I have often found my CIO friends unhappy, worried and agitated about the apparent lack of recognition of their efforts in their organizations. They feel ignored and side-stepped when not considered for promotion to the next level. I too have felt grumpy many times during my long career and I therefore empathize with their feelings.
Every employee has his career ambitions and works towards his goals. He strives hard and sincerely pursues his objectives but sometimes doesn’t get what he aspires for. There could be several reasons for his disappointment and some of them may be genuine. His expectations may be realistic at times and not so at other times and that determines his reaction during such situations. Recognition of CIOs work can come through higher increments, express appreciation of their work or being given enhanced roles and not necessarily through promotions alone. Promotions are often times governed by factors such as organization’s priorities, the thrust and focus and moderation across the enterprise. However, promotions are also denied because of unfair reasons such as biases, political factors, superior’s incompetence, etc.
A few difficult situations
I will describe a few situations from my experience, some in which I was directly affected and others where my colleagues got trapped.
Of differing perceptions: CIOs feel good about their work and think they have done enough to warrant recognition. They express this in the self-assessment form that organizations have as a part of the process. Perceptions of the boss or other assessors, however, could be different and herein lies the great disconnect that troubles the CIO. Wonderful work carried out in installing and implementing new software or new network or security device may appeal less to the superiors who may want to know the benefit that has accrued to business. Irrespective of who is right, the CIO would do well to look at the other side of the argument and learn from it where appropriate. He could examine his orientation to business needs and goals and work in alignment of the needs.
Of relationships: Implementing systems and bringing in changes affect people and their work routine. The CIO therefore has to deal with people and get their buy-in. Often good systems fall short of their promise because of inadequate cooperation from the end users. These negative vibes then act against the CIO though the CIO may sometimes not be aware of this factor and would feel victimized.
Uneasy relationship with the boss: The old saying ‘the boss is always right’ cannot sometimes be overlooked. Notwithstanding the fact that the boss is less competent, we still have to carry him along. We need not necessarily bend backwards to please him, but we could do without picking up a fight with him. Criticizing him may not get us far and we could do better to stick to our work. Some situations may really be difficult and CIO has to exercise his discretion in dealing with such situations.
The status of IT: Conventional organizations or traditional CEOs sometimes never grow up and continue to view IT as a sub-function not giving IT the desired status in the organization. I had once faced this situation and was not promoted in spite of having done well. My boss couldn’t explain but then I had a heart-to-heart chap with the CEO and he admitted that he was not in favor of giving IT a status equal to those of Finance, Sales and Manufacturing. I then had to look for greener pastures.
Dealing with the situation
I know such situations could be unfair on us but this is a reality and happens sometime or the other during our careers. However, on being denied a promotion it would be wrong of us to sulk and recede into a corner. I have seen people doubling their efforts in the following year, forcing the hands of superiors to give them the promotion they richly deserve. The opposite case was in my last organization, where the aggrieved person reacted negatively and hence has been languishing at the same level for the last two years.
It may be staid throwing in the towel and start seeking a change. We can’t always run away from a problem, can we? We have to face and fight the battle. I have often found CIOs jumping out in a hurry but regretting later akin to the popular phrase ‘from frying pan to fire’. It is better live to fight another day.