Horror Stories

Among my tasks as editor of CIO Insight is to read the letters we get and decide which ones to print.

Usually, it’s a fairly straightforward business: Like every magazine, we publish the best and most interesting articles we can, and in response we get a healthy combination of thoughtful analyses, hearty compliments, mild disagreements, bitter complaints and outright attacks.

All part of a day’s work.
But every now and then an article touches a nerve, and the letters just pour in. The topic of outsourcing invariably sets off the letter writers; any article that mentions Open Source is bound to elicit all kinds of touchy responses, no matter what the context; and even the iPod has become a flashpoint.

No topic, however, generates more letters than workplace issues.

Last spring, Robert Sutton wrote a column discussing the problem of abusive bosses—the sorts of jerks who make life miserable for everyone around them. The column generated dozens of e-mails, many of them sad tales of bad bosses who, all too frequently, had driven their employees to quit out of sheer frustration.

Readers also responded strongly to our November research on the IT organization, which looked at how companies organize their IT efforts, and what works best.

Here’s the point: There’s a lot of underlying unhappiness in IT departments throughout corporate America. Now, you could argue that the sort of people who write letters tend to be complainers. Yet the November research I mentioned above contained a telling finding: 23 percent of respondents agreed that IT morale is so low that it impedes productivity and effectiveness in reaching strategic goals.

Worse, that number rises to almost 40 percent among respondents from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. IT morale is bad, and bad morale can do serious damage to a company’s productivity and success. What’s wrong?

In this issue, Reporter Debra D’Agostino takes a look at the problem of morale by analyzing the relationship between CIOs and their lieutenants (page 45). Her contention is that while CIOs have made great strides in focusing on the strategic elements of their jobs, they aren’t paying enough attention to what goes on in their own backyards. Too often, the result is a leadership vacuum, resulting in poorly communicated goals and misalignment between IT and the business. Turn to her story to find out how to cure these problems.

And keep those letters coming.

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