10 ways MBAs make work hell for IT

Want to test an IT pro's patience? Just bring in a manager with an MBA, and watch the magic unfold

Tech life in hell: 10 ways MBAs drive tech pros insane
Credit: Thinkstock
Tech life in hell: 10 ways MBAs drive tech pros insane

Managers with MBAs know business -- and how to drive IT pros bonkers.

Maybe it's what they learn in school. Maybe it's a management tic -- er, tip -- they picked up somewhere along the way. Whatever the reason, MBA-carrying bosses can often get under our skin and make tech work hell. That’s not to say every MBA is a detriment to IT, but we’ve all suffered our share of bad apples in suits.

Check out these 10 headache-inducing habits and tactics and see how many you've encountered.

1. Slinging lingo they don't understand
Credit: Thinkstock
1. Slinging lingo they don't understand

The fresh-out-of-business-school boss -- or FOOBS, if you prefer -- often feels the need to add his two cents into everything. When it comes to IT-related matters, that can mean showing off "expertise" by dropping high-tech lingo that doesn't add anything meaningful to the project at hand -- or derails it.

It could be talk of "integrating a cloud strategy into the mainframe upgrades." Or perhaps a suggestion of "increasing the servers' bandwidth" to speed up the office's Internet connections.

Whatever it is, you can bet it makes IT pros cringe -- and look for the exit if the lingo-slinger is steering the project.

2. Numbing our brains with business-speak
Credit: Thinkstock
2. Numbing our brains with business-speak

Yeah, yeah -- we know: Synergizing around the pending paradigm shift to engage solutions providers on next-level action items sounds like a fine idea to you, Mr. MBA. Heck, it might even help illustrate the 30,000-foot view by adding seamless integration into the change agent at the core of our value-added proposition. That's what the e-commerce space is all about, right?

Look, we get it: You've read a few business textbooks. But for those of us in the real world, terms like "synergize" convey just one meaning: The person speaking them is a poor communicator, prone to vagaries, and we're going to have to work extra hard to figure out what he's actually saying -- or learn to ignore him.

3. Thinking outside the box -- and straight into oblivion
Credit: Thinkstock
3. Thinking outside the box -- and straight into oblivion

Because who needs a budget or the ability to obtain important resources when you can just "think outside the box," right? It's the answer to every IT-related problem, if by "answer," you mean "way of avoiding the issue and hoping it'll magically solve itself." 

As the IT pro, you'd better hope you find a way to make that magic happen, too. Otherwise, you can rest assured it'll show up as a negative on your next performance review. Hey, we're in the midst of a paradigm shift here, pal -- someone's gotta synergize.

4. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
Credit: Thinkstock
4. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings

When thinking outside of the box isn’t getting it done, the MBA manager's favorite solution is to hold a meeting. Time to upgrade some computers? Better hold a meeting. Time to place an order for printer paper? Let’s meet and whip up an action plan. Time to figure out when to hold the next meeting? Yeeeeah, we'd better have a quick pow-wow on that.

Nine times out of 10, the agenda for a meeting revolves around you bringing management up to speed on everything you've emailed them over the past seven days and then answering to a slew of new “wouldn’t it be great if” wish-fulfillment fantasies.

5. Hierarchies, not meritocracies
Credit: Thinkstock
5. Hierarchies, not meritocracies

If there's one thing MBAs love, it's organizational hierarchy -- better known as Too Many Bosses Syndrome. It's the reason folks in IT are always stuck dealing with some middle-manager whose sole job seems to be pestering them on behalf of the next guy up the chain.

The real insult to injury is that hierarchies tend to reward business skills over tech skills -- you know, the stuff you were actually hired to do. So the idea of corporate culture as a meritocracy often goes out the window as far as your career is concerned.

No time to think about it, though: Boss #1 just passed along word from Boss #2 that it's time for another meeting.

6. Bureaucracy
Credit: Thinkstock
6. Bureaucracy

Take a moment to consider this: How could an office possibly run without constantly reflecting on what’s been done or documenting what’s next -- you know, all those complex reports on every sneeze, novel-length forms for every toilet paper purchase, and cover sheets for everything imaginable? (Paging Bill Lumbergh...

Oh, wait: It'd probably run a lot better than it does now. You might actually have more time to get work done if you didn't have to stop work to wrap your work up in paper just to unwrap it so you can get back to work again.

D'oh.

7. Interruption as company culture
Credit: Thinkstock
7. Interruption as company culture

Quick: What's the easiest way a well-meaning MBA-toting manager could make you go postal? If you answered "finding an excuse to interrupt you every 10 minutes," congrats! You've just earned a cookie.*

For some reason, corporate culture seems to think that breaking employees' focus 50 times a day to check in on how things are going, ask for an updated ETA, or deliver a personal reminder about something that was mentioned in a memo is perfectly acceptable. As most IT pros can attest, all that really accomplishes is making you want to scream.

*Please note that "cookie" is actually an abbreviation for our new incentive program, "Creating Open Opportunities for Knowledge that Inspires Excellence." Great work, slick!

8. Using euphemisms to make extra work seem less imposing
Credit: Thinkstock
8. Using euphemisms to make extra work seem less imposing

The statements all sound the same: 

"Hey, awesome job on this. Just a few minor suggestions..." 

"I had some small thoughts about how we could tweak this..."

"This is perfect! Let's massage things just a little..."

What do they all have in common? They're carefully constructed to make it sound like you've got a mere two minutes of extra work ahead of you, when what your boss actually means is: "This is okay, but I want it to be drastically different (even though I haven't taken the time to fully understand what you did)."

See how much easier things are when we're honest?

9. Post-project ‘noblesse oblige’ notes
Credit: Thinkstock
9. Post-project ‘noblesse oblige’ notes

You know the ones I mean, right? Those company-wide messages managers send after a big project, thanking everyone involved and congratulating the team on a great group effort? 

Good, gracious managers give good thanks, but often, you don’t have to read too deeply between the lines to see the real message hidden inside:

"Look at me, everyone! I did a wonderful job managing these tech misfits. And now I'm demonstrating my magnificent management skills by showing how willing I am to share the credit with the people who actually did the work while reinforcing the idea that I'm the shining beacon around which the effort revolved."

Extra points for an inspirational quote in the signature.

10. Forward-based delegation
Credit: Thinkstock
10. Forward-based delegation

If Management Lesson #1 is learning to delegate, Annoying Manager Behavior #1 is delegating every question or request that comes one's way (including management and leadership responsibilities) via the classic email forward. 

You've worked for this guy at some point, haven't you? Any issue that comes into his inbox gets forwarded to someone else along with a few choice words:

"Handle this please"

"Can you respond"

Or the super-succinct favorite:

"?"

Whatever follows, you'd better deal with it right away. You've only got about seven minutes before the boss stops by to check in on how things are going.