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Is A Bad Attitude Damaging The IT Profession? 892

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the who-cares-and-shut-up dept.
dtienes writes "Why does IT get a free pass to insult users? Slamming customers isn't acceptable in any other profession; doctors don't call their patients "meatbags" — at least, not publicly. But IT professionals think nothing of wearing their scorn on their sleeves (or at least their chests — just check out ThinkGeek). There's more at stake here than just a few hard feelings. IT may be seriously damaging the credibility of the profession. See the essay I'm An Idiot (And Other Lessons From The IT Department) for a former IT professional turned user's take on insults, attitudes and ethics. (Full disclosure: The submitter is also the author.)"
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Is A Bad Attitude Damaging The IT Profession?

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  • An example (Score:5, Funny)

    by maztuhblastah (745586) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:40PM (#17603646) Journal
    Nothing for you to see here, please move along

    See, it's attitudes like that....
    • Re:An example (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:44PM (#17603706)
      What about those customers who then treat IT like dirt every time a problem occurs? IT is only the savior when something gets fixed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xaositecte (897197)
        That's true of pretty much every career field. You're not worth something until it works, and if it's not, it has to be the expert's fault.
      • Re:An example (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2007 @06:36PM (#17606692)
        You replace a users broken monitor. Two hours later, that same user calls back and complains that since you replaced the "computer", they can not print anymore and they have a filing due in 10 minutes. "IT always does this, does anyone there know what they are doing up there?". Rumors are spread among the users that IT has screwed up again. Another user offers up that Outlook isn't working either because a client called and stated they did not get an email I sent them. I just emailed this person yesterday and they got it, what happened today? We can not work like this, IT department is a bunch of idiots.

        That printer was out of paper, had you looked at the screen it has, you would have seen that. We also provide you 20 printers on this floor that you can print too, sorry you have to walk 20 feet to pickup a job from that printer over there. There is wheels on your chair, push yourself over there if you do not want to get up, go in reverse, it is easier to move yourself in the chair that way.
        As for that email? Thanks for calling my supervisor and CC'ing an email to our VP telling them that no one has helped you yet with that email problem. I looked through your box and our server logs, I see yesterday you sent an email to client@aol.com, today you mailed client@aol.con. It was rejected because aol.con does not exist and you received an email telling you that. I called you for some clarification and to explain this to you but got your voice mail. I went by your desk and you waved me off. The other unrelated email problem you had today was their server rejected it because you attached a 75MB file. Our system can handle and process that but the recipients server can not based on the second rejection email you received. There is nothing I can do about that, I don't know why they have it set that way, I know the client told you it should work but he/she will have to speak to their OWN IT department to clear up that issue. No, I am not calling the clients own IT department for a problem the client is having with his IT department and his email system.

        My opinion..
        I wish there was a nice way to put these things but if a user is automatically stressed and irate, they are probably going to be treated the same way in return. I guess it should not be that way but I am not the whipping boy either. We are ALL professionals. We all work in the same company and all are required to be here and do our job for this to work. If we were not needed, the company would not employ us. If technology and IT was so easy, we would be getting half what we do get. Explaining complex situations to the users is a hard task, even more so when they already have their mind made up.

        Here is a very specific example of a user trying to blame the IT deparment that I did not include above. This actually happens to use quite often.

        We have a computer based time tracking system (software time clock) that all hourly employees use. When we do "on next logon" software updates, sometimes it takes a few minutes and delays the users computer from getting to the prompt to check into the time clock. Supervisors are aware of when we push software updates so they can look out for people that are a few minutes late checking in and adjust as required. We often have users call us directly and complain that somehow they were given some random software push which delayed their check in and want us to call their supervisor. We had no updates scheduled, no reference or logs on that computer to indicate any update was pushed to their computer that day and they get pissed. "Well someone was updating something", bullshit, do not blame it on us because you were 3 minutes late. On that note, people have tried the bad mouse or KB thing as well when they are late.
               
        • Re:An example (Score:4, Insightful)

          by liquidpele (663430) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @10:03PM (#17608460) Journal
          There is a very simple solution for your situation.
          In most IT organizations, only managers are able to contact IT; normal employees cannot.
          This way troublesome employees have to bring the stupid shit up to the managers that oversee them and rate them at the end of the year for their raises and bonuses. The amount of shit aimed at you won't disappear, it it will usually go down at least 50%.
        • Re:An example (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspaM.hotmail.com> on Monday January 15, 2007 @12:07AM (#17609374) Journal
          We are ALL professionals.

          No, we're not. As an industry, we look produce products and perform services that are dictated by our own failings and conveniences rather than our customers' needs.
          Assume the customer was once right, but has been made bitter and defensive by repeated arrogant IT messages (YOU have performed an illegal action and will be shut down...), and you won't be far from understanding current IT/user relationships.

          That printer was out of paper, had you looked at the screen it has, you would have seen that.

          The user should have got a simple, understandable message that the printer was out of paper. That's a failure of the OS designer and printer driver developer.

          It was rejected because aol.con does not exist and you received an email telling you that.

          The user's email software should have picked up the typo and suggested a correction (in fact, most email clients do). Users are used to ignoring dozens of cryptic error messages daily, because we have to, in order to continue working. Make computers more reliable, and error messages more intelligible, and we'll start paying attention to them.

          I called you for some clarification and to explain this to you but got your voice mail. I went by your desk and you waved me off.

          The user is employed by your company to work. They generate income for the company. You are employed by your company to service the tools they use to generate the money that pays your salary. You are a cost to the company.
          They owe you politeness out of common decency, but common sense suggests you should avoid interrupting their work.

          The other unrelated email problem you had today was their server rejected it because you attached a 75MB file.

          The user needs to get a 75MB file to the customer. Stop whining and arrange for it to happen.

          We often have users call us directly and complain that somehow they were given some random software push which delayed their check in and want us to call their supervisor.

          You have been a problem for so long that people believe they can use you as an excuse for their own failures.
          Stop being a problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          That printer was out of paper, had you looked at the screen it has, you would have seen that.
          "PC Load Letter? WHAT THE FUCK DOES *THAT* MEAN?!?!"
    • Almost expected (Score:5, Interesting)

      by williamhb (758070) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:09PM (#17604018) Journal
      It's generally thought to be part of the reason why so few female schools students do not apply to study computer science at university ("why would I want to spend my career working in a culture like that?").

      More recently I've noticed a worrying trend -- a lack of social skills has become an expected trait for programmers by a few employers (whereas most employers value social and communication skills very highly). I have recently seen job adverts in the UK that have included lines such as "the sort of person we are looking for is a geek. You probably prefer to relate to computers and have very few friends". If even a few employers are actively reinforcing the all-too-common stereotype, then that cannot be healthy for the industry.
      • Re:Almost expected (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ggKimmieGal (982958) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:23PM (#17604154)
        The other reason why my female peers won't do CS is because of the attitude we receive freshman year. If I hadn't been mentally prepared to overcome the challenges ahead of me, I probably would have been a math or physics major instead. They are a million times nicer to girls over there. They are desperate to have them.

