IT Leaders Lose the Popular Vote

Survey of tech professionals finds managers lag in honesty, leadership ability.

Managers of IT professionals have a lot on their plates these days: limited budgets, undersized staffs, cybersecurity threats. But their relatively low popularity among peers and subordinates might be the largest, most ubiquitous obstacle.

Only 61 percent of tech professionals respect the job efforts of their current or previous boss; slightly fewer (58 percent) say they actually enjoy working for their bosses. That's the main finding from a recent Techies.com survey of 834 tech professionals. The survey, completed in June, drew respondents as varied as computer operators and CIOs, and includes full-time, part-time and unemployed U.S. workers.

The most common criticism techies have is that their managers don't understand what employees are doing. More than 40 percent of survey respondents say their manager confuses roles and is oblivious to important accomplishments.

"My manager needs to be more proactive about knowing what I'm doing rather than waiting until I need to ask for advice," says a female VP for Web/e-business in the mountain states. She adds that managers must not over-promise and "speak more English, less buzzwords."

"Just tell the truth," pleads a male systems administrator from the Midwest.

That managers don't always tell the truth is the second most common problem techies say they have with their bosses. Third on their gripe list is how managers play favorites. Just 27 percent of survey respondents say they have no problems with their manager.

More recognition is one of the key underlying messages IT pros touch on throughout the survey. Whether it concerns praise for good work or dealing with advancement opportunities, hundreds of respondents signaled that improvements in management habits are critical.

A disturbing 25 percent said they've never received praise for good work. Only 20 percent of those surveyed have ever received a raise or bonus to reward good work. The most popular form of praise a techie receives from a manager is private verbal feedback (54 percent); 39 percent say they've received public appreciation.

Tech pros are most satisfied right now with the challenge and fun of their work, compared to other job aspects. They are least satisfied with promotion opportunities and job security, according to the survey.

Overall, technologists most want a manager who is honest, has good leadership ability, and thoroughly explains procedures to his or her employees. Men and women agree, for the most part, on what the most important management traits are. Not surprisingly—considering the continued male dominance in IT management—men place a slightly higher emphasis on managers being a good friend and having interest in their personal lives. Both men and women, however, rank friendship with managers as least important.

How important are the following traits in someone who manages tech professionals, and how well does your curent/last manager fit that description?
TRAIT
IMPORTANT*
FIT*
Is honest
1.47
3.10
Is a good leader/makes people want to follow him/her
1.57
2.76
Explains decisions clearly and makes sure they're understood
1.61
2.82
Is trusted/highly regarded by (more) senior management
1.88
3.13
Says what he/she thinks, even if it might cause trouble/hard feelings
2.16
3.13
Is a good public speaker
2.33
2.89
Doesn't allow workers to slack off
2.35
2.94
Has many years of experience
2.39
3.34
Recognizes great work with small gifts, cash bonuses or awards
2.42
2.48
Knows the company's markets and clients better than anyone else
2.46
2.91
Has patience with slow learners
2.48
2.89
Supports telecommuting
2.49
2.87
Is always on time
2.53
2.86
Is nice to everyone
2.54
3.06
Could easily do the jobs of everyone he/she managers
2.84
2.53
Works longer hours than anyone else
3.21
2.94
Is a good friend
3.25
2.69
Is interested in my social/home life outside work
3.34
2.84

*On a 1-5 scale: 1=most important, 3=important 5=not at all important
**On a 1-5 scale: 5=completely agree with; 1=completely disagree

About the Author

Nick Doty is editorial director of Techies.com, an online career and training center for technology professionals based in Minneapolis.