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Get Your Priorities Straight

Whether you're in IT, finance, engineering or sales, you're part of a team, not a club.

The IT organization can come off just as inflexible and elitist as the fraternity led by Hootie and the blowhards at Augusta National. In IT, it's not so much a gender issue as an attitude issue. Do you exclude nontechnologists from your inner circle? Do you regularly disparage nontechnical managers and associates when they're not around? Do you ever patronize them, talk over their heads, even bully them in person? Do you measure the value of IT based solely on technical capabilities rather than factoring in the business goals IT achieves or problems it solves?

In a recent conversation with an otherwise astute IT pro, the manager yakked on about business partners and end users as if they were annoyances. He admitted, for instance, to keeping IT organization auditors in the dark about technology decisions that were important to their work. Non-IT colleagues were to be placated and humored rather than understood. He seemed to take pride in distancing himself from the people he ostensibly was paid to serve.

Now, most of us commiserate with our office peers from time to time. It helps to blow off steam, and in moderation such gripe sessions can bring departments closer together.

But systemic negativism about department outsiders ultimately undermines respect and cooperation. Whether you're in IT, finance, engineering or sales, you're part of a team, not a club. Save the competitive posturing for the competition. Save the condescension, period.

Also, understand the huge difference between a committed community of professionals and a clique. U.S. Marines may place "unit" and "Corps" before "country" in their hierarchy of priorities, but there's no question that such parochial loyalties more than ably serve the national interest. The bonds (and brute bravery) that unite firefighters inspire them daily to race into blazing buildings and forests to save the lives of people they've never met.

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