IT Hero Culture

Two things recently appeared on my radar which got me thinking about the IT Hero culture. One came through the vExpert slack feed and later followed up by a blog post and the other was through a conversation with my sister. In both instances the people suffered health issues due to undertaking too many hours at work in a condensed time period. Following this I began thinking about the issues IT employees face when it comes to time management and finding a balance between keeping systems online 24×7 and actually having a fulfilling life outside of work. The whole IT Hero culture has been an issue for me for a long time, particularly since I suffered from it a number of times myself. I ended up sacrificing family time to work on numerous occasions and only in hindsight did I really see it as being a problem. Before proceeding however I’d like to point out that I don’t have an issue with someone putting in extra time to learn something new, provide shift work support or ensure life-saving services remain online. Or in the rare case that there’s a critical issue that needs to be resolved quickly. There’s also people that want to operate their lives putting more emphasis on work than home life and that’s fine too. My particular problem is more around the perception that you cannot be replaced and that you have to be seen to do extra work all the time in order to show value in your position.

There’s a real problem in IT where employers expect more and more of an employees personal time in order to keep systems up and running or to complete projects. Usually this aligns to work cultures where anyone seeing to leave at a regular time every day is judged to not be part of the ‘team’ despite completing their workload within the allotted time. It is particularly noticeable at smaller consultancy firms but the big ones are just as guilty. But the truth is that it’s not all down to employers. As the employee you really need to set the boundaries and expectations with your employer and more importantly advocate for yourself and your needs. However that contradicts the predominant IT culture of employees that put themselves on a pedestal as the saviour of the day. The combination of lack of boundaries, employee advocacy and embedded perception of self-importance leads to what I think is a negative work-life balance.  Read More