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How Do IT Guys Get Respect and Not Become BOFHs? 902

Posted by kdawson
from the keep-a-curled-upper-lip dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I work for a small software company (around 60 people) as the sole IT guy. It's my first time in a position like this and after about 1.5 years I'm starting to get a bit burned out. I try to be friendly, helpful, and responsive and I get no respect whatsoever. Users tend to be flat-out rude when they have a problem, violate our pretty liberal policies constantly, and expect complex projects to be finished immediately upon requesting them. My knee-jerk reaction is to be a bastard, although I've avoided it up to this point. It's getting harder. For those of you who have been doing this a lot longer, how do you get a reasonable level of respect from your users while not being a jerk?"
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How Do IT Guys Get Respect and Not Become BOFHs?

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  • lmgtfy (Score:5, Funny)

    by beefsprocket (1152865) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:15PM (#28275091)
    I've sent a few of the tougher cases to http://lmgtfy.com/ [lmgtfy.com] Usually that smartens them up a bit without having to have too many words ;)
    • Re:lmgtfy (Score:5, Funny)

      by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:55PM (#28275409) Journal

      And if they don't get the hint, try this [justfuckinggoogleit.com] less subtle one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink (130905)
      "But it doesn't work on my browser!"

      lmgtfy _requires_ javascript to work and the previous BoFH might have disabled javascript (or installed noscript) on everyone's browser...
    • Re:lmgtfy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UncHellMatt (790153) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:43AM (#28280411)
      I work as the lone IT person in a police department. It's remarkable how much more patient and calm one can be with lusers who are A) Armed and B) Much, much bigger than me.

      That said, in this position I gained some semblance of respect from my users by doing several things many people don't "teach" you. First and foremost, I set boundaries. If someone calls me in the middle of the night (being a 24/7 "shop", that sort of thing is inevitable), and it's for something like they can't print, I tell them that I'll help them when I get in, and let them know that while I don't mind that they called me, try to keep it to emergencies. Also, I made sure that the supervisors (shift sergeants) were aware of what would count as an emergency, and we talked that over. Maybe what THEY view as an emergency I wouldn't, and vice versa. Another important thing, I go by "when in Rome". Cops are a very, very different breed of user. Most I wouldn't trust with anything more complex than an abacus and smoke signals, and even then I would want someone standing by with a fire extinguisher. So I try to keep as many processes as I can as simple as I can. In other environments I've worked, when managing a network for a software development house, it was simple: I made everything as obfuscated as possible and then had 20 pages of documentation for every 2 steps taken in a process.

      OK, I kid (sorta) on that last bit. But the point is, try to style your IT work to fit the people you're dealing with.

      What I'm saying is don't let people walk all over you. Demand some respect. If you come over to someone's desk to help them, and they're treating you like some drive through window fast food help, walk away, and tell their supervisor you want to be treated with a little more kindness before you'll deal with them again. You don't need to electrocute users in order to gain that respect, though it IS a more fun method.
  • Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:15PM (#28275095)

    Be firm, but don't be a jerk. Be reasonable, and honest - justify and explain. In writing if it helps. Just don't promise more than you can deliver, and be explicitly clear about the complexity of solutions.

    • precisely... (Score:4, Informative)

      by RuBLed (995686) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:05AM (#28275505)
    • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:28AM (#28276041) Homepage

      Be reasonable, and honest - justify and explain.

      And then, if they still bother you, shoot them.

    • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sfing_ter (99478) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:30AM (#28276059) Homepage Journal

      Please do not lie to the lad. Even after he has done ALL OF THAT, it will:
      a) still be his fault email doesn't work and
      b) no they didn't make any changes to ANY settings
      c) still be his fault the computers don't work right

      People fear what they do not understand, yes there will be that one person in 50 who actually gets it and can actually do things but they are only there to keep you going. I have seen the very best natured, good hearted individual turn into a BOFH, contributor to Work or Spoon [workorspoon.com], and all around terse individual - when he is working. He is fine when he is off work. It took 2 years for that to happen and I actually didn't think it would... but alas, intelligent people will only suffer fools for so long...

      • by elevtro (1012599) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @07:36AM (#28278049) Homepage
        I've been at it for my present company for over 4 years now. It is hard not to be a BOFH. Be good at what you do. If you are good people will respect you, unless they are an utter ass, there is no helping those people. Yes I will get stern with some of the hard headed ones. But usually after I've shown them a few times, exactly what THEY DID to cause the problem, they can fix it themselves. If after those few times you are still coming and asking for help then I might let that rudeness come out. I've only been a BOFH once, and I felt so much regret afterward that I apologized to the user and told them I was wrong for what I said. I didn't want to turn in the PHB, who are the real assholes around here.

        Learn your users personalities. Learn their level of user. Then use that information when assisting them. It makes it person and real for them and they will respect you more. No matter how many times you've heard the question or been presented with the problem, the user hasn't. It's like the person at walmart being asked where the trash bags are 100 times a day. He knows, and has said it a 100 times, but when you're the 99th person asking, he might be tired of hearing that same question over and over and gets rude. But if you understand that this person hasn't been told 98 times before, those were 98 other people, and this person really doesn't know, you can keep it real every time someone asks a question that you've answered before. Patience and lots of it go a long way.

