Bullying in information technology
When the Industrial Age gave way to the Information Age, the field of information technology was elevated by the market to one of the most important and powerful industry sectors on a global economic scale.
However, a culture of bullying is common in IT, leading to high sickness rates, low morale, poor productivity and high staff turnover. Deadline-driven project work and stressed-out managers take their toll on IT workers.
Bullying in IT is most commonly downwards hierarchical (such as manager to employee) but can also be horizontal (such as employee to employee) or upwards hierarchical (such as employee to manager).
In 2002, a survey of UK staff by Mercer Human Resource Consulting found that 21% of respondents in the IT industry have been bullied once or more in the past year. Seven per cent claimed to have suffered chronic bullying.
- Victims are stressed and take more sick leave
- Damage to the productivity, morale and performance of the whole company
- High staff turnover which may exacerbate any skill shortages
- Giving a company a bad reputation, making it harder to get good staff and get new business.
- Unachievable deadlines (see setting up to fail)
- Excessive monitoring and supervision (see micromanagement)
- Constant criticism on minor matters (see hypercriticism)
- Being ridiculed, humiliated and intimidated
- Being marginalised and asked to do pointless or ill defined work below their capabilities.
- Being ostracised (see Social rejection)
Comments from victims and researchers
- Internal grievance procedures are commonly not impartial and are open to abuses of power - the bully himself may have a close relationship with the investigating party and there may be conflicts of interest (see quasi-judicial)
- Complaining may make the bullying worse and many fear to complain
- Victims often conclude that the only solution is to leave the company
- IT professionals may be technically brilliant but often lack soft skills
- Some managers may be technically "hands-off" and feel threatened by the technical skills of their subordinates
- There is often a culture of cronyism, protectionism and jobs for the boys
- Middle managers are prone to being bullied from above and/or below in the hierarchy
- A high percentage of senior IT management possess very poor people skills
- Mediation needs to be done by a fully trained impartial external mediator with a good track record, which are not available at most workplaces
- A system to report bullying anonymously may be helpful
- Victims often have misplaced loyalty with a company and stay too long trusting that they would get support
- Bullying is often deeply engrained and institutionalized.
- Collins T Bullied NHS information manager gets £150,000 Computer Weekly 13 January 2010
- Customer services manager for software development department in a government organisation being privatised Case Histories at BullyOnline No 2 - Tim Field
- Bullying in computing and IT in the NHS Case Histories at BullyOnline No 42
- Bullying in the computing industry - Case Histories at BullyOnline No 100
- Bullied IT project manager
- Marcello C Perceptions of Workplace Bullying Among IT Professionals: A correlational analysis of workplace bullying and psychological empowerment of Workplace Bullying Among IT Professionals (2010)
- Thomson R IT profession blighted by bullying Computer Weekly 3 April 2008
- Towner N One in five IT workers gets bullied Computer Weekly 23 October 2002
- Shifrin T Bullying is widespread, survey shows Computer Weekly 27 September 2005
- Swabey P IT sector failing to tackle workplace bullying – report Information Age 6 November 2008
- Flinders K Most IT managers have witnessed bullying this year, research shows Computer Weekly 6 November 2008
- "IT workers suffer bullying", claims union BT Business
- Thomson R IT workers being bullied, says union Computer Weekly 24 March 2008
- McLaughlin G IT Contractors being bullied at work IT Contractor 8 April 2008
- Chatham R Beat the bullies Computer Weekly 31 October 2008
- Cone E Getting IT Bullies to Behave CIO Insight 5 August 2007
- Spiegel E Dealing with An IT Bully Datamation 14 April 2008