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Managing high-maintenance—but brilliant—IT pros

May 01, 2014

Do you have an extremely skilled IT professional who's also hard to manage? As a leader, your job is to bring out the best in your teams and create an environment where workers can collaborate and thrive. Smoothing out the kinks might involve containing personality conflicts, encouraging cooperation, easing the effects of big egos and ensuring work environments remain positive.

Top-notch IT experts make invaluable contributions to your projects. In today's competitive IT recruiting landscape, you certainly don't want to lose your MVPs. Highly skilled, innovative, tech-savvy professionals are an extraordinary asset for your company. At the same time, however, your superstars can sometimes damage productivity by failing to work well with others. With the right talent management approaches, you can attend to the health of your whole team without losing your high performers.

If you think a high-maintenance team member might be detracting from the successes of your workforce, here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Are your employees communicating? Sometimes technically minded professionals struggle to communicate effectively with their less tech-savvy colleagues. Additionally, some IT experts become frustrated with meetings that seem to stray from set purposes, TechRepublic advised. Managers can bridge the gap by involving IT pros in project-oriented discussions while handling the more political topics themselves.
  2. Do "toxic" behaviors influence the performance of other team members? The Harvard Business Review explained that antisocial behavior, such as talking negatively about supervisors or taking credit for someone else's work, can have a deep impact on the entire organization. If you observe general decreases in your team's work effort, quality and performance, it might be time to address the culprit. The source noted that well over half of study participants said they lost time avoiding the offender or worrying about the incident. Getting to the root of the antisocial behavior can help you develop solutions to mitigate it.
  3. How well do your top performers share their knowledge? TechRepublic observed that key contributors sometimes guard their expertise as a sort of job security or pride point. However, you need to build up the knowledge and strength of your entire team, so you should encourage employees to mentor their colleagues and reward those who do.
  4. Do your all-stars get deflated when stress drops? Some people thrive under pressure, solving problems and getting pumped up by frequent validations and expressions of gratitude. When urgent projects are completed and problems solved, your highly skilled IT pros might become disengaged and unenthusiastic about their jobs. To keep them invested, TechRepublic recommended assigning them an important—if less urgent—activity, such as completing a document by researching answers to unresolved questions.
  5. Is your IT expert afraid to fail? Perfectionism can be a substantial roadblock both for individuals and teams. Particularly in a setting where innovative approaches are helping businesses transform their operations, you want teams that aren't afraid to think outside the box and try new things. If your IT leaders are inflexible and domineering, it can hinder their ability to complete projects and stifle team creativity. You should encourage them to accept failures and move on while inviting them to explore tasks outside of their comfort zone.
  6. Do arrogant attitudes obstruct teamwork and performance? Your star performer is extremely talented and probably knows it. Sometimes, this can lead to inflated egos and arrogant attitudes. For example, TechRepublic noted that some technical experts are impatient with managers because they don't possess the same high-level knowledge. This can derail projects if IT pros aren't listening attentively to instructions and guidelines. Additionally, arrogant attitudes can contribute to toxic workplace environments that damage team performance. The source suggested fostering personal relationships—simply forging workplace camaraderie can cut past arrogant instincts.
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