IT staff push good behaviour limits

Just what do IT staff have to do to get fired these days? Well, it seems, quite a lot in America.

Just what do IT staff have to do to get fired these days?

Well, it seems, quite a lot in America.The latest reports from the US say that the shortage of IT workers is so bad they will put up with ever-decreasing standards of behaviour.

"The line of subordination has moved. Managers are more willing to tolerate more misbehaviour," says one US human resources consultant.

Rather than firing naughty staff, or those just not up to it, companies are working more with employees to help them make the grade.

They are sending them on courses, transferring them to other departments and offering counselling.

Publicly, US bosses say that the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years do not mean lower standards.

People are still booted out, they say, for workplace offences like drunkenness at work and, of course, sexual harassment.

But privately, according to reports, many executives say they will keep marginal employees because they fear they cannot find a suitable replacement fast enough.

One Californian technology firm admits they tolerate certain behaviour "because it's a sellers market".

The human resources portal HR.com also says replacing staff is so expensive, firms find it cheaper to keep poor staff rather than risk hiring someone new.

However, the New York-based Career-Engine warns this may not set a good example to others.

If a slacker gets away with slacking, other will wonder why they should bust their gut.

Another technology firm says most firings result from a breakdown in communications, so they mix staff from different departments and encourage people to get on with each other.

The boss of this firm helps such socialising by treating staff to cruises on his boat. This way, the sales reps know IT staff are not geeks, who in turn learn that the reps are also lovely people.

And then there is the Milwaukee firm that upped sticks to a depressed area "to be closer to eager workers".

However, in New Zealand, workers must still behave themselves, no matter how much their skills are in demand.

A straw poll of Kiwi IT and HR managers says bad behaviour from IT, or any other staff, will never be tolerated.

Corporates such as The Warehouse, Carter Holt Harvey and New Zealand Post, say this is not an issue for them. They treat all their staff the same.

Pacific Retail Group executive director Stefan Preston says, on this issue, he is happy to cut off his nose to spite face.

"Never sacrifice a principle no matter how desperate the situation," he says.

Peter Marwick of Candle IT & T Recruitment says a tightening labour market has not increased company reluctance to fire, but employment law does.

IT Futures retention consultant Reid Pittams also confirms Kiwi employment law is the main factor influencing firings, saying our rules are tougher than those in the US.

He says he often receives calls from companies seeking advice on procedures.

"The Employment Court tends to support the employee. The whole effort it takes to defend the action, it's a big disincentive to go down that track. It is a different story in the US," he says.

However, he says the tight IT market has brought about one change.

Companies are becoming more careful about who they hire.

"They are having more second interviews and checking references more rigorously. They are reducing the risk of picking a bad employee," he says.

So the message for New Zealand workers is "behave yourself and carry on doing a good job".

And for employers seeking keener staff, there is always Northland or the East Cape.

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