Managing Stress in the IT Organization

Recessions equate to job losses, which in turn lead to increased pressure on the remaining organization.  IT groups, which often already operate in a stressful, always-on environment, can become particularly anxiety-rich.  If not properly managed, this can be dangerous first to the employees and their health, and subsequently to the success of the company.  Perhaps the following scenario is familiar:

The IT team assigned to a major project is under an amazing amount of stress.   They have tenure with the company and feel a huge responsibility in seeing the project through.  Recently, one of the members assigned to the team has come to HR with major stress related issues.  He/She has been to the doctor and all signs point to the stress of the project and the stalling thereof being the cause of the stress.  In addition to this member, there are others on this team that feel much the same way, and they attribute their lack of success directly to the pressure they have been feeling throughout the effort.

Why is it important to manage this issue?  Keeping stress to a minimum is particularly important at times when the organization is operating lean.  Stress leads to decreases in productivity, which in turn leads to more stress for the organization.  If left unchecked, the situation can spiral out of control and negatively impact the quality of IT services and, even further downstream, IT’s impact on the success of the company.  Particularly during times such as this, keeping productivity up is critical to success.

What strategies can be employed to improve morale and reduce stress?  IMF members met recently to share their strategies in this space.  Here are several of the keys they have found:

  1. Communicate actively and frequently with the organization.  Uncertainty is tough for people.  Changes, both positive and negative, should be shared in an open forum and addressed openly.
  2. Involve employees in the decision-making process.  Not only are employees more likely to become a champion of projects that they have helped conceive, but they will also be grateful for having their opinions heard and considered.
  3. Recognize efforts.  Simple rewards, particularly public recognition, are very effective.  Organizations that take the time to understand what motivates their people can better reward them for their hard work.
  4. Plan changes in pace.  Whether this comes in the form of internal retreats following a major deliverable, an ice cream lunch with the CIO, or planned job rotations, changes of pace help people take a mental break from one issue and become re-energized by another.  Variety can reinstill that excitement that was lost during times of great strain.

These are just a handful of the things that can be done to help an organization through stressful times.  For additional information, see the IMF reports listed below as well as other related information on the IMF member portal.

Related Reports: