Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?

Fredric Paul, Editor in Chief / Community Activist | 3/10/2010 | 40 comments

Fredric Paul
Of course your company's employees don't hate the IT departement. Your company's staffers all love the IT department, right? Right? Right?!

Back in the dawn of time, or at least in the early days of the iPhone, I attended an Interop conference in Las Vegas. It was a fascinating conference, and at one point I found myself in a big room with some 20 IT professionals of various ranks sitting around pounding Bud Light long-necks and debating the IT issues of the day.

As I said, the iPhone was still relatively new at this point, so inevitably one of the topics that came up was whether enterprises should support this hot new gadget. Not surprisingly, the sentiment was running about 9-to-1 against, with the majority thinking of the shiny new toy as just that, a toy.

"I won't allow anything on the network that can't be wiped clean remotely," explained one guy, as others muttered approval. Another viewpoint held that it made sense for IT to support only one mobile device on their network, and it damn sure wasn't going to be the iPhone.

Good points, sure, especially back then.

What bugged me, though, was that no one -- not one person -- bothered to ask what the business benefit might be of using iPhones in the enterprise. It didn't even occur to them to think about the possible benefits of the device to the users or to the company, just about the hassles it might cause them!

But then came the kicker. Someone asked what they would do if the CEO of the company asked for one. There was a moment of silent consideration until one guy said caustically: "Tell him, 'Don't be a child.' "

I'm no Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) fan boy, but at that point I just about spit out my beer all over the fancy hotel ballroom carpet!

No wonder enterprise employees -- and sometimes CEOs -- hate the IT department. As this sad little episode makes clear, all too often the IT department is all about its own needs, and not so much about empowering both the company as a whole and individual users to be as productive as possible. So it's no surprise that many enterprise users feel that the IT department is not there to help them, but to stop them from doing their jobs as efficiently as possible. Or worse, that the IT department is there to complicate and delay the development projects they need to be competitive.

To go back to my example, I bet at this guy's company, not only do the employees hate the IT department, the "children" in the executive suite ain't too fond of the CIO either.

I'm not saying that CIOs can or should bow to the whims of every end user, even ones who outrank them. Or even that the CEO should have gotten a company iPhone.

But I am saying that this kind of conflict comes up all the time, and CIOs would do well to put the needs of their companies ahead of the comfort of their own departments. Or the answer to the title of this post is likely to be "yes." And that might be a bigger deal than you think.

How would your IT department have handled this situation? Is a little hate a good thing, or a sure sign of trouble?

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Paolo264   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   10/6/2011 12:05:56 PM
RE: IT
Some of the comments and views in this thread are mind boggling.

I've been working in IT for the last 12 years and it never ceases to amaze me at how hopelessly inept and incompetent people are when it comes to anything IT related and I'm not just talking computers here. I'm talking security, maintenance, general housekeeping, due diligence, respect for hardware, knowledge of software. The list goes on ad infinitum...

And some of you wonder why your IT departments act like they dont care or take too long to resolve an issue. Let me point a couple of things out:

1. IT people, at a low level in a company (e.g. deskside support) are usually regarded with less respect than a piece of excrement on someones shoe. They get zero training and almost no opportunity to progress their career.

2. They have to deal with end users who do not have a clue what they are doing. Example - would you decide to install a new version of an important piece of software on the last day of quarter in a sales company? Even if what you have already is working fine? I wouldn't because guess what - hitting my target is more important than having that cornflower blue icon on my desktop.

3. They are expected to know everything about every single piece of technology ever developed or invented.

4. They are constantly approached to fix personal laptops and PC's.

5. They get paid peanuts.

6. Their boss usually reports to an idiot who doesn't give a damn about IT.

7. They are the people who have to work nights and weekends to keep your systems up and running because maintenance cannot be done during business hours - they do this without you even knowing or caring.

8. They are the people who have to pain stakingly fix every single machine in an organisation when some clown decides to bring his USB storage drive into work, even though its against company policy, and infects the entire network and infrastructure with a virus.

9. And to top it all off, they are usually the first function to get canned when times get tough.

I could add another 50 or 60 points to this list.

I really think some of you need to re-evaluate your thoughts in regards IT deparments.

IT are typically over worked and under paid and the least respected organisation in any department by a long shot...

Some of your comments and opinions above infuriate me....
thingsithinkithink   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   4/8/2010 10:25:52 AM
thingsithinkithink
RE: IT
They hate the IT guys until one of their  computers crash... haha
The_Phil   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/25/2010 5:33:26 PM
Re: Who Hates Who
Fredric,

As far as the IT efficiency and innovation question goes, I think that there will hopefully be a balance between morphing existing resources and getting improved results in both the eyes of the business as well as IT folks.

This may appear to be a daunting task but all it takes is decent, not great, communication between both sides. First figure out what the users want and need to work better. Then take those recommendations and move with them towards what the IT staff already has in place. 

If all works as one would hope, the little things would get taken care of and the big elephants in the room would slowly get chipped away at until it ends up being taken care of completely, if requirements do not change along the way.

It's a slow and iterative process but it IS doable.
Fredric Paul   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/25/2010 4:24:51 PM
Re: Who Hates Who
I've spent some time working on this issue with IT folks at variuos levels, but frankly with limited success. The same reasons that actually cause the problem also work against getting folks to step up and deal with the problem.