        Meditate. It keeps you relaxed when even the nastiest of shit hits the fan. If you are at peace with yourself, you are at peace with all.

        Lastly, work for a company with HIGH turnover so that you never have to deal with someone for more than a year. That way every user is a new user.

        Just kidding about that last one.
    • by yog (19073) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:53AM (#28276185) Homepage Journal
      People on the job seem to get irrationally angry when it comes to computers and networks. Some of it is justified when they are being blocked from getting their own work done, and they will absolutely take it out on you when they don't have a good explanation for why things don't work. Those stupid IT guys messed it up again. It's the department everyone loves to hate.

      The professional approach is to leave your ego at the door when you clock in, and be sure to log all questions and complaints and your responses. If something escalates into a problem where your job is threatened, you can show the paper trail to your management.

      If someone is constantly berating you about computer problems that really are PEBCAK, just log each and every complaint plus your response. It can become quite an amusing read after a while, and you can share it with your management. It makes the other guy look bad. Of course, your goal shouldn't be to screw the other guy, but if they are being kind of childish and vindictive, it's very useful for deflection and self-defense should you be called on the carpet later on.

      Also, good communication is the key to defusing people's annoyance. When people are sitting around waiting for the network to come back up, or the departmental printer keeps not working right, or the web is really slow--if there's an explanation forthcoming quickly, people can understand that you're working like mad to fix it. When an IT department has a stand-offish attitude and refuses to answer phone calls and emails in a timely way, people will assume the worst.
    • Re:Be firm.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Martian_Kyo (1161137) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:20AM (#28276331)

      I agree, use reason and e-mails (to avoid he said she said situations) and quote other people as much as you can. If priorities are a problem ask your boss.
      If your boss doesn't want to be bothered all the time , establish a procedure which he/she will approve which will describe how your priorities are handled. Be simple with it. Use First in first out system, unless the request is critical and may endanger the system. If people complain why aren't you doing something about their problem, quote the procedure.
      IT people are supposed to have very strong sense of logic, use that.

      It wont be easy, especially in smaller companies where nepotism is usually very prevalent.

      Good luck!

      • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ikono (1180291) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:43AM (#28276459)
        Problem is, it takes a sense of logic to appreciate a sense of logic. Most of the people referring to IT do not have that sense. They justify their demands by reasoning that

        "oh, those IT fuckers are too damn lazy. They say they have a thousand open tickets, but they really only have 2 or 3."

        Or

        "They are too lazy to address those tickets fast enough."

        Or maybe they just fall back on the old standby

        "MY request more important than those others. do mine first."

        There is only so much one can take before their logic circuits get overloaded, and they default to the Jackass Mentality.

    • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:43AM (#28276461)

      Have lunch together with your colleagues, instead of eating a sandwich at your desk.
      That makes you seem more like a human than a utility.

      • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sobrique (543255) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:22AM (#28276637) Homepage
        Wish I had mod points, because your comment is insightful. If you 'keep the distance' from your colleagues, you'll gain hate, because people don't understand computers or you. If you have lunch with them, then you'll know them personally, and they'll feel a little more comfortable about talking to you about little IT problems, which have been annoying them.
        Alternatively, make a point of going for a walk around each of the departments you support EVERY day, to say 'hi' and maybe see if everything's ok.
        In my experience, most of the frustration with 'IT' is very often trivial problems, that escalate until they get annoyed enough to go see IT about it. By having a walk 'round the site, you'll spot these, have a bit of a chat, pick up on the 'my mouse is a bit odd' type problems, and get 'em sorted proactively. It sounds like slacking off - and to be fair, it is, sort of - but it's the kind that will end up with your IT department appreciated and welcomed. Call it 'user support clinic' or something, if you need to justify it.
        It will also let you see the smouldering before a fire breaks out that you'll have to go pounce on and fix - usually users will be bitching to each other about something being 'a bit flakey' long before it gets to IT as a critical fault.
      • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @06:46AM (#28277701) Homepage

        This is really the key right there: For most people, someone they know personally that fixes their problems is friendly and helpful. Someone they don't know personally that fixes their problems gets about the same level of respect and attention as their plumber.

        The other related techniques are:
        1. Learn to speak in their language, rather than speaking your language. If they call it a "whizbang", call it a "whizbang" when you're around them, even if they're wrong. At the very least, avoid computer-speak as much as possible.
        2. Use their name. If you see them, say "good morning/afternoon, Bob" or something similar.
        3. When you fix a problem that they can fix, you can tell them something like "next time this happens, you can try ...". Obviously, don't tell them anything that could make things worse, but learning how to clean out a mouseball or check the plugs might prevent you from getting called in and at the very least will give them something to do that feels useful while you fix the problem.

        Remember than when someone contacts IT, they've gone from feeling like a capable adult to feeling like a stupid helpless child. Part of what you have to do is convince them they're a capable adult as you're fixing the problem.

    • Re:Be firm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skye16 (685048) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @06:59AM (#28277771)

      The interesting thing to keep in mind is that your users are often operating under deadlines. Deadlines they could have made if the liberal policies currently in effect were not in effect, and as such, you are seen as an impediment.

      It's short sightedness on their part, probably coupled with poor planning on either their or a superior's part, but the stress they feel is still there, and it usually manifests itself in said rudeness, skirting of said polices, etc.

