an IT manager or project manager, you should try to assign people to projects or tasks that align with what they enjoy doing. Although it's not always possible, if you can find someone who enjoys finance to be part of developing the project budget, you're going to get a much better result than if you get someone who can do it, but hates that aspect of their job. Aligning skills, interests, and talents with project needs will yield better results with less effort. A task that one person dislikes might be a task that someone else really enjoys, so make sure you understand your team and which tasks are likely to appeal to each team member. While you can't always make a good match, you can achieve higher quality at a lower cost just by consciously aligning people and project tasks. Achievement

Another area that brings job satisfaction is a sense of achievement. There are two key aspects to a sense of achievementthe actual work (accomplishing a difficult goal) and the recognition of that accomplishment. We'll discuss recognition separately in a moment, but remember that a sense of achievement contains those two elements. As people become more self-confident and mature, they often derive enough satisfaction from the achievement itself, but having someone be aware of or witness your achievement is often important. Olympic athletes certainly revel in their achievements, but when they do something spectacular in front of a crowd or on television rather than during their Tuesday morning workout, it becomes more meaningful. Thus, providing opportunities for achievement and recognizing that achievement often go hand-in-hand.

Applying Your Knowledge

As an IT manager or project manager, you should look for opportunities for people to stretch, grow, and learn. These opportunities provide people with a sense of achievement and can contribute to a strong sense of job satisfaction. While you don't want to put your project or department in jeopardy, you can help people take measured, calculated risks that help them learn new skills. This not only helps that person feel a sense of achievement, but it also helps you learn what the members of your team can or cannot do. If necessary, assign tasks to a junior person with a more senior person overseeing the task. This allows the more junior person to grow and provides the more senior person the opportunity to learn and grow in supervision and management, so everyone wins. Recognition

How is a "job well done" recognized in your organization? Every company has a different culture and unfortunately, many are not good at giving recognition. Some people seem to think that if you praise someone's work, it will cause them to slack off, but just the opposite is true. Recognition of good or excellent work can be a real motivator. People want praise and recognition for work they do that meets or exceeds expectations. Recognition is one of the easiest methods of keeping employees motivated and the good news is that, unlike a bonus or raise, it doesn't cost a nickel. Think of the last time your manager praised you for work you did. You felt good and that recognition probably made your day, week, or month.

Sadly, some managers are terrible at recognizing great work. As a result, staff feel their efforts aren't valued or noticed and they tend to perform at lower and lower levels until their work simply meets standards (at best). To produce high-performance teams, the manager must be able to give appropriate recognition to team members' work. What's appropriate recognition? That depends a lot upon your company's work environment, your team members, and the nature of the task receiving recognition. However, some general ideas include verbal or written recognition, either privately or in a more public setting (team or department meeting, for instance). You can send an e-mail to the person or to the entire team touting someone's accomplishments. You can also recognize outstanding accomplishments with small rewards such as an afternoon off from work or tickets to the movies. If appropriate and you have the authority to do so, you can also give someone a bonus or raise due to truly outstanding effort. Remember, though, the rewards and bonuses are NOT a substitute for verbal and/or written praise. Verbal or written recognition is less expensive than rewards or bonuses and it's also far more effective.

Enterprise 128…
Keepin' It Real

A manager of an IT department had been promoted into the position during a time when the company was having financial problems. As a result, he wasn't really the best suited to the job, but was there because he'd been in the right place at the right time. We'll call him Hamilton. Hamilton was very personable and many people who interacted with him found him to be funny, interesting, and charmingexcept the people that worked for him. He was known to have an explosive temper with his staff and they alternately feared and resented him. Unfortunately, when they did a good job, Hamilton turned on the charm and was effusive in his praise. It was rarely proportionate to the work done. Even more unfortunate was that Hamilton, lacking even basic management skills, would shower an underperforming employee with lavish praise to the same degree he would for a super star. This got him into trouble with the HR department on more than one occasion because he'd bestow high praise on someone and then turn around and fire them for poor performance a week or two later. This was confusing to existing staff and lead to reduced productivity and increased tension.