        Day 1: none of my professors took me seriously. When they were asking guys who already knew how to program to move into CS2, they recommended that I stay in CS1. I ended up teaching a bunch of those guys a thing or two. After freshman year, I had earned the respect of my professors and my peers though. Other girls who manage to make it through the gauntlet tend to develop the IT attitude in discussion. You have to be tough to play rough. I took a slightly different route that seemed to work out just as well. I took the, "I won't do your homework, but I will certainly show you how much better of a programmer I am while I help you with your homework," path. It worked real well. But the girls who develop that attitude don't lose it. It sticks with them forever. I don't blame them one bit though. It can be really mean, disrespectful, and degrading to be a CS female student. So for the female side, I recommend that people just hand over respect to women just like they hand it over to men.

        I propose that this could also be a cause of arrogance amongst male IT people. The idea is put in their head that they are better the moment they step onto a college campus. It probably just gets worse by the time the four years there are over.
        • Re:Almost expected (Score:4, Informative)

          by Belgand (14099) <belgand AT planetfortress DOT com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:28PM (#17604806) Homepage
          My girlfriend, a biologist, took the CS intro class (based on Java as was the entire CS program) when we were in college and didn't have to put up with any of that. I'm willing to bet that your experience was an isolated experience based on your campus alone... though I'm not discounting it entirely as there are assholes everywhere.

          Personally I found the professor to be an unqualified and pompous jackass whose only goal was to teach people that a "...For Dummies" programming style and slavish desire to corporate conformity were where it's at. The guy cared more about slamming Unix compared to Windows and "professional" programming and bitching that if you wanted to be a "hacker" (I'm amazed he even knew the proper meaning) to drop the class and take a C course instead (good advice, if only a C course were available and his wasn't a pre-requisite to everything else in the CS program). So it's not like the guy was particularly nice to begin with. He didn't give a shit if you were a girl, just if you wanted to write your code in vi.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Loconut1389 (455297)
            I'm male, but dated a female CS student- and we had a professor who simply said 'girls do not pass this class' and failed pretty much all of them- regardless of ability. Unknown if that professor still teaches. Nice, huh?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by The_Wilschon (782534)
              Sounds like my dad's high school physics course in the early 70s. The teacher walked in on the first day of class (they called him the "caveman", btw) and told them that all the girls were good little girls who went home after school and helped their mothers around the house, so they would get As, but that all the boys were bad little boys who went out behind the pool hall after class and smoked, so they would get Bs. And sure enough he stuck to his guns when grade time came.

              Newsflash: swords cut both w
        • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @04:53PM (#17605600) Homepage Journal
          _Unlocking the Clubhouse_ [barnesandnoble.com] talks about the experience of CS undergrads at CMU. They conclude it was a "death of a thousand cuts" phenomenon. No one thing drove talented hard-working women out of the field, it was the steady drip of one problem after another. The culture was only one of the problems, but a real one. A lot of the women looked at it and figured that they'd given up parties and sleep to get into CMU, but no way were they giving up showers to become a "real" geek.
        • Re:Almost expected (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2007 @05:20PM (#17605916)
          So for the female side, I recommend that people just hand over respect to women just like they hand it over to men.
          That's just it, and you're missing the point entirely. People do NOT just hand over respect to men. I just love it when women complain that when they "act like men" they get treated poorly. Guess what, men get treated poorly by men, too. Guys call the hard-driving male boss an asshole, just like they call the hard-driving female boss a bitch. Yet the woman will complain that "everybody is so mean to me because they don't like hard-driving women!" Guess again! You wanted equality and you got equality. Get over it.
          • Re:Almost expected (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ptraci (584179) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @09:19PM (#17608040)
            But they don't give the men less respect BECAUSE they are men, do they? You are the one who missed the point entirely.

            I have had the same experience in my life as a female electronic technician, so I know what she's talking about. We do get treated with less respect by some people right from the beginning, until we show them what we can do. Then they either treat us with some respect or they hate us for being smarter than they think we should be, depending on whether they are introspective enough to be capable of re-examining their initial assumptions or not. Younger men seem to have more trouble with that because life hasn't taught them enough lessons.

            It does help to develop a thicker skin and learn to tell when they are serious and when they're just trying to bait you because they are bored, and to learn how to respond in kind in the latter situation.
        • Re:Almost expected (Score:4, Informative)

          by bladesjester (774793) <slashdot@COMMAja ... .com minus punct> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @07:42PM (#17607316) Homepage Journal
          First, let me say that I have absolutely no problem with anyone chosing a profession as long as they are dedicated to it. If you find something that you are good at and that you enjoy, go for it. I'll back your play. I don't care if you're plaid or a talking monkey (just, in the latter case, please don't throw fecal matter...)

          I've known some really cool women that *really* knew what they were doing (and could run circles around other people) who went through CS programs. Unfortunately, I've also known several that were rabid man haters and thought they were the world's gift when they couldn't find their rear with both hands and a flashlight.

          Of course, the same could be said of men (we have more than our fair share of incompetent jerks as well). However, using the excuse of "I'm a girl" for the reason that you're a misanthrope doesn't cut it. Everyone has to grow up and learn to play with others at some point - even the talking, non-feces throwing monkey.

          It should also be mentioned that most guys do NOT get respect "handed over" to them. Most of us have to claw it out of wherever we can find it just like you. Anyone who thinks that we just get handed accolades over drinks is fooling themselves, because it just doesn't work that way.

          As for being shut out by the "boy's club", you should see how nasty and vicious a bigoted female boss or professor can be. Yes, they do exist, and they are just as bad as any of the "boy's club" (if not worse) because they feel justified in having an axe to grind.

          This wasn't anything directed to you personally. It just really needed to be said because too many people don't realize that it's just as bad on the other side of the fence.
        • by Namlak (850746) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @11:14PM (#17609026)
          ...I probably would have been a math or physics major instead. They are a million times nicer to girls over there. They are desperate to have them.

          You can't expect the IT guys to be so accomodating to you when they have way so many women after them as it is.
      • Re:Almost expected (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ppanon (16583) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:01PM (#17604506) Homepage Journal
        That's because they want someone with no outside interests so they can work them 80 hours a week until they burn out. Not every employer is like that, thank goodness.
      • Re:Almost expected (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Yokaze (70883) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:16PM (#17604676)
        > I have recently seen job adverts in the UK that have included lines such as "the sort of person we are looking for is a geek. You probably prefer to relate to computers and have very few friends".

        I'd say, it is more a positive trend. To my eyes, it means just: "We are not necessarily looking for a technical person with good communication skills, speaking 2 foreign languages fluently and managing experience. We are just looking for a person with good technical skills with a personal interest in intelectual challenges."

        You see, they are writing "you probably prefer", not "we prefer you to". I'd say it is an encouragement for socially less apt, but technically inclined ones (commonly called "geeks" or "nerds") to apply for the job.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I agree.

          Also, as a "shy" person I'm disconcerted by the apparent growing discrimination against people like me. I was subjected to this a great deal at my previous position, where I was not taken seriously and perceived to be less intelligent than my coworkers by my supervisor, despite having certifications to back up my knowledge and some experience at a larger installation. This isn't marketing or HR, and I don't have 'poor communication skills' just because I don't quack-quack around the water cooler wit
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HiThere (15173)
            Why do you think it's growing? Society has always been biased against those who weren't sociall apt.