The only way I see things getting better is for CIOs to recognize and reward people skills in their IT departments and CEOs to do the same with CIOs.

Finally, I wonder how the increased pressure for both IT efficiency and innovation will affect this situation.

Anyone have any thoughts on that?

 

 

 

 
Broadway   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/24/2010 11:51:12 PM
Re: Who Hates Who
Fred, I'll use that famous line that I'm not an IT bigot because I even have had IT people as friends.

No, seriously, I know I took some unfair shots at IT people with my nature vs. nurture argument. But one of the points I was trying to make is that in almost every organization that I've come into contact with, the way IT gets treated has closely been the same (OK, maybe there was an exception or two). And I think, because of that treatment -- sort of the same treatment that the weird cousin in the family gets -- IT people sort of get boxed into the misanthrope corner. They're expected to act a certain way ... so eventually they act that way. They feel that us. vs. them mentality, amongst their non-IT colleagues and amongst their peers in the IT dept, so they naturally start to share it.

And as for your comment about organizations needing to address co-worker relationships between IT and non-IT, I agree. I think it's a major failing of corporate leadership in the last 10-20 years that they have not addressed what can devolve into a serious issue. Those IT stereotypes wouldn't be so prevalent today, and damaging, had someone nipped them in the bud a long time ago.
Fredric Paul   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/23/2010 2:30:53 AM
Re: Who Hates Who
Paperphobe, I don't think you're being idealistic at all. I think everyone who draws a paycheck can, should, and must be held accountable for basic standards of politeness and honesty in intracompany communications.

And Broadway, I think you're being a bit cruel and stereotypical painting IT folks as misanthropes. Sure, some are, but not all. And they don't have to be. Most enterprises never even bother to address these issues, but even a bit of communications training would go a long way toward solving these problems.

Heck, some management training might not be a bad idea for CIOs, either.

 
Paperphobe   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/22/2010 10:30:15 PM
Re: Who Hates Who
I don't think it's being an idealist to expect people to act like adults and act, at least somewhat, in the best interests of their company.

If a department suddenly needs something new that isn't currently supported, the head of that dept and the CIO should be getting together, discussing costs vs productivity increases the new app/systems/machine.  If it seems like a good idea, then the CIO checks with other depts to see if they could also use this new technology.  Then budgets get done, systems purchased, and training/roll out done.  

I think a lot of the reason why this doesn't happen more often is because the us vs. them mentality with IT.  What would happen if IT really took to heart that their customers are the employees in the company?  What if they published regularly, informing users of new technology and why this may or may not be implemented (or what's being done to find out).  Held regular training classes or published FAQs to the intranet to head off the top 5 most common support calls from the month before?  Perhaps I'm drifting off into idealism here, but as an operations person, this can drastically reduce support headaches when communication is increased.  Not to mention what it can do for everyone playing nice, since it's obvious IT is trying hard to be responsive.
Paperphobe   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/22/2010 10:20:56 PM
Re: Who Hates Who
Wow, CM.  Luckily I've never seen that.  The worst I've seen was a hardware guy screwing up his home PC about 100 different ways before it was returned to the office after his firing.
Broadway   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/22/2010 9:25:52 PM
re:Do your employees hate the IT department?
I can't get enough of this thread! Now my question is, are IT dept employees conditioned to be such jerks or is it genetic? The ol' nature vs. nurture argument, my friends. It seems like this us vs. them attitude that many IT depts have is a cultural thing, passed down from one employee onto another.

But I would posit too that IT attracts a certain personality, and without having waayyyy too much fun listing primary personality traits---I'll leave that for others!---I'd say one of them is a tendency toward siege mentality. Another is the inability to relate to others. Another the inability to communicate. Another is a tendency to be condescending ... ok, I couldn't resist.
Fredric Paul   Do Your Employees Hate the IT Department?   3/20/2010 8:39:23 PM
re:Do your employees hate the IT department?
That's awesome.

To be honest, I've covered the way IT folks treat users before, but in an SMB perspective.

These are real tactics employed by real IT people to avoid helping users:

Top 6 User Avoidance Techniques:
  1. Reboot and try it again: Always a classic, with the added benefit that it often actually works!
     
  2. We're working on it: Maybe we are. Maybe we aren't.
     
  3. I'm going to have to do some additional research. I'll get back with you when I know more. Never commit to how much more
     
  4. It's on my list: Just don't say what list.
     
  5. Submit a ticket: Works especially well in shops that don't use help desk tickets.
     
  6. The problem is with their server, not ours: Don't we wish?

Honorable mentions include "I have higher priority issues right now," "we need to upgrade the software/server/network to do that," "Oh, it must be the flux capacitor," "RTFM" (Read the F%#&ing Manual), and "solar flares!" And vice versa, a problem that corrects itself is known as an FM problem. Short for "Freakin' Magic."

 

If that's not enough, here are the Top 4 Acronyms IT uses to refer to end users:
  1. ID-Ten-T: Written as ID10T, natch
     
  2. PICNIC: Problem In Chair, Not In Computer
     
  3. PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair
     
  4. CODE 18: An error due to the being 18 inches from the screen

For more on this topic, check out "What IT Folks REALLY Think" @ http://bmighty.informationweek.com/ebusiness/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212000807

 

 
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