      For example, our IT department decided to implement a much more comprehensive firewall than before. It had the unintended side effect of blocking eclipse plugin downloads (which apparently usually operate with an SSL certificate, which is currently being hijacked by our organization's "security solution", and so refuses to work).

      I could either a: wait the 3 days (made even worse by not knowing, at the time, it would take 3 days or 3 months) and do zero work, costing my project a few hundred / low thousands of dollars in lost labor in the process, or b: figure out how to get around it. Being a nerd yourself, which would you submit to? Especially if you have a deliverable 5 days out, and you don't really fancy the idea of working 18 hour days just to make up for the lost 3 days in the short term?

      As soon as I had access to the tools I needed, when I truly needed them, I stopped skirting the system. I'm not there to be a jerk and I'm not trying to make IT's job miserable. But I am (I hope understandably) irritated when IT institutes something new like this, without fully testing it with a pilot program, without noting the majority of these gaps in expected service in advance, and without notifying any of the programs operating within the official infrastructure in advance (some of our programs have their own segregated intranets for their development, and so don't really have this problem - mostly because they have zero connectivity to anything outside themselves).

      So keep in mind - what seems to be a perfectly reasonable policy to you (and, in fact, it is), is going to cause some people some (in their mind) unnecessary stress as they try to meet their own deadlines. This doesn't give them the right to be an ass to you, but it may help if you put their behavior in context. The subtleties between being genuinely stressed and upset and being a rude jerk for the sake of being a rude jerk are sometimes lost.

  • by jackb_guppy (204733) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:16PM (#28275101)

    If they are not nice, delay the response.

    Nice people get fast turn responses.

    Just check with your boss first.

    • by teh moges (875080) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:31PM (#28275235) Homepage
      No need to check with the boss, just make sure you prioritize first. Urgent requests get answered first, nice requests second and bastard requests... later. Direct everything through a helpdesk system, so when people are bastards you can inform their bosses that their behavior is making you uncomfortable. At my last job, we had a constant problem of new staff turning up on their first day and their bosses ringing us to say that they need a new user setup straight away. For one-off cases, this wasn't a problem*, but for those that didn't learn, we took a good few days to do it. Paying to have staff sitting there with nothing to do usually teaches them quickly. * we usually left it a day anyway, firstly because some of the aspects of the setup did take time, and secondly, to allow us to stall if they become repeat offenders.
      • by Marful (861873) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:59PM (#28275451)
        LOL @ Rush first...


        I do estimating at my work (and also a little IT) and we used to have a system for "rush quotes" that people could submit. Over the course of a month, it turned out that every quote was a rush quote, which made the system pointless.

        So, I'd be wary of instituting something with a "rush" system...

        BR
        • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:11AM (#28275565) Homepage

          Oh, you just need to make it clear to them in a language they understand: Money.

          We've got "rush-jobs", as in "drop whatever you're doing and do this NOW" jobs.

          They are charged triple the normal rate. The intention is loud and clear: If it's not important enough that you're willing to pay triple to have it fixed right-now, then it's not a rush-job.

          Works fine. I seldom get more than 2-3 rush-jobs in any given month.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Allicorn (175921)

          Spot on. I'm pretty sure this is a general truism of processes which allow users to declare urgency themselves.

          Give users the option and every support ticket is critical, every project is urgent, every callout is an emergency, every bug is fatal.

          The satisfyingly BoFH-esque response is, of course, that every coffee is critical, every smoke is urgent, every liquid lunch an emergency and every complaint about poor service... fatal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Falconhell (1289630)

        Even easier, just tell them its under consideration (Meaning:I have lost the job details).

        If they ask again its under active consideration.(I have started looking for the job details).

        I mean seriously they are users, they get what I damn well want to give them and nothing else.

        At least I dont have to deal with programmers and developers. If I did I would invest in axe, lime and old carpet shares.

        (-:

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:13AM (#28275579) Journal
      I point it out directly, matter of factly. "That's not a very nice thing to say," or "that's not very respectful." Honestly, and not angrily. Then I wait. Awkward silence.........for them. In most cases they will get a goofy grin and say, "yeah" or something and then we are friends again. In some cases they storm out angrily, but that's their fault (what are they going to say, "he told me it wasn't a nice thing to say!!" is going to make HIM look bad, because you were just trying to help out), and suddenly there's less work for you.

      If this doesn't work, it's probably because you're not respecting other people enough. Expect respect from everyone, but respect everyone as well (even if they don't deserve it).
  • by robvangelder (472838) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:17PM (#28275107)

    finish complex projects immediately upon them requesting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:17PM (#28275109)

    Take pride in being the BOFH. Lusers need to be kept in check. Blog about how you've made their lives miserable.

    • Re:Don't avoid it! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by renegadesx (977007) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:25AM (#28275673)
      I personally quit and leave. I moved around form job to job after getting treated like a piece of garbage... and the funny thing is why IT staff never sticks around at those places.

      In the long run they wil lcome to realise that their place is a hostile working environment and managment will force their hand for staff to change their approach.

      Eventually you find a nice one, but if you got the skills, you dont need to put up with that (and if its a small firm you could likely be making more elsewhere)
    • Re:Don't avoid it! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:39AM (#28276745) Journal

      I've seen a couple of IT careers ruined by this attitude. In one case, getting fired was just the start of the guy's problems.

