The Cynics in the IT Department

There is a type of personality that is attracted to working in IT. You know it, the HR team knows it and most of the rest of the organisation knows it too. 

What most of them don’t know, however, is how that personality type is structured.

Think of IT Professionals as the ‘intelligent introverts’.  If you take stock of all the personalities in your IT department you’ll find on average:

  • High IQ
  • Introversion
  • A broad view of most situations
  • Logical thinking
  • Good memory

In Myers-Briggs terms, they’re often INTJs: in Insights Discovery, they’re the Cool Blues; in Social Styles they’re the Analytics and in NLP terms the Digitals.

Of course, not every person in the IT department has all of these personality traits, but overall, this is the picture I expect you’ll find.

Let’s look at how these personality traits can lead to the kind of scepticism and cynicism that you so often find in the IT Department.

High IQ

These are smart people. They can think faster than most of the rest of the company and can spot the flaws in an argument while everyone else is still digesting the ideas. Most of them ‘don’t suffer fools gladly’ and will instantly lose respect for someone who gets their facts wrong, makes errors of spelling or grammar or, even worse, tries to cover up a mistake.

They tend to be very good at spotting problems and solving them.  Sometimes before anyone else has realised there could be a problem.

They respect and value intelligence.  They have little patience with incompetence.


An introvert is someone who gets their energy and motivation from their own thoughts, rather than from interacting with others. 

Introverts value thought, not activity and rarely get involved in doing work that has no personal meaning for them. 

As a result, they usually have a quiet intensity in their dealing with others and are turned off by over-enthusiasm, what they see as unnecessary ‘hype’ and insincerity.  They can spot inauthenticity in other people and will use it a reason not to engage.

Introverts tend to be great observers. They see what’s going on, they listen to other people and they draw conclusions.

There is a principle that says:

“If you don’t know what an extravert thinks then you haven’t listened. If you don’t know what an introvert thinks, you haven’t asked”

Your average IT professional won’t offer his opinions about what’s going on in the organisation, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t got any. If the only time you ask is in an annual staff survey, you’re going to get it with both barrels!

A Broad View (also known as joined-up thinking)

Because someone can go into detail about a technical specialism, it’s tempting to think that they won’t also see the big picture. The reality is, the more intelligent a person is, the more detail they can handle at once. So the intelligent introvert has a ‘big picture’ view on things that’s a bit like a 5000-piece jigsaw. There’s nothing general about their big picture, it’s all based on absolute detailed fact.

Which means that that they can spot it a mile away if the business strategy doesn’t quite stack up. Or if the sales figures have been ‘spun’ a little bit to paint a slightly rosier picture than is really the case. Or if your competitors are implementing an innovation that will lead to serious competitive advantage and you don’t seem to be responding.

But remember, if you haven’t asked, they won’t tell you what they’re thinking.

Logical Thinking

Most IT Professionals started their love affair with technology at an early age. They learned to code and coding requires absolute logic. It’s the only language that computers can work with. 

So most of the people in your IT department are logical thinkers. What you tell them must ‘make sense’ or it will be dismissed and disregarded.

Can you honestly say that the person who put together your staff survey has a similar commitment to logic? If not, if there are some inconsistencies in the questions, or responses not catered for in a multiple choice selection, or even if you ask the same question in several different ways – it will irritate your intelligent introvert.

If it seems to him that there are inconsistencies in the questions, he’ll lose respect for the whole process. Then it becomes irritating to have to participate at all.

If the multiple choice questions don’t cater for the response he wants to make then you appear to be asking his opinion, but you’re making it impossible for him to tell you what he really thinks – no wonder he gets annoyed. 

And if you ask the same question in different ways? It’s common practice in personality profiles and staff surveys to ask the same question in a variety of ways to see if you get a consistent answer. To the intelligent introvert, this makes no sense. The answer is the answer. Why do you need to ask 3 times? Now he’s getting quite impatient with the whole process.

…and of course that will be reflected in the answers he makes to the questions in the survey.

Good memory

Many of your intelligent introverts have an excellent memory. Some of this is because they go about their business quietly and thoughtfully, they have time to order their thoughts and file them away for future reference. Some of it is to do with logic and process and some is related to other aspects of the mind.

So it’s not universally true, but you’re likely to have a lot of good memories in your IT department. Long memories.

Which means that they’ll remember the last time there was a ‘culture change’ that made no difference. And the last time the sales department started the year full of big talk and ended it below target. And the last time they told you that the system was overloaded and dangerously unstable but were ignored.

No wonder they get a bit cynical!

And I’m sorry to say, that the combination of all these personality traits can also make your IT professionals somewhat sensitive to slights and given to holding grudges. So once you lose their confidence and respect, getting it back again is hard.

What not to do

You can see now, why the conventional approach to boosting staff morale and engagement isn’t going to work here. You send in a team of bubbly, upbeat, positive-thinking types from HR to – well, to do anything really – and they will be as welcome as a slug in a salad.

Want some ideas on how to turn them these traits to your advantage, engaging the profitable brain power of your IT professionals and transforming the relationships between IT and ‘the business’?

You can download the full report: ‘The 3 Main Reasons the IT Department Nearly Always Comes Bottom in the Staff Survey’ here:

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