            WRIW, it's my general feeling that discrimination against shyness has decreased over the decades. This doesn't mean it's decreased very much. It's more that people now are generally more isolated than they were in earlier decades, and that (most kinds of) shyness is less of a problem when you are interacting over the net than in person.

            OTOH, it used to be that shy or not, you were forced out into social si
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dbIII (701233)
        It's generally thought to be part of the reason why so few female schools students do not apply to study computer science at university

        When I went to University in Australia in the late 1980s more than half of the computer science students were female - in comparison to less than one percent of engineering students. Where did all of those women go and why is the field almost entired staffed by men? Is that one of the reasons less women are enroling?

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:41PM (#17603654) Journal

    Insulting the "client" isn't constrained to the IT market, it may be more visible to /.ers, but seemingly many "professionals" think an attributes of being a professional include being an unmitigated asswipe to those less knowledgeable.

    My personal experience with over 25 years now in IT is that many times the asswipe-ness of an IT professional is inversely proportional to what they know and how well they know it. While I've known some brilliant IT staff who were grumpy, most of the anointed geniuses-with-attitude were self anointed, and less than geniuses (doesn't mean they didn't know anything, just that the attitude was a convenient and easy facade to hide behind).

    The insulting IT staff were the ones I avoided -- mostly their expertise, as it were, was a diminished return in being held hostage by "their schedule", and their attitude. I'd much rather find assistance with a less competent person who is self aware and interested in helping find a solution if they don't know it themselves.

    Admittedly there is a consumer demographic cowed by the angry IT support, and they probably accept and suffer more insult than they deserve. But, in the long run, I think any IT staff member who glories in his or her rancor and animus with the client grossly underestimates the long term impact on their reputation and career. If you think customers don't talk... and consider alternatives when they present, think again. (I long since have avoided Circuit City for not only rude treatment and condescension, but that kind of treatment coupled with virtual incompetence on that for which they condescended..., literally thousands of my dollars have gone elsewhere solely on "rude behavior" by "professionals".)

    It pays to be nice.

    (And, regardless of the sans-clue clientèle's, there are rarely circumstances that warrant abuse of the customer.... )

    • by Alaren (682568) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:16PM (#17604094)
      Insulting the "client" isn't constrained to the IT market, it may be more visible to /.ers, but seemingly many "professionals" think an attributes of being a professional include being an unmitigated asswipe to those less knowledgeable.

      Agreed. I think the article makes a good point--IT practitioners as a whole can stand to be more professional--but it's a little silly to hold up doctors and lawyers as beacons of professionalism. I'm only in my first year of law school, and already many of my classmates have adopted a "smarter-than-thou" attitude toward staff, undergraduates around campus, and the world in general. Just because lawyers don't wear smarmy t-shirts doesn't mean they're not insufferably arrogant toward the "unelite."

      Moreover, how do people feel when talked down to by their auto mechanics? Their dentists? Even retail clerks tend to begin badmouthing the ignorance of customers the moment the store is empty. People like to feel superior, and one (bad) way to do that is to make fun of people who know less than you do, even if "less" is only measured in a narrow area of knowledge. Let's face it, even the lowliest Whopper-flopper knows more about the inner workings of Burger King than most educated professionals, and can find a way to turn that into a feeling of superiority when the stupid customer doesn't realize that X meal is a better deal or whatever.

      The fact is, just about everyone could stand to be kinder to others, IT professionals included. But don't pretend IT professionals are worse because they express themselves on the internet while other professionals refrain from advertising their disgust on t-shirts and instead mistreat you to your face.

      • by Pig Hogger (10379)

        Moreover, how do people feel when talked down to by their auto mechanics? Their dentists?

        Doctors.

        Doctors are pretty condescending.

        Nowadays, people expect pills. Pills to fix everything.

        So, one day, I was in front of that specialist, and he chicken-scratches me a prescription.

        So I ask him what is it. What it does, how it works.

        He was befuddled.

        -- You can tell me, I have a master's degree in science, so I'll understand (better than Joe Sixpack anyways).

        THEN, he explained me what his pills would do

    • by JohnnyMossville (1051120) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:36PM (#17604244)
      In my experience, I found that the IT guys are being paid more than other people in the building on average, actually much more than their job description warrants. Management is ignorant to the fact most stuff just works and the IT guys basically sit around all day browsing slashdot.org etc,... breaking stuff once in awhile to make them look useful. This leads to to a level of arrogance brought on by the fact that they must make others feel they are ABSOLUTELY necessary to the well being of the company. If they weren't there, the place would break down and we'd all be walking around aimlessly without their "expertise" Like Doctors and Mechanics, this is their little God Complex. It's quite amusing actually. I've found myself not fixing my own computer problems on purpose just so they have something to do. They are not much more use than elevator operators to me. Sorry.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:58PM (#17604482)
      Let's be honest, LOTS of professions do this. I was a nightclub bartender for two years, and believe me, as a bartender you're looked down on by other bartenders if you don't have a healthy disdain for the customers. Now I'm a software engineer, and frankly, the view of customers by most other SEs I know tends to be a lot higher.

      The WORST offenders:
      - Doctors (ever seen an episode of House, I've met more than my share of those types)
      - Police (which is worse, a egocentric engineer, or a guy with a gun and the belief he's the law?)
      - Actors/Musicians (ok, not surprising, but still true)
      - Network Admins (admit it, they look down on users much more than developers do)

      And a few more on the list:
      Lawyers, Bartenders, DMV employees

      Clearly, it's not limited to social class, income, education, or any other factor other than having a clearly defined role separating them from their customer base in which the customer will almost never know the details/facts/routines...which is the real reason why this happens.
      • I agree with the parent totally, there is no one industry that has a monopoly of this sort of attitude, but to bring it back to the topic at hand:

        Speaking as a member of this technical group, I can honestly say that there are three major groups of client. The honestly clueless, the willfully ignorant and the technically savvy.

        I personally enjoy working with the honestly clueless, as they admit they don't know much, and are willing to learn the things they don't know. I don't cop abuse or arrogance from them, and we work together to solve the problem.

        I also don't mind working with the technically savvy, as they often have pinpointed the problem, but don't have the access to actually fix the issue.

        The willfully ignorant are the problem. They often create their own problems, and then refuse to listen to the solution. They think that they know better than the technician, which in 99% of ALL cases is simply incorrect. They are almost always abusive and condescending to technical staff, and spend much of their time not only making our lives miserable, but also putting road blocks in front of us when we try to fix things for them.

        Courtesy is a two way street, and while I agree that it is lacking from the IT industry as a whole, to say that we are the only ones guilty of it is very short sighted.
    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @04:06PM (#17605178) Homepage
      To add to that, I actually do know physicians who insult their clients--just not to their faces. Surgeons, for example, absolutely HATE operating on fat people. I've heard all sorts of insults from a surgeon friend toward the morbidly obese.

