Practitioners: Do you feel unwelcome in your hometown?

bibleAs a practitioner within a large organization and having been so for about eight years now, I find myself quoting the Bible every now and then when talking to my colleagues about IT consultants.

The quote I mostly refer to is Luke 4:24 – “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

I’m not a religious person, but from my Bible reading I can definitely understand the frustration and the annoyance of not being listened to by management. Jesus probably didn’t have a problem with his management per se, but he sure had some problems getting his message through.

Have you ever felt this?

There seem to be two main situations within business where people feel like the unwelcomed prophet; when they return from a course and when the IT consultant shows up.

Situation One: Bad Education

Employees return from a course, perhaps even with a certificate of excellence, filled with new knowledge and energy. Do management and colleagues listen to these employees and the new knowledge that they have to share? Or are they too preoccupied listening to their favourite podcast (I know that even I have been guilty of this)?

This is a good example of the prophet (the employee) not being welcomed. Colleagues and bosses don’t accept that the employee has gained new knowledge, nor will they let them use their new insights. Nobody believes that the employee has come back from the course more skilled than before.

However, some people do come back from a course with a clear vision of how to change things for the better. They can connect their new insights to their already existing knowledge and wisdom. But no one cares since they can’t see that the prophet actually has anything new to say.

In this situation an employee will feel unappreciated. Why did the company invest both good time and money in education that they aren’t prepared to listen to and/or harvest any value from?

Situation Two: All hail the Messiah

I’m sure most of us have, at least once, found ourselves in the situation where a new IT consultant is brought into the team and suddenly receives “Messiah” status. You know, where management automatically listens to everything he or she says? Often despite the fact that you have been saying the exact same thing for years and no one ever bothered to listen to you. The stranger is more welcome than the, since long established, employee.

The consultants words are automatically taken for truth, the measures they suggest are taken as law and if you (the practitioner) do not obey then you are a troublemaker without a doubt.

In this situation an employee will feel a lack of confidence from management and that their skills and knowledge are less valuable than a strangers.

Sadly enough I have seen many practitioners go against the IT consultants, even when they actually agree with them, simply because they felt wrongly treated by management.

So how should you handle these situations?

Unfortunately I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you how I’ve personally started to deal with these situations as a practitioner (aka the prophet).

  • Let things take time ­– if you come back from a great course, sit on your new found knowledge for a while and share it piece by piece.
  • Don’t give up – when you feel unappreciated and mistreated, stand up straight and show that you are to be reckoned with.
  • See the good for the company, not just yourself – it’s not a one man show and sometimes it’s okay to stand back for the greater good.
  • Let the consultants shine too – if the IT consultant does a good job, it will rub off on you. You might even learn something new.

In Summary

The consultants that are the good ones understand the problem of prophet/practitioner vs Messiah/consultant, the not so good ones don’t mind taking credit for everything as long as they look good in the eyes of management. Needless to say we (the practitioners) don’t care much for the latter.

Good consultants know how to cultivate and grow the practitioners that they work with – and we, the good practitioners, know how to behave to maximize this symbioses of development and change.

So if you are in a place where you feel like the consultants are Messiah, where the gospel are sung only by outside people and where you preach to deaf ears or an empty temple, think again.

If management does not utilize your skills and knowledge the way you feel is for the best, be persistent and await your time.

Maybe it’s not the words of Luke but the words of Matthew we should embrace; “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39)

To any practitioners reading this article, how do you personally deal with these situations?

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3 thoughts on “Practitioners: Do you feel unwelcome in your hometown?”

  1. Nice post Tobias and very relevant in today`s context. In my opinion, it all boils down to building credibility. It takes time, but when you are a seasoned practitioner and importantly matured, you know that people cannot keep you unnoticed. The important aspect as you rightly pointed out is to work for the benefit of the Organizational result rather than proving one`s worth. When it comes to the latter, I think we all should be open enough to admit that we do not know everything and the cup is still not full. We might pick those key learning aspects when we are open and receptive. Being Collaborative with the hired consultant can create a win-win proposition

  2. Interesting post Tobias. Personally I think it is very important to understand the length of time it can actually take to 1) Gain the confidence of the organization (assuming they don’t re-organize too often) and 2) realize the fruits of your labour. Ours is not a job for people interested in instant gratification. It is however, nice once in a while to realize that management is listening.

    I think your biblical reference is an interesting one as well. Often we are seen as preaching, and I think that sometimes preaching the book (bible = ITIL) is never going to work, instead we need to focus on the problems in the organization and the message that the owners of those problems need to hear. Consultants have an advantage with their fresh eyes, being able to spot these problems.

    Like you say…Don’t give up!

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