it managers

How IT managers can support overwhelmed team members

Being an IT manager is hard.

Solving daily IT issues is all-consuming, let alone the demands of a job that requires managing a team with different personalities, motivations and work styles.

So doing the IT work becomes the simple part. Leading your team to succeed, however, is far more complex — and rewarding. Some of the most fulfilling aspects of an IT manager’s job include helping direct reports grow, tackling projects as a team and building strong relationships.

The longer you do it, the better you become at providing your team with a strong support system that encourages accountability, transparency and trust.

We had an opportunity to talk with Syntax’s Customer Service Center Director Lucus Witt to get his perspective on how IT managers can ease workload pressure and set their teams up for success.

Q: When do you know when an IT staff member is overwhelmed?

Witt: I have a fairly large team, but I try to interact with them as much as possible. As a manager, you usually see an employee start to become very withdrawn from the work environment when they’re overloaded with work. The way they interact with other team members often becomes shorter and coarser.

We also run a lot of metrics to track employee workloads. Based on the category of work and the amount of assigned work, we can usually predict situations when team members have too much on their plate before it happens.

Q: What’s the best way to address the situation?

Witt: Address the employee directly. Either myself or my team lead will pull the employee aside and talk with them one on one. We typically ask where their biggest pain points are, what suggestions they have, and if they can train someone else to help if that employee is the sole provider of that type of support.

We also keep a very open environment from the team lead level and up. We stay approachable, so employees feel comfortable coming to us when they see a problem develop. Finally, we strive to ensure employees feel supported by the rest of their team, and that they share knowledge to help spread the workload.

Q: What’s a bad way to address the situation? 

Witt: Never ignore the situation and think it will resolve itself once the work is complete. Avoiding workplace issues lowers the morale of the whole team. One overwhelmed employee’s stress can affect everyone around them, not to mention the discontent that quickly spreads when employees witness indifferent managers.

Additionally, never try to isolate the employee so they can complete their work — they should always have the backing and support they need. Valuable IT employees who feel overworked and underappreciated may look for the support they need from a new employer.

Q: Should an IT manager attempt to address it alone? 

Witt: No, an IT manager should make sure others, including team leads and HR professionals, are aware of any employee issues. Use all the resources you have to try to help the employee get the support they need.

IT managers should also enlist other team members with lighter workloads to assist overwhelmed employees. Involving other team members has the added benefit of cross-training, which increases overall team efficiency and creates a sense of value among coworkers.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about IT management?

Witt: Make sure to have frequent touchpoints with your team and get to know every individual as a person. The better you know your employees, the easier it is to spot the signs when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Always keep in mind each person is different from the next.

Keep a close eye on your team’s workload. If it consistently trends up, don’t be afraid to bring those metrics to your superior and ask to increase your headcount.

Bringing IT all together

Every corporate culture has a different philosophy, but good management practices are consistent across companies. Poor IT managers are avoidant and unresponsive, which often leads to high turnover. The best IT managers, on the other hand, are supportive leaders that empower their teams to do their best work.