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IT Primma Donnas

November 17, 2010

I have been thinking of primma donnas in the IT industry lately. I would have thought by now, IT management and processes have progressed and I should not expect to see any of such personalities in IT, but no, they are still around. I still see them and even lately had a chance to work with one of them sometime 2009.

What are they? An IT primma donna is a staff who has got the company by the you know where. They hold the ultimate technical knowledge so much so that management cowers to them. Lacking anyone else who knows the technical stuff of their system, management fears the possibility of the primma donna leaving. They think that should the primma donna leaves, their organization will go down the tubes. Primma donnas are a type of corporate bully that is immune from sackings. Sure, they can butter up management too, that is how they get some job security, but deep thinking staff and managers know, they got a primma donna in their midst and if truth be known, they do not like it.

How did they become a primma donna? What environment breeds them?

My observation is that normally an organization runs on crisis mode, and the staff who usually saves management from the dust hole, i.e., the savior or champion, becomes or leads into becoming a primma donna. Since management keeps on running on crisis mode, always needing a attention and to be bailed out, this zealous staff always obliges to be its savior. Pretty soon, the staff realizes, hey, there is something to be made of this. There is your primma donna right there in the making.

Microsoft ran an article on how to manage your primma donna. I disagree with this article’s approach on the subject.

My point is this, management should spend its energies trying to avoid making their operation breeding grounds for primma donnas to flourish. Why? Because your primma donna might save you today but (s)he will be your bully or your tyrant tomorrow; you will need saving from (her)himself! Pretty soon, the primma donna becomes your management crisis itself!

Any experiences with primma donnas? Let me know.

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