      The BOFH stories are funny. Simon Travaglia writes well and manages to put out clever little satirical stories on a regular basis. He provides an ongoing wry commentary on the state of IT practices in business. He has also, albeit unintentionally, through his cultural influence in the IT world, been the driving force behind more sackings than I care to imagine.

      The point that often gets lost is that his stories are fiction.

      Yes, fiction.

      The unpleasant fact is that in the real world, sysadmins are not generally omnipotent technical gods able to manipulate entire companies at will and escape the consequences of their actions. Nor are management always incompetent drones who will believe anything they're told provided you use big enough words to confuse them. The stereotypes may be comforting, but they're largely not true.

      As I say, I've seen two cases of people getting sacked for directly BOFH-inspired behaviour. One was a guy I shared a house with for a while around 2000 or so, after graduating. He used to regale us with his own "BOFH" stories (though most of them were petty and unfunny). After just over a year, we got home one evening to find he'd been fired. He'd sent out e-mails from his boss's boss's account, designed to promote his own reputation in his company. This had, of course, gotten back to his management chain. My housemate was actually furious because he was convinced that the allegations against him couldn't be "proved". He freely admitted to us he'd done it. But it couldn't be proved, he cried. Honest. The world just wasn't supposed to work this way. He never actually went as far as trying to claim unfair dismissal. I think reality finally managed to penetrate his skull.

      The second guy I saw fired I didn't know so well - rather I saw it at a distance across the organisation where I was working (in 2002). Again, he was a sysadmin (albeit one of several - this is a big organisation). He'd picked up a grudge against a non-technical member of staff and had done the classic BOFH trick of filling their file storage space with naughty pictures then reporting that he'd found them there. In BOFH land, the target would swiftly escorted off the premesis while the BOFH celebrates down at the pub. Of course, in the real world, of course, the victim protested his innocence. The employer follows proper channels and investigates. An external auditor works out exactly what's happened. The sysadmin in question is sacked. And reported to the police. And sued by his intended victim.

      So yes, read the BOFH, enjoy the stories. But don't, for a moment, think they highlight an appropriate way to behave in the real world.

  • Patience! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KenCrandall (13860) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:18PM (#28275121) Homepage

    Unfortunately, IT is viewed a lot like the phones by most users. It's "invisible" when it does work, and is only a priority to them when it doesn't work (or they need something!)

    I've found that the best way to make people happy is to effectively communicate with them -- especially when it comes to deadlines. Now I'm not saying to sandbag :-) but if you can over-deliver some things and/or get them done earlier than promised, then you set an expectation of success and partnership with your user base. As difficult as it is, sometimes, you MUST remain non-cranky or bitchy, or you will get stereotyped as the "grumpy IT guy" faster than you can think.

    If it's really burning you out after only 1 1/2 years, then you should really look at (a) your workload (b) your choice of career and (c) your work/life balance.

    • Re:Patience! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:27PM (#28275199)

      If you want respect you're in the wrong job. Be firm, fair and friendly but don't look for love.
      Be responsive and always close the circle by telling the user what you have done for him.
      Tell people what their priority is and be prepared to negotiate. Remember every time you have to do more validates your free time when things are slack.
      A special request today is business-as-usual tomorrow. You are only as good as your last result.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uvajed_ekil (914487)
      If it's really burning you out after only 1 1/2 years, then you should really look at (a) your workload (b) your choice of career and (c) your work/life balance.

      These are things to consider, but it may just be a bad company. Usually it seems that folks who don't fit well within a certain company are the types of folks who don't fit well with ANY company, but sometimes it is not them. For example, the HR department at a company a friend worked for was especially inept, and kept hiring unqualified morons wh

    • Re:Patience! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@MOSCOWgmail.com minus city> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:09AM (#28275545) Journal

      I agree as far as "They treat us like crap when everything is working perfectly." I've been in places where everything worked smoothly, and we were treated like garbage, and I've been in places where nothing worked, and we were treated like kings.

      I don't find that communication helps much, but it may just be my situation. I miss deadlines constantly because I have a job that is (in theory) equal parts deadline-driven code generation, and crisis-driven maintenance and administration. When a crisis pops up, everything gets a little later, and thanks to cutbacks, I'm in charge of way more than 1 person can effectively maintain (5 years ago it was 8 people, now it's me), so there are always fires that need to be put out, and there is very little time for the original code which is technically still part of my job.

      To add insult to injury, about 70% of my work is done remotely, so all the people who work where I happen to have my desk have this mistaken idea that I work for them and that, since they don't have any current problems, I should be working on their code requests.

      I don't know. I'm on the edge of adopting world class BOFHdom in self-defense. Last week I dropped 40 hours (in 2 days) on a site that wasn't even technically mine because their me equivalent was in the hospital in critical condition, and they had had a massive systems crash at the same time.

      The level of sniping and whining and posturing I put up with from the other whiney bitches at my other sites for their ridiculous bullshit problems almost drove me over the edge, despite the worshipful gratitude of the people I was helping.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'm on the edge of adopting world class BOFHdom in self-defense.

        Go for it! And always remember, the most BOFHly thing you can do is give some luser exactly what he asked for, knowing he'll regret it. (e.g., he demands you install a search bar for him, so you give him Bonzai Buddy.)

