Let’s start by throwing out there the typical stereotype placed on someone who works in The IT industry. You see it everywhere from advertising to movies. Quiet and reserved, socially awkward, poor dress sense, etc ……… this stereotype plastered everywhere.
Some of the greatest and smartest colleagues I have ever worked with actually fit loosely into this mould and some of which were spot on. If it wasn’t for these particular legends in their field then organisations would crumble. I have worked for many organisations on their internal I.T teams and with many staff members that are the total opposite of this stereotype. Outspoken, ostentatious, confident and well-dressed but these individuals really lacked in some of the most important qualities such as work ethic, logical thinking and of course technical knowledge. These two employees are so different and at different ends of the spectrum. Between the two different employees, I know who I would rather on my team…… HR on the other hand would disagree.
The problem I have observed is a disconnect from HR to recognise who is a stronger employee.
Don’t get me wrong people skills that fall within the emotional intelligence bracket are extremely important in IT. But in I.T, if you lack the ability to resolve issues to satisfy the user or fail to pull your weight within the team you result in not only leaving the end-user dissatisfied without a solution to their problem but also create a toxic environment for your team who have to take on the extra workload.
To be in HR, an important skill to have is the ability to read and evaluate peoples behaviour and strengths/ weaknesses. To qualify for these positions, many studies in psychology best equip themselves with this skill set. This makes sense and is a very valuable strength to have in one of these positions. The question is, why is it though, that HR fails to see environments caused by such a difference in personalities. Getting lost in this persona of these often toxic employees can often distract from seeing their true performance in their positions. Too many times have I seen toxic environments created by the less technical staff members who are considered more valuable to the organisation yet fall down in the actual performance of their role which should be measured on their technical abilities and problem/ incident resolution. Often resulting in, other employees that do perform their role start feeling underappreciated with a lack of recognition.
IQ vs EQ
This debate is complex and all professionals and articles are written will read that EQ is twice as important as IQ. I can see where this can be true in certain positions such as sales and marketing and of course management roles. To be a great Manager emotional intelligence is the most important qualities to have. Emotional intelligence is also the most important in my opinion in everyday life. Emotional intelligence will allow you to understand people and interact better with others and result in closer friendships. In a technical industry such as I.T on the other hand where a high degree of knowledge is required in a vast range of areas, different levels of EQ and IQ are required. Ultimately to be great in an industry such as I.T you need to have a high technical aptitude for all things related to your field.
The way I summarise this debate is –
Being smart or having a high IQ is the ability to logically think things out. Being sharp is the ability to tune in to the world, to read people and situations, and to survive.
In the I.T world being smart will be the key to being successful in a technical role. Users of course will judge their satisfaction with the service of the technical support person, but the ultimate satisfaction will come with providing the correct solution in a timely manner. From my experience, having great customer service skills will only provide temporary satisfaction. The user will always end up seeking out the support person that has more technical ability in the end.
Not all highly technical staff lack emotional intelligence and it is important that there is a balance to ensure that they are a great fit within your team whilst keeping the skill set to ensure that you have the technical skills that cover all of your systems It is important that the highly technical employees that work hard at their craft and dedicate their lives to knowing everything there is to know about their technical field receive the recognition they deserve by over-performing their role. Staff that try and spend more time on the front line and do not meet their performance measurements should be managed accordingly to ensure that they do not cause a toxic environment and should never be praised for the successes and achievements made by the rest of the team. There is always a place for these employees to ensure that there is a healthy relationship between the I.T team and the organisation, but recognition should be directed appropriately and the environment should be managed to prevent it from becoming toxic to your more valuable technical staff members. HR should spend more time understanding the work the I.T team is performing and who in the team make up the engine that allows the team and systems to run. If the only communication is channelled by a possible toxic employee, then this could also be contributing factor in the rest of the team’s workload, work environment and eventually employee retention.
Disclaimer – This article is not based on all teams and environments but through many years networking with peers and hearing similar case studies in line with Human Resources failing to separate different types of employees and recognise the true strengths of a technical staff member.