      Of course, physicians make three or four times what IT people make, so that's got to put you in a better mood.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nephilium (684559)

      Hmmm... it may be that I'm one of those rare extroverted IT people... but I make it a point to joke with the people who talk to me, and at my expense more then theirs. It sets them at ease, they're more willing to explain what they really did, and we can get everything fixed faster. By dealing with the people with a good sense of humor, and building a connection that way, they also cut you some slack if something slips in a timetable. They are more willing to be understanding that they're issue isn't the

  • No. (Score:5, Funny)

    by exspecto (513607) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:41PM (#17603656)

    Is A Bad Attitude Damaging The IT Profession?
    No. And if you don't shut up about it, I won't get around to fixing your computer until *after* lunch!
  • Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:41PM (#17603668) Journal
    Of course it is. [ntk.net] And companies are starting to get wise to the fact that things could be better - when applying for jobs after college, not one but two of the interviews I had were filling spots of IT admins who'd been fired for this kinda crap. And the interviews were all questions like "What do you think of users who know absolutely nothing about computers?"
    • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sphealey (2855) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:02PM (#17603924)
      > And the interviews were all questions like "What do
      > you think of users who know absolutely nothing
      > about computers?"

      Speaking as a business manager, I think that is quite appropriate. For an interview conducted in 1986, or perhaps even 1996.

      My question to that organization is, why in the year 2006 do you have employees who do not possess the skills to use basic, standard tools to process basic business information, and to extend their own skills by themselves moderate amounts (not to learn a new ERP system by themselves, for example, but to figure out the fairly minor differences between AP module 5.5.7 and the new 5.6.1 version now in pre-production testing)? Why do you still have employees who believe that an inability to do a basic search in their own e-mail box merits a deskside visit from an ultra-qualified, ultra-patient analyst who will provide 4 hours of no-charge tutoring? Can you name another support department that does this? Does Finance provide remedial tutoring in financial accounting to sales managers, not just once upon promotion but over and over and over again over 20 years? Is the CFO on call 24x365 to provide personal tutoring on how to read sales reports? Why not?

      Again, I am speaking as a business manager who has been through this entire cycle 3 times since the 1970s and who spent tremendous amounts of time in the 1980s providing basic business (computer) skills tutoring.

      sPh

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by djupedal (584558)
        "My question to that organization is, why in the year 2006 do you have employees who do not possess the skills to use basic, standard tools to process basic business information..."

        I'm reminded of a govt. study, days gone by, that claimed it took 7 hours average to train an employee on a Mac OS and 17 days for Windows.

        Those 'basic skills' you mention are tied to the tools, no? Put an employee in a building where the door handles and light switches make sense and off they go - put them into another bui
        • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sancho (17056) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:45PM (#17604354) Homepage
          Your light-switch example hits the nail on the head, but probably not in the way you intended. If you flip the light switch one way and it doesn't work...try flipping it the other way. The building isn't going to blow up.

          As long as a computer user follows a few safety guidelines (regarding opening attachments, browsing safety, and not deleting files you don't know are safe to be deleted) you can usually play around with the computer and figure things out. That's how you learn. Try something, and if it didn't work, try something else. While a basic level of training is required to know how to try different things (basic user-interface design, such as what that X in the corner does, and the difference between left- and right-click) after that, try a few different things, and if nothing works, call IT.

          Maybe the problem is that users are never told about that, or that they were asleep during that day school. Nevertheless, it's one of the most basic ways that we learn--try it and see what happens. Maybe if IT layed out the basic safety rules and then said, "Please play with the computers to see how they react when you do various things," then seemingly basic tasks wouldn't be so hard for users after awhile.
          • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Sunburnt (890890) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:03PM (#17604530)
            "one of the most basic ways that we learn--try it and see what happens. Maybe if IT layed out the basic safety rules and then said, "Please play with the computers to see how they react when you do various things," then seemingly basic tasks wouldn't be so hard for users after awhile."

            I agree wholeheartedly, but it'll never happen in any widespread, meaningful way. Autodidacticism is abhorrent to business culture's fixation with standardized, top-down "training." Put another way: if everyone's going to be an idiot with the computers, management would rather have them be the same idiots.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kohath (38547) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:19PM (#17604138)
        It's still a good question, even if the employees do, in fact, have a moderate understanding of their computers. If an IT guy can be nice to newbs, he can be nice to people of intermediate skill.
        • Car analogy time! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:56PM (#17604454)
          It's still a good question, even if the employees do, in fact, have a moderate understanding of their computers.

          Let's look at this from a different perspective, okay?

          What would a shop owner expect as an answer from a mechanic applicant?

          Owner: "What do you think of customers who know absolutely nothing about cars?"

          Mechanic: "I think they'll probably cause a lot of damage to their vehicles which means we'll make a lot of money doing the repairs."

          How about a dentist?

          Owner: "What do you think of customers who know absolutely nothing about tooth care?"

          Mechanic: "I think they'll probably cause a lot of damage to their teeth which means we'll make a lot of money doing the repairs. Do we have literature I can recommend to them?"

          See? The difference is whether the USER is paying for their ignorance or the COMPANY is paying.

          In the case of tech support, in most cases (unless you're a contractor/consultant) it is the company that is paying the price. It's easy to be VERY nice when you're looking at a disaster that you'll be paid a couple of thousand dollars to fix.

          It's completely different when you're looking at a disaster that will require you to work 60+ hours this week ... thus effectively reducing your hourly wage (because you are salaried).

          Mechanic: "Honey, I'll be home really late but I'm making at butt-load of money! We'll party this weekend."

          IT Tech: "Honey, I'll be home really late. I know. No, there's nothing I can do. Yes, I know. I know."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Southpaw018 (793465) *
        Also, let me comment on something you just said. Computer processes are strange to many people. Users who gained an understanding of them by memorizing steps cannot discover changes in these strange processes by learning it themselves. Mostly, these are people who are nearing retirement age at this point. Please note that I'm not disparaging; I think it's just fine that someone chosen a method that, for them, is easiest and best to learn the technology. It took my mom (with my assistance) the better part of
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        My question to that organization is, why in the year 2006 do you have employees who do not possess the skills to use basic, standard tools to process basic business information, and to extend their own skills by themselves moderate amounts (not to learn a new ERP system by themselves, for example, but to figure out the fairly minor differences between AP module 5.5.7 and the new 5.6.1 version now in pre-production testing)? Why do you still have employees who believe that an inability to do a basic search

    • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rantingkitten (938138) <kitten@mirrorsha ... minus herbivore> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:41PM (#17604306) Homepage
      "What do you think of users who know absolutely nothing about computers?"

      Well, I think you -- the employer -- need to seriously re-examine your employee base, then. This is the twenty first century. Computers in the business environment have been around for a good twenty years, and really started gettinng huge ten years ago with Windows 95. In today's modern workplace, if you really know nothing about computers, you aren't qualified for the job. It doesn't matter that you're a brialliant loan officer or whatever else -- part of the job involves using computers. Period. The excuse "I'm not a computer person" or "It's not my area" no longer holds water. This isn't the 70s.

      I'm not asking users to know how to examine their TCP/IP properties or perform network diagnostics. I'm not asking them to open the box and replace bad memory, or how to mount an image as a device, or anything else remotely complicated or nonintuitive.

