Bosses in General Are Lousy, but Bosses in IT Are Worse

Don Tennant
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Although I’ve never worked in an IT shop a day in my life, I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past couple of decades hanging out with IT professionals. One of the conclusions I was able to draw fairly early on was that people who make good IT workers don’t necessarily make good bosses. You don’t have to talk to too many people in the trenches to recognize that IT prowess and management prowess aren’t mutually exclusive, but they’re not all that complementary, either.

Whether you were aware of it or not, Tuesday was National Bosses Day, and it served as the occasion for the release of a study that found that a majority of Americans are unhappy in the workplace, and that their bosses are largely to blame. I have no statistics to prove it, but anecdotal evidence suggests to me that IT workers are even unhappier with their bosses than the general worker population is.

Here’s what the study found:

  • Only 36 percent of Americans are happy at their job.
  • Sixty-five percent say a better boss would make them happy, while 35 percent would choose a pay raise.
  • Thirty-one percent of employees polled feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss, and close to 15 percent feel downright miserable, bored and lonely.
  • Only 38 percent of those polled describe their boss as “great,” with 42 percent saying their bosses don’t work very hard and close to 20 percent saying their boss has little or no integrity.
  • Close to 60 percent of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss.
  • Close to 70 percent of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal among men and women. Younger workers in their 20s and 30s skewed even higher (80 percent).
  • Over half (55 percent) of those polled think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss, with 58 percent in managerial and professional careers saying so, and only 53 percent in service and manual labor positions feeling that way.
  • In terms of the impact a boss has on employee health, 73 percent of those in their 20s and 30s said their health is at stake, while only 40 percent of those 50 and older felt that way.
  • When stress levels rise at work, a disturbing 47 percent said their boss does not stay calm and in control. However, 70 percent of boomers polled say their boss doesn’t lose his/her cool in times of stress.
  • Only 38 percent of Americans responded that they would thank their boss on National Bosses Day, with most believing that their boss wouldn't care enough to bother. Close to 10 percent said they would use the day as an opportunity to talk to their boss and improve the relationship.

If you think I’m off base, and that bosses in the IT field would fare better than this in an IT-centric study, let me know. But my hunch is that even if they knew it was National Bosses Day, far fewer than 38 percent of IT workers would feel inclined to thank their bosses for anything.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 5, 2012 4:34 AM Wayne Wayne  says:
Most of the time IT bosses either know nothing about technology, or are simply riding the laurels of past accomplishments years ago without staying up to date, or simply just think being the boss is about telling people what to do and getting a higher paycheck. I can't count the number of bosses I've had who seemed to know nothing at all about software development but were managing a team of developers; they always ended up being tyrants who didn't actually know how to qualify the work everyone was doing, but were absolute yes men to upper management even if it meant unrealistic promises. In short: Most bosses are clueless, but IT bosses have no real standards so you end up with someone that has just been with the company for many years doing the bare minimum being promoted to management when they don't understand what they're doing. Reply

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