Is it a “bad employee” or something else?

I joined a small company many years ago as the new CIO and as I normally do began my own IT assessment. My approach in assessing a company’s technology situation is to begin with senior management, work my way through company departments that use the technologies supported by IT, and finally go to the IT organization to complete the assessment.

You need to understand what your client thinks about IT support before asking your IT people.

In this case, I heard several managers of the Corporate departments describe one of my IT employee as being unreliable, never sure where she was, slow to complete any project, and on and on. On the other hand, the operational staff in the remote offices had high praise for her.

Interesting, I thought, , ,  we had very different opinions from our client.

There was a big push from several of the corporate departments to fire the employee as she was just “no good”, had a bad attitude and could not do the job.

Be careful what you hear from your clients when you first start in a new management position.  What you hear may not be the facts.

Upon further review, it became clear that the problem was a management issue and not an employee issue. The problems the corporate departments were having stemmed from the fact that this one person was trying to do what three or four people would be required to accomplish. IT was considerably understaffed to meet the basic support needs of the company.

Because this had been an issue for some time, the IT employee simply got caught into a rut of doing all that she could do every day but finally realized it would never be enough so she “worked at it” every day as well as she could.

The employee wasn’t a manager and shouldn’t be expected to manage all the company’s department manager expectations. Her boss should have been doing that. A big part of the problem was that the former CIO wasn’t paying attention to the needs of the business.

My client was correct in expressing dissatisfaction about the lack of support they were receiving, , , they were just getting to the wrong reasons as to what was causing the problems. It wasn’t my employee, , , it was previous IT management not addressing the business support needs of the company.

When the support capacity was addressed to match the need, this employee flourished and users responded accordingly. My CEO even made it a point to mention to me the “turnaround in attitude” of this employee several times. That’s very funny, , , she had a great attitude and was very committed the entire time, , , there was just no way for her to succeed based upon how the previous manager had organized and focused the IT resources.

It would have been easy to get the wrong impression about this employee early on, but the additional due diligence paid off for us all.

Be careful what you hear from your client. Their frustration may be real but the cause of the problem may be entirely different than what they think it is.

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