      I am asking them to know how to do the basic, fundamental things that are required of them in their job, and do these things competently. You need to know how to open Word and grab a document off your coworker's shared folder. You need to know how to save things in sane, organized places so you can find them later. You need to understand that not everything is safe to arbitrariliy download and run, so don't do it. Basic stuff.

      And perhaps that's part of why IT professionals hold users in such contempt. They are hounded nonstop by people who somehow got jobs for which they clearly lack the necessary skills (because using a computer is a necessary skill, people). And instead of getting to do anything interesting they spend half their time doing what amounts to job training for clueless people who really should know better.

      To make it worse, I can think of few other fields where the client base gets as demanding and unreasonable. You won't often catch someone who deliberately tinkers with their car engine for no reason, breaks it, then harrasses the mechanic every thirty minutes to "just fix it". When the mechanic says "It's going to take two days", that's the end of it, and most people realize that no amount of arguing will change that. Not so in the computer world -- users think it's perfectly okay to get snippy, and that the Magic IT Guy can just wave his Magic IT Wand and magically fix any problem (usually by "just dialing in").

      IT is a tough field, especially when you deal with end users. I think we get jaded and snotty because really, you can only listen to the whines and insults of the users for so long before it affects you -- and make no mistake, users are every bit as insulting as they think we are.
  • GROLIES (Score:5, Informative)

    by alanw (1822) * <alan@wylie.me.uk> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:43PM (#17603690) Homepage
    Doctors refer to the patients in disparaging terms: from This BBC news article [bbc.co.uk]

    GROLIES: Guardian[1] Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt
    LOBNH: Lights On But Nobody Home
    CNS-QNS: Central Nervous System - Quantity Not Sufficient

    [1] UK left wing newspaper

  • An Initial Thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:43PM (#17603694) Journal
    Sure, our profession and hte durrounding culture allows for the type of user tratement the author describes.

    But don't think for a minute that IT folks don't need ethics. We often get to see data first hand that lawyers need subpoenas to obtain.

    One can laugh at their user's technical abilities all they want, but the minute you talk about their data or the inside of their business, the IT career is over. As is the option for any other meaningful career.

  • Ignorant != stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:44PM (#17603714)
    One thing IT professionals should always keep in mind is that someone may be ignorant without being stupid. I've seen too often people make this confusion. Also one should never confuse "obvious" with "usual". Just because we are used to doing things in a certain way it doesn't mean newbies should be able to guess how to do it by themselves.
    • by moranar (632206) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:15PM (#17604068) Homepage Journal
      I don't get angry at ignorance, but at wilful negligence. Too many people not only do not know, but they demand help _without wanting to know_, and being very rude about it. When the customer prides himself on his ignorance, it's high time for niceties to stop. JM2c.
  • House (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tide (8490) <chadNO@SPAMchadsdomain.com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:46PM (#17603724) Homepage
    What, all doctors aren't like House?
  • by bmac83 (869058) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:47PM (#17603736) Homepage

    IT can be a fairly arrogant profession, but I think this is a more common occurrence in technical fields than we might originally guess. The big driver, from what I've seen and heard, is the visibility of IT, and its importance to everyday life. The fact that many people are so perilously inept at operating and managing an increasingly core life staple prompts much of the snobby behavior.

    Perhaps rampant irresponsibility is not quite as visible or dominant in other fields. For instance, imagine if a shocking percentage of the population drove their cars without any thought to changing their oil, airing their tires, or even filling their tank with gas. We would probably have a community of technicians and knowledgeable people ridiculing and advising these irresponsible "users."

    IT has been an odd case, as normally the expense of adopting a new, non-user-friendly technology is prohibitive for people not prepared to maintain and operate the equipment. But, the drastic adoption and commoditization of IT has led this to be out of balance, with people trying to treat everything as a black box when at least comprehending the nuts and bolts is still essential for responsible use.

    • by kt0157 (830611) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:48PM (#17604374)
      The IT professionals I've come across that are rude are simply lacking in social skills and are shocked when they are told later that they are being rude or arrogant. It's down to the prevalence of Asperger's (or towards that part of the spectrum of autism). It's a natural condition. The thing is that too many companies allow geeks with no social abilities to interface to customers (directly in the case of tech support, indirectly in the case of writing UIs). It's time that the management of companies recognized the situation and had professional customer-facing technical support that came with a smile and empathy, and had professional interaction designers that realize "Error: Keyboard not connected; press F1 to continue" is not an acceptable thing to say to people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DarkkOne (741046)
        I'm actually diagnosed with Asperger's and I find it fairly offensive that you think that it's either an excuse or an explanation. Asperger's makes interpersonal relationships different, but in interacting in a technical standpoint it means that we're *less* likely to be directly offensive, and more likely to be simply very literal and very specific. You'll often hear things like "He was very knowledgeable but not very personable" but it also means that there's a tendency not to make personal statements, a
      • Sorry, no. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dangermouse (2242) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @08:17PM (#17607558) Homepage
        As a rule of thumb, if some geek on Slashdot or in your IT department claims to have Asperger's without using words like "diagnosis" or "doctor", he's almost certainly just a maladjusted, misanthropic asshole who found his excuse on Wikipedia.

        I seriously doubt that Asperger's is nearly as prevalent in the IT field as jackasses with bad attitudes are.

    • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:03PM (#17604546) Homepage

      It's not so much as not knowing things. After all, you can operate a car quite well in today's society without knowing anything about cars, as long as you understand the 'gasoline' thing. That's what oil change places are for. You'll end up paying more, but whatever.

      IT professions, if computers were cars, would have to keep patiently explaining about the gasoline concept to some users, and have to stop other users who keep pouring maple syrup in their gas tanks, while others insisted on driving around with the hood open so the engine would stay cool.

      It's not helped that IT is often micromanaged by people who know nothing about IT. You don't see that in other departments, upper management doesn't tell marketing that all advertisements will be printed on off-white paper, or tell plant that all doors should open in a certain direction.

      Yet upper management sees nothing wrong with dictating exactly what tools can be used in what circumstances. That, for example, car windshields should be cleaned right-to-left.

      Management often has no idea of the difference, in IT, between 'policy' decisions, which they certainly can, and must make, and 'how to implement policy' decisions, which they really shouldn't. Just ask all the people who are secretly using SAMBA because policy, instead of saying 'We must use integrated Windows file sharing because we have random people come in and hook to our network', dictated, instead, 'We will use Windows file servers' and gave IT crappy computers to implement it with, which they secretly put Linux on.

      IT would be a lot less annoying if they didn't have to put up with management who didn't know the difference between decisions they must make, decisions they can make, and decisions they shouldn't make. They don't know what they know, and they don't know what they don't know.

      And the same applies to users, who often don't know exactly how competent or incompetent they are. It's almost as annoying to have to walk someone through some simple thing because they're scared they might break something as it is to fix people who actually do break things. I've heard of users who were afraid to navigate through Windows Explorer to find something on the local network. They were certainly capable of doing it, but were deathly scared they might break something.

    • by L.Bob.Rife (844620) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @05:39PM (#17606120)
      imagine if a shocking percentage of the population drove their cars without any thought to changing their oil, airing their tires, or even filling their tank with gas.

