IT Manager Level Politics

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As an IT leader, you will be dealing with management level politics that are very different from individual contributor politics. As an individual contributor in IT, you can generally stay pretty clear of office politics altogether if you wish. You can just keep your head down and do your work. Politics at the individual contributor level in IT tend to be mostly related to:

  • Who gets the best workspace (ah, that cube with the window view!)

  • Who learns the newest technology

  • Who gets on the best projects

  • Who gets a team lead role

Simply said, individual contributor politics are about you and your stuff. Moving from being an individual contributor to a manager in IT is like moving from being single to being married. Now it’s not all about you. It’s still a little about you, but mostly, it is now about us, you and your spouse, you and your team. As an IT manager, your ability to “play the game” not only affects you, but it also profoundly affects your people.

As an IT manager, your politics are still primarily with your peers, but now your peers are the other department managers. You will find that your manager peer group is much better at office politics than the individual contributors you used to compete with. You will also find that you will still be fighting for some of the same things, like the “best” office space for you and your team, projects, leadership and the like, but they will be at the department level, rather than on an individual basis. There will also now, however, be new manager-level politics in areas such as:

  • Who leads which company-wide initiatives

  • How next year’s budget dollars are divided across departments

  • Headcount competition–which department gets to hire additional people

  • Whose team member gets recognition for outstanding work at annual company events

  • Who gets to participate in leadership & other training

  • Who gets to be the promoted manager if two groups are merged into a single department

You may also find that some politics go away. For example, within the IT business analysis group, politics at the individual contributor level revolve around who gets the “best” project. As the IT manager, by default, you get all the projects. The politicking regarding specific project-related work is now under you. Now it is the members of your IT staff who will be fighting to get the “best” projects.

Many people think of office politics as always being bad, and to be avoided. And sometimes office politics can be bad, or at a minimum, expend unneeded energy that could be better spent on company initiatives. Mostly however, manager-level politics are actually good for you and your IT group and you should seek to participate. Like it or not, manager-level politics can help you get:

  • The resources your IT team needs to maximize productivity

  • Exciting new projects, recognition, promotions, desired leadership & technical training, salary increases, and/or bonuses for members of your staff

  • Permission to hire additional IT headcount so current members won’t be overworked

  • Personal recognition, promotion, salary raises, and/or bonuses

Lastly, office politics with your peers is like sports. You can’t win them all. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. In either case, learn from what you did right. . . and wrong and observe the same regarding what your peers did. Office politics is a place where you really can learn from (and take advantage of) the mistakes of others and maximize benefits for your IT team and ultimately, yourself and your career.

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