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:20PM (#28275139) Homepage Journal

    If something was working yesterday and it isn't working today, you broke it.

    For example, email. Why does email go down? Why? What's so hard about running a mail server? It was working yesterday, I come in this morning, it's not working.. what did you do? Don't say you did nothing, you did. It was working. You stuck your grubby little paws in there and messed with it, didn't you? Fix it.

    You can't handle the truth.

  • Fuck em (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spit (23158) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:21PM (#28275149)

    You have to options: slap some reality into your users and put them in their place, or burn out. Your choice.

    • Re:Fuck em (Score:5, Funny)

      by GF678 (1453005) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:41AM (#28275783)

      You have to options: slap some reality into your users and put them in their place, or burn out. Your choice.

      Given your post title is "Fuck em", are you're suggesting I have sex with my users and include some spanking with it, in order to put them in their place as it were?

      I'm not sure our corporate policy covers this particular situation.

  • Well.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jessejay356 (625312) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:25PM (#28275171) Homepage
    I couldn't do it, I became a programmer and now am one of the annoying people bugging our IT guy.
    • Re:Well.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:06AM (#28275921)
      Actually programmers tend to be fairly low maintenance for most IT departments. They build and configure their own machines, keep the patches up to date, and generally solve their own computer problems. It is the front desk people who play every flash game around, complete with worms and viruses, on standard issue IE6 and then complain when their computer is "broken" that you have to watch out for.
      • Re:Well.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:59AM (#28276219)

        You are in a category of "good programmer"

        It depends on the programming being done. Many of hte programmers I've supported were the ASP .net developers. I can't tell you how many I've had to explain why they can't simply delete DLL files from their system32 folder and can't arbitrarily install ancient versions of SQL without patching them.

        Of course, these are the same people leaving giant SQL injection vulnerabilities in all of their apps (and who have a complete lack of knowledge of encryption), leading to the complete compromise of the credit card database. But that's neither here nor there.

        All I'm saying is that some organizations ONLY have these types of programmers. :-)

  • Teach them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xous (1009057) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:26PM (#28275175) Homepage

    Hi,

    You need to to develop policies for handling requests and have your manager back them. You also need to make sure the employees know about these policies and understand them. You might want to see if your manager will sponsor a QA half-day with some free food so you and your users can get to know each other and understand their requirements and what you can and can't do for them.

    If employee's aren't complying with these policies politely explain it to them and CC it to their manager. If they do it again reference the original email and explain the problem to the manager and remind them that you have reported this kind of activity before.

    If someone asks you to skip then ahead in the queue or go against company ask them to submit the request in writing to your manager.

    If you streamline the process that fits your policies and make sure they see that following the rules is faster they will be more inclined to do it.

    If you can't get your manager to back you on this your SOL and should be looking for a new job.

    There is a difference between being a BOFH and following company policy.

    These changes will not make them respect you as these people are likely assholes to begin with and should be treated as such. I don't do favors for people that can't be bothered to show a little common courtesy and they don't end up very high on my TODO list.

    • Re:Teach them! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by binaryspiral (784263) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:51PM (#28275381)

      I agree - establish a process. It may seem counter productive - but if the grunts can come and pull you off a project, then something is broken.

      Establish a ticketing system - Request Tracker comes to mind. If someone is having a problem, send it to the "help desk" instead of interrupting you from completing your tasks. This gives you the opportunity to do a few things:

      1. Prioritize your workload. - The spam message the receptionist got last week and decided to mention today isn't worth interrupting your server build to review.

      2. Display your queue at any given time to everyone so expectations can be honestly set. - Three servers are behind on patches, email storage is critical, and your database server has some issue with backups causing the transaction logs to fill. Yes, I know your DVD drive is broken - it's on my list, see?

      3. Document a history of problem systems, processes, or people. - The web server is in serious need of retirement. Every time sales sends out their monthly newsletter, the traffic spikes cause a huge queue in storage and runs out of memory. And, yes, the CEO calls me directly every Monday when his Blackberry radio is automatically disabled because he let his battery die - and can't remember how to turn it on.

      Document, track, and justify getting some help keeping the office humming.
       

      • Re:Teach them! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JWSmythe (446288) <.jwsmythe. .at. .jwsmythe.com.> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:23AM (#28275659) Homepage Journal

            The last place I was at, I was driven absolutely nuts with incomplete trouble tickets by people who had no clue what they wanted.

            "I want an FTP account for a user in [city]."

            So I'd reply, give me a hint of which server, what username, what password, and why you're requesting this. Each server had dozens of machines.

            I had written up a very clear and concise list of what was expected in a ticket. That was overridden by middle management as unnecessary.

            "Can you search the Apache logs for [customer]?" That would be a customer who had a presence in several cities, and each one had several sites. No hint of what was being searched for, the date(s) to search, what server, what city, or anything more than the customer.

            And my favorite. "We need this project documented. You have 2 weeks.". That's it, no more real explanation. I'd never worked on the project. Had been categorically excluded from the project. Was not allowed to know anything about the project, and suddenly I was to recreate the project (document building each and every custom app from source), which the steps weren't documented and only vague ideas were given about any of it. I asked for information. I begged for information. I was told "This has to be done or the company won't be paid for the project." One week went by and finally information started trickling in. The last day of week 2, I had everything I needed (at like 5pm on Friday). I wrote up a 20 page document, included both sources and compiled versions, with an explanation of how things worked to the best of my understanding. I made ISO images, and put them on an internal server so the requestor could get them either that night, or Monday morning.