      You mean my wife?
  • by stefaanh (189270) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:47PM (#17603738)
    Customers also insult staffmembers or for that matter, anyone in the proximity, without restraint, for issues that are not directly their fault.

    Insulting is the problem, not IT, nor the user.
  • by micromuncher (171881) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:49PM (#17603750) Homepage
    Most people who flock to IT support are technophiles. Technophiles like technology, not people. Dot boom brought many more people into the tech industry - that really had no apptitude but were there for the boom - and these people really don't care but are trapped in IT - so you have misanthropes and people who hate their jobs in IT. Nuff said?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:51PM (#17603774)
    Two of the three people I've ever had to fire in my 25-year carreer
    were BOFHs. They were both replaced with talented, socially well-balanced
    guys who treated users like customers and actually enjoyed finding
    solutions to problems that were right both for the user and for the IT department.

    I don't think it's the bad attitude of some IT people that's doing the damage,
    it's management toleration of that attitude. Plenty of good people out there
    if you go looking.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:51PM (#17603780) Homepage
    I'm more than familiar with some perceived stereotypical behavior in some IT people. Some of my least favorite attitudes are those displayed when the "IT Pro" is protecting his ignorance. Gone are the days, I think, when IT people were looked upon as techno-god figures... and feared as such.

    I'm an IT manager and I'm all about helping business work better through IT. Some of my favorite endorsements are along the lines of "you don't make me feel stupid." What would be the point in that? I don't do what they do... which is most often making money for the company. In my job, I spend the company's money, so I do my best to make sure they feel they are getting their money's worth.

    But back to the topic of jackasses: I hate people who hide their ignorance and attempt to put up some sort of "I won't share what I know" front as if he were the exclusive container of knowledge. Further, I hate it when people attempt to "secure their jobs" through obfuscation and indirection of information. In my opinion, the latter complaint amounts to malpractice. And I have a close friend who is presently suffering the worst of all scenarios -- the knows less than nothing boss who got where he is because he lies on his resume. (This moron thinks that if you block port 80 on the firewall that users will not be able to surf the web!!)

    I see these offenders as a dying breed, fortunately... but they aren't dying fast enough.
  • by NexusTw1n (580394) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:51PM (#17603782) Journal
    Doctors have always insulted their patients in their notes [bbc.co.uk].

    More detailed list here [wikipedia.org].

    The only difference between the average emergency room doctor's attitude to some of their patients and the cliched sysadmin's hatred of 'lusers' is the fact that doctors wear shirts and ties.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cherokee158 (701472)
      Many doctors, firemen and cops indulge in "gallows humor", which is really more of a defense mechanism than an effort to degrade their patients. Their profession is very stressful: they are bombarded by death, pain and suffering every day and empathizing with their patients would (and does) rapidly lead to emotional burn out and an inability to do their jobs.

      I do not believe it is fair to equate that with the arrogance of some hygienically-challenged geek who finally found something he can feel superior abo
  • 50 - 50 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GC (19160) <giles@coochey.net> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:52PM (#17603790)
    Users have just as much contempt for IT as IT has comtempt for the user.

    Nevertheless, IT continue to solve the user's issues, because of their professional attitude.

    What I tend to dislike is the fact that a user with 3 computers at home, running their own local network, with shared Internet access and wireless connectivity to their laptop, DHCP, DNS, network printing etc... all of a sudden turns into a blatant IT fool the minute that they walk into the office. Just because there is an IT department they continue to be high maintenance, refuse to acknowledge problems and generally make things worse.

    Then again, there's the other type, the genuine clueless user who thinks that they know what they're doing, but doesn't - you know the type, the ones you never should have given local administrative privileges on their own machines.

    In my opinion the way to discourage this divide in your company it to have the IT department take each of the other departments out for lunch, say once a month - the relaxed environment in the absence of IT equipment and their problems aids the communication between the departments and generates an understanding of what IT is actually doing (Similarly IT get an understanding of what Finance, Sales, Marketing etc... do for the company as well).
  • by stimpleton (732392) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:57PM (#17603860)
    I heard a saying one time. I don't know the origins:

    "Accounts departments love IT Departments. For before there was IT, everyone hated Accounts. But now everyone hates the IT Dept."

    This seems to hold some truth from my experience.
  • My view (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest (935314) * on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:58PM (#17603870)
    Certainly IT isn't the only customer focussed industry where this happens, it's an extremely naive viewpoint to suggest that is the case. I can think of countless call centres for things such as gas, phones and so forth where I've been treated by people with abysmal attitudes.

    As to why it happens at all, I think the reasons are rather varied.

    You have people who are forced into using IT because everyone needs to use it for their job nowadays, only some people don't want to so they purposely make moan and make out the situation is worse than it is just to satisfy their own technophobic paranoia - people like this are extremely frustrating to work with.

    Then there are people who treat IT workers as their own personal slaves, requests such as "change my printer cartridge too" - things that frankly, even a monkey could be trained to do, this type of thing is completely demoralising. If you had a mechanic out to look at your car, what do you think their reaction would be if you turned round and say "Oh go and fill it up with gas for me too".

    There's the people who simply ask too much, most IT departments are staffed okay for looking after the business but there are those that seem to feel that the IT staff should deal with the home too. We've currently got a situation where we're staffed fine to run a secure, locked down network but our company has decided to push homeworking - this means people are wanting to setup home broadband on their laptop, this leaves us with a choice between having to visit each and every persons home - where two technicians have to do the visit, because one person can't go because of the danger of some pathetic low-life claiming the technician tried to rape them, steal from their house or whatever or alternatively we can remove the security settings so that the users can setup their home broadband on their laptops themselves. Again, this is a hopeless scenario because we then have to spend day in day out clearing spyware, viruses, finding space on their laptop for their work after their kids have installed Quake 8 or whatever on it.

    There's plenty more reasons, but it seems more generally that IT has an identity crisis - users aren't entirely sure what we actually do, where the line is drawn as to what a user issue is and what an IT worker issue is. Do we fix printers? probably, do we fix photocopiers? probably not, what if we have a multi-function printer/photocopier? What about telephones, if it's VOIP we most likely deal with it, but if it's a typical old fashioned Nortel or whatever system then there's likely a phone technician to deal with it. Now, I'm personally willing to have a go at fixing anything if there's a real need, but I don't like whiping the asses of lazy people who can't be bothered to change a printer cartridge and secondly, I simply don't have time to do absolutely everything. The issue is lack of well defines roles for most IT people and also hence lack of definition for users as to what they should and shouldn't expect from their IT department.
  • by slughead (592713) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @01:59PM (#17603882) Homepage Journal
    "Users are stupid and that needs to be the starting point for software developers." I read their trade magazines: "No matter how hard we pray...every network is at one time or other exposed to the ultimate technology risk: users."

    People working in offices should have a modicum of training with a computer. If a person had terrible spelling in the oldendays (before spellcheck was prevalent), they would probably be fired. IT people like myself (at my old job) having to go around and teach the most basic of tasks to people who should know a thing or two is extremely frustrating.

    In the modern business world, being computer illiterate is like not knowing how to read. Imagine 'grammar' techs going around saying "now what does sound the 'A' make? ... no, it makes the 'aaah' sound, see now? Good, have a cookie."

