Management often ignores the impact of antisocial behavior on IT productivity as the social and cognitive aspects of knowledge work aren’t valued or understood.
The antisocial behavior used by corporate sociopaths is particularly destructive to large IT initiatives that are a product of many minds and emotions. These Initiatives sometimes require hundreds of hyperspecialized workers, across business and IT, to co-create a solution. To be successful, these coworkers must form a collaborative social system powered by emotional energy, deep institutional knowledge, meaningful relationships, creativity and trust-based collaboration. Large social structures like these are highly fragile and tend to break when helping behaviors are replaced by protective responses. This is analogous to shutting down the network; it just happens to be a social one.
Unfortunately, I’ve encountered many corporate sociopaths over the years, and found that unproductive antisocial behaviors are widespread and tolerated. Traditional corporations tend to cling to the industrial model of management, which focuses on process and technology rather than people. I’ve also witnessed what follows in the wake of toxic leaders and their socially corrosive leadership practices, helping me understand just how damaging antisocial behavior is to knowledge workers’ productivity. Yes, caring about others is highly productive, and antisocial behavior is highly destructive because “human infrastructure” can be shut down just like a data center.
Corporate sociopaths—and antisocial behavior—need to be seen for what they are: highly damaging to the productive and innovative capacity of any organization, destroying the return on human capital. CEOs must understand that if their knowledge workers are not flourishing, their companies won’t either. Knowledge workers are assets, not expenses. Like all assets, they must be nurtured and allowed to grow.
About the Author
Frank Wander, a former CIO, is founder and CEO of the IT Excellence Institute, and author of Transforming IT Culture, How to Use Social Intelligence, Human Factors and Collaboration to Create an IT Department That Outperforms (Wily, 2013). For his previous CIO Insight article, “IT Failure and the Dehumanization of the Workforce,” click here.
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