Keeping your cool

This year, like last, has been a difficult one for IT, as well as myriad other industries. The light at the end of the tunnel, sunshine over the horizon - insert your own cliché here - was supposed to appear by now. Analysts - who have lately seemed mum on their predictions on this subject - last year said that by now we were supposed to be soldiering on the recovery road, smarter from our experience through this sobering time.

Funny thing is, someone forget to clue in the economy. Here we are, headed for 2003, dealing with the same problems we had when 2002 the next calendar page. What's a manager to do?

While it's certainly difficult being an employee in today's workforce, it's doubly difficult being a manager. In most cases, you're not only someone else's employee, but you're also the leader to a group of people. You're short of staff and money, but your to-do list is long. Check out these tips for handling your situation with aplomb:

  • Align IT strategies with corporate goals. Experts have said this many times in this newsletter. The more you can tie IT into corporate goals - usually making and saving money - the more you'll be viewed as a strategic asset and the more funding you're likely to receive. IT doesn't exist in a bubble and you can't, either. Learn how to articulate your IT needs in a language your business types can easily understand; use the universal language of dollars and cents. Say you're worried about security and think an intrusion-detection system is the answer, but you're worried about the cost. Figure out what a typical outage would cost your company in lost productivity and sales; you'll probably get your IDS.
  • Focus on what is important to corporate survivability. You can't do it all - especially with fewer people and less money.

    You need to prioritize that to-do list, and plan on how you can accomplish those items. Again, tying this into business goals can help. Do you know what senior management's most important objectives are for the coming quarter? Find out, then see how they mesh with your IT priorities. Ask questions and your path will become more clear.

  • Adjust your management style. If communication isn't your strong suit, it's time to change clothes. Communication is key to assuaging employees' fears. They're worried about their mortgages and their kids, and frankly, they may get a little paranoid. Innocent everyday events, such as your closed-door meeting with your big boss, could cause a wildfire of speculation and gossip. You may only be talking about how to assign new projects to staffers, but employees could think you're planning on lopping heads again. Be as open and honest as you're allowed with company financials and outlooks. Answer their questions and try to find answers if you don't have them.
HR is a great resource in these cases; Ask their advice if you're worried about an employee's mindset or the morale of your group.

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