It goes without saying that when there’s a big problem at a company, the guy at the top gets the brunt of the blame.
In the aftermath of an Internet outage or a cybersecurity breach, this means the CTO or the CIO in charge of IT. So, how do they cope with the stress and anxiety?
For these individuals, “coping” used to be just another part of the job. After all, there’s a bit of stress in nearly every industry. Furthermore, serious IT incidents rarely occurred, and when they did, they were generally quite manageable. Like other occupations, if you were good at your job, breaches and outages didn’t happen.
Today, however, IT incidents are big, bad, and more common than ever. Now, even if you’re good (or even great) at what you do, they can happen with frequency, and you get the blame. The effects of this stress have been notable in the tech industry.
A recent study found that 51% of global business leaders suffer from “stress-related illnesses and/or damage to their mental well-being in the aftermath of cyberattacks, IT outages, or network failures.” These disruptions can cost clients hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in lost revenue, and research shows that this stress and anxiety can even extend to families of C-suite members.
The Personal Toll of IT Outages
After a cyberattack or serious outage, it’s easy to see that corporate-level executives and management go into a state of urgency. There’s reason why, after all. For every hour their site is down or they can’t get access to their data and systems, hundreds of thousands of dollars can disappear into thin air.
Now, transfer this stress from the corporate execs to the IT specialists. CTOs and CIOs are in the hot seat for these outages. According to some, verbal and online abuse can become a problem. Individuals may be fired or choose to resign. In fact, resignations following negative IT events are on the rise. Whether these are by force or by choice is not always clear.
Building Resilience in the Face of IT-Related Stress
Mollie Lombardi, a human capital management analyst, states that stressed out managers are a sign that the corporate world is getting stressed out in general. Within all levels of corporate employment, tensions are constantly at a near-breaking point. This, in turn, greatly affects these individuals’ personal lives and also their team morale and drive at work.
Fortunately, the stress related to IT work doesn’t have to end a career or result in major anxiety-related health problems. It’s possible to cope in a better way than just “riding it out.”
Here are some anxiety-reducing suggestions, particularly for IT execs and other decision-makers who may be negatively affected by the stress of their industry.
- Employ a ticketing system.
IT ticketing makes IT support more efficient and effective. This involves first identifying and capturing the core problem or issue (automatically, based on unusual social or email behavior triggers, or by a particular employee or user). As the issue is dealt with, each stage of analysis and progress is carefully recorded.
This can help IT workers feel confident about how they handle difficult issues. It gives them a “paper trail” to look to in the future and keeps employees honest and organized. It also reduces confusion and hesitancy within your IT department or company.
- Learn how to manage your stress.
It’s important to manage stress before getting stressed. In other words, you need to lay a framework for how you’ll deal with a stressful situation should it arise.
As an example, when you’re stressed, it should be your go-to solution to turn to exercise, meditation, taking a walk, or meeting a friend for a talk over coffee. It should not be a solution to drink heavily, stress shop, avoid the situation altogether, or stop communicating.
- Identify where “the stress line” is for yourself and others.
Every employee should know where the line is when it comes to handling their own stress. This goes part and parcel with being able to manage stress on the whole. Subtle signs may be red flags that you’ve hit your tipping point:
- You’re not sleeping well.
- You feel physically ill.
- Minor annoyances affect you on a deep level.
- You employ worst-case scenario thinking for everything.
- You snap at co-workers, friends, and family.
- You ruminate and cannot shake negative thoughts.
- Adjust workloads where necessary.
If you’re a CIO or CTO, ensure that you’re changing the stigma of mental health in your company or department. It’s up to you to observe yourself as well as your staff. Look for individuals who are struggling to cope with their workloads or who need a break from their usual tasks. Observe yourself as well.
Preemptively avoiding severe stress in IT will not only improve morale and overall employee satisfaction, but it will also help avoid actual IT issues in the first place. A more comfortable, well-adjusted IT team will always be more effective.
While it’s no longer possible for most IT executives to completely separate their careers from their personal lives, it is possible to avoid the potentially devastating ramifications of work-related stress. Indeed, in this day and age, CTOs and CIOs carry a heavy burden for their clients. However, the ultimate state of one’s mental health should always supersede corporate pressure for perfectionism in terms of importance. This goes for any industry, including IT.