Avoid bestowing praise on underperforming staff unless it's really warranted. Make sure the praise is commensurate with the task and effort. Make sure the praise is real and meaningful. Don't tell someone you're thrilled they're part of the team when they are barely making the grade. When you give disproportionate or over-the-top praise, especially when it's not warranted, you'll lose credibility and the trust of your team.

Applying Your Knowledge

Genuine, meaningful recognition makes people feel valued and enhances their sense of accomplishment. Make sure you're specific and honest when recognizing accomplishments and make every effort to do so in a timely manner. It's far more effective to give public recognition at a team meeting a week after the accomplishment than to add it as a note in someone's performance review 8 months later. Also, avoid giving glowing recognition to underperformersit creates a mixed message and can cause legal problems if the employee is later let go ("My boss told me I was a great asset to the team and a week later I was fired!"). If you're the type that's not comfortable giving recognition, focus on the facts and practice saying it a few times before you have to deliver it. The more you do it, the easier it gets, but keep it real. Responsibility

Some people thrive on taking on additional responsibilities. This is another source of job satisfaction for some. Remember that not everyone wants to move up in the organization and not everyone will enjoy additional responsibility, so unlike recognition, this does not always have universal appeal. However, most people enjoy having more power, authority, and responsibility, so finding ways to provide that for staff who are performing above expectations is a real motivator. Keep in mind that you should almost never give more responsibility to someone who is underperforming. You might think the person is bored or underutilized (and he or she might tell you that), but you shouldn't reward bad behavior. So, additional responsibility should only be given to those who have proved themselves. In the real world, that may not always be possible, but it should be your goal.

Applying Your Knowledge

Sometimes real "go-getters" are chomping at the bit for more responsibility, but they ignore the responsibilities that they currently have. This is often the case with younger, less experienced staff. While helping staff to focus on current responsibilities, you can increase job satisfaction by providing small opportunities for additional responsibilities and see how things go. For instance, you might assign someone the task of gathering and analyzing weekly call volumes or weekly satisfaction ratings for help desk calls and see how they accomplish the task. If they start ignoring other work, you can scale their responsibilities back without having a huge, disruptive impact on the organization. Look for small additional tasks to assign for those you're not sure about. Look for permanent transfer of large responsibilities for staff who've not only proven they're up to it but who deserve the opportunity. Giving huge opportunities to unproven staff can backfire. Experienced staff will be resentful at missed opportunities and inexperienced staff may falter in their new dutiesboth scenarios cause disruption in the team or department. Advancement

Advancement is another source of job satisfaction for many people. They want to know that their efforts will be rewarded with additional responsibility, which often comes with career advancement. A big thank you and an occasional raise work wonders in the near to mid-term, but over the long haul, many people want to see that they have the opportunity to advance.

As a project manager, you may have limited control over this part of someone's job, but you may be able to provide staff with the opportunity to advance within the framework of the IT team or project team. As people demonstrate their abilities to define, organize, and manage tasks and projects, you can begin to reward them with additional responsibilities or roles on the project team. You may define project team leaders or project team supervisors and this may be an area that provides some sense of advancement, even if it's not a job promotion. Giving people the opportunity to advance within the bounds of your authority (team, project, department, etc.) will help motivate some people because they'll see the possibility and path to advancement. The opportunities you provide for your team to learn new skills and grow professionally might also lead to career advancement for them due to their efforts on your project team. Strong performance on a project team may lead to opportunities for promotion outside the project team.

Cheat Sheet…
IT Projects and Job Satisfaction

We all know that some IT projects are highly coveted and others are run-of-the mill (or worse). As an IT department manager or IT project manager, keep in mind that everyone should have a shot at the coveted projects, but everyone should also have to participate equally in the dreaded projects (splicing 600 cables that were cut when the landscaper accidentally dug up the buried cabling…). Remember the sources of job satisfaction we just discussed and try to assign people to projects in a manner that will drive job satisfaction. While it's important to assign the right resources to the right projects, when you have a bit of leeway, look for opportunities to drive job satisfaction among your team members. You'll find the work is done faster and with higher quality when you can do so. It only takes an extra couple of minutes to consider these factors when making project or job assignments and it can make a world of difference for you, the team and the team member.

How to Cheat at IT Project Management
How to Cheat at IT Project Management
ISBN: 1597490377
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 166

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