            "What were you thinking? Why would you make ISOs. I wanted it exactly as we'd ship to the customer." Ahhh, well beyond spec, but reading minds was part of the job, right? I can read minds, and theirs are drawing a blank most days.

            So I burnt the CD's, printed the document, put it in a FedEx envelope with a bogus shipping label, and put it in the managers chair, like it had just come in. He sat on it for two more weeks before handing it off to someone else in house to "test". A month later, he hadn't finished testing. Another week later I was told "You didn't include instructions on ...." No shit, I didn't know anything about ..... No one told me about ..... You're only coming to me now to tell me ..... exists. Why wasn't I told about this when I started, so I could complete your request. The truth? Because they don't know what they want, what any other middle manager has had someone do, or even what other departments are doing. Countless meetings all day long, and no one has a clue.

            Am I ranting?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      employees know about these policies and understand them...so you and your users can get to know each other and understand...
      make them respect you

      And if that doesn't works, try crying.

    • Re:Teach them! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by scamper_22 (1073470) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:21AM (#28275637)

      Make your workload visible!

      I guarantee you, whatever workload you think is causing you to burn out, the software developers are under the same workload.

      1. Get yourself an issue tracking system. Since you're the lone IT guy... you don't need anything complex, but get something... preferably web based.

      2. Make the wait queue public. So people can see how much work you have to do. They also know how long to wait for things.

      3. Let this run for a few weeks, and if you feel you could use a second set of hands, you now have the data to take to your manager. Get a coop student, get another IT person...

      I say this as a software engineer. I now insist on everything being tracked on an issue tracking system. Nothing is worse than random people asking you to do work and no one realizes how much it all adds up to. I don't be an ass about it, but I do insist everything be tracked. If I have to, I submit the issue myself and assign it to myself.

      Do this and people will come to understand.

      Now then... you naturally understand that software engineers are generally reasonably computer savvy people. Nothing would frustrate them more than knowing they *could* fix a problem if only they had the rights or passwords to do so. You are lucky you are in a small company. You can bypass 'official' policies once in a while. If you can't handle the workload, maybe see if there are software developers you trust that can handle certain things. Maybe expose some scripts you run...

    • Also (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:29AM (#28275687)

      Don't say no. Seriously, don't tell users "No you can't do that, no you can't have that." Instead, explain to them what they have to do and/or what has to happen for them to get it.

      For example suppose a user wants admin on their desktop and it is against company policy. Tell them it is against policy, and ask them if you can help them with what they need. If they say "I don't want your help, I want admin," then tell them "Well ok, but to do that you'll have to get a policy exception, here's the process for doing that." Now the process may be "Ask the big boss who is going to say no," that's fine. Just let them know what they need to do to get what they want. If it is something they can't or won't do, well then no problem. If they can, well then also no problem.

      The reason is it makes you not the bad guy. You aren't telling them "No this is impossible," which they figure is bullshit, you are telling them "This is possibly, but only if preconditions are met." It really does make a difference. Also makes a difference if you have to defend yourself to someone higher up. If you said no, maybe the higher up gets you in trouble for that. If you said "Here's what you have to do," and the person didn't do it, when you explain that to the higher up they'll more likely ask the person "Why didn't you do what he said?"

      Also you never know, even if you think the conditions won't be met, maybe they are. Maybe it was more possible than you thought. Like say a user says "I need 50TB of storage on the central NAS." There's not that kind of space, you've got 10GB per user and that's all. Well you go and find out what it would cost to add 50TB to it. Say with the disks, shelf, backup tapes and drives and such it is $200,000. You then tell them "Ok to get that you'll need to get a requisition for $200,000 for us to buy the necessary hardware." Week later they show up with all the necessary stuff. Turns out their project is real important and the funds are there for stuff like that, even though you didn't think so.

      This falls in with the same sort of thing the GP talked about like skipping them to the top. Whatever the process is for that, tell them what they have to do. "Ok we can do that, however for that exception to be made a vice president or higher needs to send a written request to the IT manager. Once he has it, he'll have me move you to the top." Or whatever is applicable to your company. It makes you not the asshole, covers your ass and so on.

      Now this doesn't deal with all cases. Some people are just pricks and will always be so, they figure you have to jump at their every word. However many people are just stressed and taking it out on you. If you show them that you are willing to work with them, that can really help. It makes a big psychological difference to many people when they feel like they are empowered and they have control. When you tell them "Yes, but..." followed with the things they need to do, it is back on them, they are in control. When you tell them "No," you are being a jerk and taking control from their perspective.

  • You don't ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:26PM (#28275181)

    They treat you like crap because they can get away with it - that simple.

    If the general behavior around your office is as you say, start keeping a clipboard with their project requests on it. They want something done, they get put on the list, and make sure they see that they're on the bottom of that list. Add a column to indicate estimated time required.

    Essentially they're treating you like the janitor. They think everything's as simple as unclogging the toilet or getting more toilet paper. And your attitude seems to reinforce their perception of this.