    Some things I don't mind doing, like when windows bugs out and the printer gets deselected, I'll happily mutter "you know, windows should be a little robust, this kind of thing shouldn't happen, we should switch to macs" while I'm fixing the box and me and the user can find some common ground to grouse about. Other things, like how to change the margins in a Word document (which people forget sometimes twice a day) really pushed the limits of my patience.

    The same goes for software development. I developed my own CMS recently. 99% of it was just tweaking the interface to make it more and more usable--not having too many options on a single page so as to not confuse people--that sort of thing. UI is a huge pain to deal with. I ended up just having layers of complexity so I could bring the learning curve to zero. Writing the 'help' pages was so tedious and interminable I nearly gave up after I wrote in "Enter domain here, click here for more information on domains." Is it so much to ask that a person running their own website who uses my CMS should know what a domain is? After working technical support for so long, I realize that yes, yes it is. The only hope you have in UI development is to dump as much user-friendliness in there as possible and pray that they can figure the rest out on their own.

    This example pretty much says it all: I got an e-mail from a person using my CMS which read something like, "How do I get this thing started? I double clicked on the 'index.php' and it just opened a notepad with a whole bunch of gibberish [...] "

    It's not always the IT guy's fault he's pissed off.
  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:01PM (#17603904) Homepage
    I noticed this a lot at my job on a help desk. Re-route the ticket to the IT department responsible for the problem and the customer doesn't get a response for days, weeks, months, and, on a few occasions, years. The Help Desk gets the blame from the customer when this happens. A lot of the backend IT people have no customer relationship skills whatsoever because they're not required to deal with people outside of their department and there's always something more important going on (at one company, it was Diablo 2).
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles,jones&zen,co,uk> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:03PM (#17603934)
    Comparing IT with medicine isn't a good comparison. You didn't buy your life from a doctor.

    As for why IT staff don't always respect their customers, try working in support. Customers threaten you, provide you with no information, blame you for everything.
  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:05PM (#17603968)
    Futures traders are notorious for being assholes to get what they want. Bankers have a reputation, occasionally well earned, of looking down on their customers. Professional athletes don't care about their image. In most of the above professions, if you're not rewarded for this behavior indirectly (by not being criticized as "soft" and therefore getting paid more), acting like an ass doesn't get you fired. As for burger flippers, flight attendants and Disney employees; tough luck. Acting like an ass gets you fired, immediately. As to where IT fits, it depends entirely on the existing culture of your organization. If everyone acts like an ass, you'll probably do fine acting like an ass. But choosing not to is generally better no matter what.
  • by superwiz (655733) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:08PM (#17604010) Journal
    Too many users are proud of their ignorance of technology. You don't see patients being proud of their ignorance what's going on with their body. So doctors feel venerated and act as such. Even plumbers know that their work is appreciated. Since technology works best when it works invisibly, IP workers are often met with the attitude of "what the f**k is wrong with you guys... oh, never mind... don't want to know.. just fix the damn thing". So they get trained to treat users as willful ignoramuses. That's just the nature of environment in which they work. I think it used to be better when computers had to be maintained MORE often. Their maintenance was seen as a noraml think and those who performed were seen as saving the day. So there was mutual respect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by radarsat1 (786772)
      I think another aspect of it, and a big difference between IT and the medical profession, is that in IT there are almost always clues in one place or another about how to fix a problem.

      Certainly, there are plenty of times when the solution is totally non-obvious and requires real technical skill. But for a lot of questions, basically the answer is right there on the screen. IT people get frustrated when people don't READ what's right in front of them, choosing to ask over and over again like a techno-hypoch
  • I don't know about the rest of them, but my job description doesn't actually include hand-holding someone through computer use.

    I just do that because I want my coworkers to get their jobs done well, so I do it, and I don't mind - especially if they learn something (I've got a teacher inclination). My ability with computers stems from the fact that I try to learn as much as I can about everything that I can. That's part of it.

    The reason I get upset is the implicit lack of respect. Knowing how to use a computer is like learning how to drive: it's an expected part of society. You don't ask your mechanic how to drive, but people are regularly asking IT people how to use their computers. Asking the mechanic to do something like that would be disrespectful - he's not responsible for your ability to drive. It doesn't take a tradesman with a vast knowledge in his field to do it. Most five year olds can grasp basic computer operation.

    If you work in a job where people didn't treat what you do with respect, how would you feel about them? It takes more patience than many people have, and they can't keep their frustrations to themselves.

    Of course, if your actual job is teaching people how to use computers I could understand that you might feel differently about it, but I don't think that condition applies to most IT people.

    Most jobs are to do one of these things:
    1) Make computers do something they haven't done before.
    2) Make computers do something that they used to do but don't do anymore.
    3) Figure out the cause of condition #2.

    Only a very small number of IT professionals are actually responsible for showing the users how to use their own computers, but this comes up a lot in the other jobs, and makes some of us a little testy.
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tadrith (557354) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @02:19PM (#17604122) Homepage
    Well, in my world, if I insult a customer, I get reprimanded or fired. I don't know anyone who does this directly to a client. Behind the scenes? Sure, perhaps. But not to the client's face. That ranks up with other unthinkable actions such as stealing from the company, and I'm not talking post-it notes. Why on earth would anybody want to insult their clientele?

    If they've done something that they shouldn't be doing, there is a perfectly acceptable way of enlightening them that doesn't involve berating them. In my experience, most users are perfectly willing and able to learn if you're willing and able to take the time to explain it without an attitude problem.
  • by Metroid72 (654017) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:09PM (#17604600)
    I'm on my way to change my career just because of how IT people conduct themselves. After being an Infrastructure geek for 7 years I went to business school and in the past 5 years I've been more engaged in other aspects of the business. Now I can clearly see how relatively close-minded my attitude was when I only dealt with technology. I used to think that business people made bad technical decisions because they were dumb, but ultimately businesses are there to make money and respond to many forces (including politics and power). For us IT People, the sad thing is, that although some of us mature and change, others just become more set in their ways and it's harder and harder to work with them because with years of experience comes "technical or SME power" that can be leveraged as a political tool. And just when you think you have your peers figured out, some new arrogant kid with tons of energy and a fresh mind from college comes in with the same attitude. Sadly we circumscribe to the same template. I used to get upset at users when they made mistakes, but now, as I become less of an SME, I can feel the pain that a "regular person" has. I know this may vary from organization to organization, but also IT today still doesn't have the visibility to the business as it should. I work for a reputable Tech company, and those who have the opportunity to influence the business ecosystem from IT are very few; although I hear many good ideas in the halls of our IT department every day. Soft skills are hard to come by in IT people, but those who have it can get ahead. In my case, I'm am really tired to deal with the same type of people (and I've done it Internationally and in the US... it's all the same folks). Let's try and be better.
  • by Kymermosst (33885) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @03:58PM (#17605094) Journal
    The article seems to be equating IT with software engineering - especially when he linked "it's debatable whether IT qualifies as a profession [stevemcconnell.com]" to a page on the professional status of software engineering.

    Where I work most of our software engineers aren't in the IT department, and there are certainly a lot of IT people who don't routinely call their customers idiots, lusers, or clueless.

    However, I am a UNIX sysadmin and freely admit that I willfully piss off my "customers". Yes, it's true. I deny requests that are against policies and procedures established by the business. The sad thing is that the customer is 99% of the time fully aware of the policy and are merely trying to circumvent it, often by trying the different sysadmins, especially the newer ones who are still learning.

    Most often reason for me to deny a request? Failure to follow change control procedures and obtain the appropriate approvals from all stakeholders before requesting the change. Change control procedures aren't just put into place by IT - they are demanded by the business and for some systems are required by regulations. The second most often reason is that the request violates security policy or procedure.

    Yet, when I deny such a request because proper procedure hasn't been followed, I get to hear about how "IT gets in the way and we could do this so much (better|faster|easier) by ourselves."

    I also do evil things that inconvenience users such as requiring them to change their passwords four times a year. I personally make their life rough by setting the system to lock their account after three unsuccessful logins - and I do it on purpose. I make it so hard for the developers by not giving them accounts on the production systems, and I interfere with the ability of the QA teams to do their jobs by not giving them access to unscrubbed logs containing containing the personally identifiable information of real people using our online services.

    Believe me, I've heard about what a jerk admin I am.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @05:39PM (#17606124) Homepage
    Slamming customers isn't acceptable in any other profession; doctors don't call their patients "meatbags" -- at least, not publicly.

    About 15 years ago, I was jogging daily. I started having a pain in my ankle, not from an accident or anything, it just slowly started, so I stopped running, but the pain was getting worse every day, so I went to see the doctor. I get into his office, tell him the story and his response is, "Do I really need to tell you what you did to your ankle?"

    That's more or less the kind of stuff this author is talking about. It happens in every profession. The fun part of the story is this: He says, "You've sprained your ankle, walk it off." Two days later I was using a crutch and the following day, two crutches. I go to see a podiatrist, tell her what happened and tell her about the first doctor. She says, "This other doctor, did he take x-rays?" "No." I reply. "I see. Did he have x-ray vision?", she asked. After x-rays, it was clear that I had torn a ligament in my ankle and was tearing a second one by walking on it.

    But anyway, the point is simply it happens in every profession. It's probably a bit more exaggerated in IT, but the reasons for it, I think, are pretty obvious. First of all, many people in IT are geeks and got started early. They've always known more than others about IT stuff and they have a tendency to carry the same attitude of superiority in that area onto adulthood with them. Many probably weren't athletes or the "cool kids" in their schools and therefore have the feeling that their superiority in IT and the need for their skills is, as young adults, their time has finally come to "get even", so to speak.

    Comparing this to a doctor is simply apples and oranges. To be a doctor, you need to get pretty damn good grades all through college, pass the MCAT, and then do 4 years of med school and 3-7 years of residency, depending on the specialty. Medical schools tend to look for a certain degree of maturity in candidates and if they don't have it coming in, they tend to get it as they go through. It's a completely different world than what "normal" people go through and thus, it's going to tend to produce much more mature people.

    As for other fields, people tend to enter at a much lower level and tend to need maturity to move up. IT is just different. They'll take just about anyone with the skills. IT people do gain experience at their jobs, but they tend to move up faster, or they move out. Maturity usually has less to do with advancement than skill, unlike other jobs where maturity is often integral to advancement. Maturity in IT gets you into management which is where a lot of geeks don't want to go.
  • by Metex (302736) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @06:01PM (#17606338) Homepage
    You go into your doctors office and he says you need to have a procedure immediatly to remove some part of your body. You might consult one more doctor but at no point do you actually truely question the actions he is about to take even if it means removing a piece of your body.

    On the other hand you go to get your computer fixed. The IT person tells you that your computer is slow and cant do anything because you have 39 viruses and some untold amounts of spyware on your computer. He suggests that you should backup all your documents and let him wipe the system clean. You disagree with him and tell him to install more ram to fix your computer because of an article you read in the paper. He installs it begrugingly and you return a week later having the same problems and stating that the ram is bad and he needs to replace it. rinse and repeat.

    The reason IT people are nasty at times is because everyone believes they are an expert when it comes to computers. It is somewhat insulting that everyday someone will tell you to do something that you explicitly told them was a bad idea.

  • surprise. . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alizard (107678) <alizardNO@SPAMecis.com> on Sunday January 14, 2007 @09:56PM (#17608396) Homepage
    in any profession where people deal with the general public, be assured that these professionals are saying exactly the same kinds of things about you (as in the diary submitter) to each other that we say about them when we fix their self-induced problems. You got high chloresterol brought on by too many McBurgers and fries and you keep going back to your doctor to get some pills? Guess what? That doctor is probably calling you "that idiot" and "meathead" and even less flattering things about you the minute you walk out of the examining room. And he'll be just as right as you are when you slam him because he installed Yet Another Malware-Loaded screensaver on his box.

    The only difference with respect to "public" exposure is that you hang out on IT-oriented blogs so you consider this "in public". Go find some medical professional-oriented blogs if you want to find out what these professionals think of you.

    This is a good thing. We WANT our professionals to blow off steam at each other, because we won't like the results if they blow it off at us... they don't want us telling them "Open a DOS prompt. Type format C: and then type "Y" and all your computer troubles will be over" any more than we want them "accidentally" screwing up our prescription meds.

    One doesn't become a professional anything because we want to kiss the asses of our clients all the time. Anybody who's any good is going to get pissed off at our clients / fellow workers who don't have our specialized skills... and they're going to be pissed off at us because we don't get it right in their areas of expertise in a way that causes them unnecessary trouble. There's some reason why IT pros should have any more humility than they do?

    And yes, you are an idiot. That doesn't mean the rest of us are going to follow your lead.

    Though the biggest idiot here is whoever thought your article worth posting on slashdot.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 14, 2007 @11:04PM (#17608942)
    It's mainly our frustration with the people we have to admin for. I've had my share of support work. In my experience, you run into the first person you want to kill after no longer than a month, on average.

    How do you feel when someone belittles your work as "pushing buttons and drinking coffee, if you're not surfing"? How do you feel when someone makes the same frigging moronic mistake after you've been there three times, showing him how it's done? How do you feel when he still claims it's your fault? How do you feel when people start fiddling with the setup who don't have a clue at all just what they're doing? How do you feel when they install software to bypass your security, sometimes even succeed only to cause a network wide problem (and blaming you)? How do you feel when someone's solution to a program being blocked by the virus scanner (because it's infected) is to turn off the scanner (and blaming you for the infection)?

    I could rant on, but I guess you get the picture.

    So yes, you start to hate the user. You start to belittle him, you start to be condescending, not out of spite (ok, with some users it's plainly spite), but simply because he effing is a moron. It's amazing how normal, rather intelligent people turn into bumbling fools in the presence of a computer. Just to hear them rant about that "stupid machine" and them telling you in no uncertain terms that they think you and your whole computer nonsense should be thrown out of the window.

    Yes, I have shirts with certain "information" to the people around me on them, and yes, I wear them proudly. Get a friggin' clue or feel addressed.

    I have a lot of patience with people who don't know. There is no shame in not knowing. There is shame in not wanting to learn. And the people who should feel the message is for them are the latter ones.

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