    You seem to show them that your time is worthless and that your job could be done by a trained monkey - why would you expect them to treat you differently?

    • Re:You don't ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phoebe (196531) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:07AM (#28275517)

      Essentially they're treating you like the janitor. They think everything's as simple as unclogging the toilet or getting more toilet paper. And your attitude seems to reinforce their perception of this.

      You seem to show them that your time is worthless and that your job could be done by a trained monkey - why would you expect them to treat you differently?

      Being an IT person is being a computer janitor. If you are doing the job properly you are simply unclogging the tubes or restocking printer paper. Every machine should be imaged and locked down with something like Microsoft SteadyState, when a user has a problem it's either a reboot, re-image, or a hardware replacement.

      The problem might stem from merging IS and IT jobs into the same position with no distinction being made. IS projects should be handled in a more formal manner than re-stocking a printer but because defining such an interaction is widely open to interpretation it has been taken to the users advantage. You need to take ownership of that interaction and make it clear the difference between such projects and cleaning the tubes.

  • by bol (152634) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:27PM (#28275193)

    In technology there are a lot of roles, software developers, system administrators, network administrators, project managers with technology backgrounds, etc etc etc. You sound like you might be "your company's computer guy" also known as a workstation administrator. There are as many varied roles in the workplace as there are people. Make sure not to lump it all together.

    In any career there are hurdles and IT is no exception. It's important to see the path ahead of you as difficult as it may be. Most people enter into IT with a passion for computers and technology. They want to learn more, they want to be able to build bigger and better infrastructure and to knock down all obstacles in their way. You need to find your niche. Some people are software development gurus and some people understand the intricate details that bind systems together. Do you spent your evenings learning new technology and figuring out the latest and greatest?

    Try not to take things personally with dealing with others. It's important not to consider anybody just a "user." You have customers. Your customers want service and it's your job to provide that service to them. Most people in IT are very standoffish, anti-social and overly opinionated. It takes awhile to adapt and adjust to actually interfacing with people. The most important attribute of any employee is communication and nobody succeeds in a vacuum. Treat your customers well and you'll get respect in return. Itâ(TM)s fine to have a preference and its fine to have opinions. Just make sure you temper them with objective thinking, facts, and (at least) the appearance of an open mind.

    If this is your first IT role you may want to consider why you got into it in the first place. What's your goal? How do you see your future? I've been a system administrator for over 10 years and have made the transition to being a system architect. My goal is to design infrastructure for the biggest installations on the planet. What's yours?

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:29PM (#28275219) Journal

    When they're nice to you, make an effort to fix their problem as quickly and offer suggestions. Be friendly and personable.

    When they're not nice to you, everything takes twice as long. Get everything in writing. Do it all formally. REMAIN professional. Acting like a child will only make your own life stressful and miserable and ultimately get you fired.

    Now there are exceptions. Anyone in a sufficiently high position is going to be able to have you fired if they think you're stalling. So do tread carefully.

    The above advice might SEEM unprofessional - not always doing your best - but in the long run you're doing the business a favour. You'll be surprised how much more respect you get once your users learn that giving respects gets them the result they wanted. At which point everything runs more efficiently.

    You'll never get anywhere in business by being seen as a doormat.

    • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:41AM (#28275771)
      Intentional slowdowns while remaining professional? This is impossible as being professional means you aren't going to slow down your work because someone wasn't nice to you. Your post is more "be mean to the people that treat you mean, unless they can fire you". Which is just code for "Be an asshole to people you don't like".

      If you're being professional, you shouldn't have to worry about who can have you fired.
      • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:53AM (#28276825)

        First one point:
        - There are many people out there which will intentionally be rude, aggressive and obnoxious towards others as a way to obtain speedier service - they are usually in management and sales. This disrupts the normal work flow of the company, causing negative side-effects (which are mostly felt by other than the rude ones) which are larger in size than the positive outcomes they themselves get from this behavior. The overall count is that it's good for them but bad for the company.
        - Any discussion about how to counteract said behavior must take in account that you are trying to eliminate an individual behavior which has an overall negative effect on the company's efficiency and thus it's bottom line. As such, the range of actions your can take while still being "professional" is a lot larger than "if you're just doing it because you're pissed-off".
        - More generally, office politics ARE part of everybody's work spec (even if not a written part) so you better learn how to deal with it instead of cowering behind the "if I do not behave as a cold logical robot with no concern for my well being and future in this company then I'm being unprofessional" theory.

        That said, arbitrary slowing down you work (as in: you're free now but you just throw it into your in-tray and wait 2h) would be unprofessional.

        However, weighting in the behavior of the person having the problem when prioritizing your work is also professional, simply because the rude and aggressive types also tend to be the less cooperative when it comes to solving their problems - the exact same problem can be sorted out much faster when the other side cooperates.

        It's the long term approach to making your job efficient: for any two problems which would otherwise have equal priority, you solve the faster to solve first then the other one - so you fix what is more important to fix and in overall your response is faster, which saves the company money. That it happens that the uncooperative people (which usually are the rude and obnoxious ones) also cause that, by nature of their own uncooperative behavior, their problems are slower to solve, it's only a problem of them, not you.

        To remain utterly professional, you must do your best to distinguish between the truly uncooperative types and the cooperative but momentarily really stressed types: those with a long history of rudeness and obnoxious behavior can be safely tagged as uncooperative, for the other ones, it's actually a good idea to be extra calm and considerate - if a usually polite person is having so much problems that they're stressed out it's probably a good idea to pay extra attention to their problems.

  • Remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:30PM (#28275225)
    Remember the other side of the equation. Users who have to sit for days doing nothing because their user accounts aren't set up right. Ridiculous security policies like being forced to change your password every month. Network configuration changes that break sofware they've been using for years. Pointless upgrades that add bloat and remove features.

    It's tough being a user, seemingly toyed with by the IT guys.
    • Re:Remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:40PM (#28275311)

      That's why I turned to telling the users in advance what's in for them. Often they even get to "vote" if a certain update should be done.

      People want to have the feeling their opinion is valuable. Sure, I eventually get what I want, but they think they've "influenced" my decision when it's actually the other way around. It helps if you tell them what they need to know to make the choice that you already did. They're much more willing to support your choice if they think it was theirs.

      Yes, that's not nice and that's not really user friendly. But it gets the job done and keeps the users happy.

  • by moxitek (744525) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:33PM (#28275249)
    After doing this type of work for a while, I've found that the best way to keep my sanity while keeping users happy was to implement rigorous policy regarding how and when users ask for help. It sounds like your outfit may be too small to have a dedicated "helpdesk" or front line support, but I would suggest at least setting up a helpdesk system or Sharepoint portal that is self service to allow users to send in issues.

    This allows you to maintain visiblity into your workload, so you can show why something isn't getting done after the fifth time Joe User asks the status, plus is an easy sell to your management with the argument that it allows you to effectively prioritize without users in your face all day asking why such and such isn't done or that this or that is the most important thing in the world at the moment.

    The best thing about a policy like this is that you can easily deflect to people that are rude or in your face. "Did you put in a ticket?" "Sorry, I'm super busy and I can't effectively prioritize this request until you submit it." "Oh, your an asshole and want to know the status every five minutes? Check the portal." Getting enforcment on this is your biggest battle. If you can't win that, then take your experience, dedication and hard work and start shopping around. There's no reason to be burnt out because of the user population if you can help it.
  • by zugmeister (1050414) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:34PM (#28275253)
    One thing to keep in mind is that in their eyes you are on par with the plumber. Nobody really wants to call the plumber or have him around, OTOH you really need one when the fecal matter hits the rotary air impeller. When they give you attitude they are probably angry / frustrated at their machine / server / the situation and not necessarily you specifically. If they're being really uptight when you walk in the door remind them that you've had the last 15 seconds to fix it and you're on their side.
    Depending on the political situation you may be able to interject something into a company meeting explaining what's going on and get people to consider your side.
    All in all, remember to keep calm and be sure this is really the right thing for you to be doing. Maybe it's time for you to make a change?
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:51PM (#28275389)

      Could someone drop a few insightful mods on that guy? It's straight to the point.

      You're essentially a repairman. Nobody wants to deal with one until whatever he can fix breaks down. And when it breaks down, people are usually anything but happy about it. Especially in today's offices, they can't do jack without their computers, so they're under heavy pressure when they call you: They can't work!

      So they stand there, getting angrier by the minute because their deadlines aren't going to be pushed back just because that computer doesn't work. They maybe don't even blame it on you. But you're there and they're angry.

      Once the machine works again, you've become obsolete. They don't need you anymore. But they need to catch up because they lost time.

      I admire people who work in helpdesk, and I make sure they feel acknowledged and thanked when they fix a problem for me. I know well that they don't get that a lot, but they'd sure need it to balance out the abuse they have to deal with.

  • by subreality (157447) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:36PM (#28275273)

    Have a frank discussion with your manager. Explain what your problems are. If he has a spine at all, he'll set reasonable expectations of you, and stand up to other managers who're complaining, thus isolating you from this BS and letting you do your job.

    If you don't have a manager who can do this, you need to talk to the higher-ups about remedying this situation (which should be doable in a company that size), by either moving you under a competent manager, hiring one, and optionally firing the nonmanager who you currently report to. If that problem can't be fixed, you will soon have to choose between your sanity and your job. Protip: Choose sanity.

    You also obviously need more people. If there are legitimate projects that are waiting because they're low priority in your deep stack, then it's a pretty easy case to make. I've been a single IT guy in a 60 person software company, and it's simply not sustainable long-term.

  • by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:45PM (#28275329) Homepage

    Be professional
    Be confident in your expertise
    Don't over explain the issue if there's no need to
    Don't talk down to them
    Don't assume just because they don't know how to fix something that they are lazy or stupid
    Don't play that "give them exactly what they asked for to the letter". Be a human.
    If you honestly have too much work, let it be known to your managers. Make sure your not slacking off if you do this.
    Shower

    If you do all of these things and they are still "unappreciative"

    1) Are you sure it's not you? Are you warranting it? Or, are you being over sensitive.

    2) Maybe you work for a shitty group of people. Most places I've worked, our IT people have gotten respect. I've seen a few who didn't, and honestly, I think it was their condescending attitude and/or blame delagation that made others combative.

    3) Find a new field of work. Maybe this isn't what you're cut out for. Employees are your customers and you have issues with them. Get out of the service industry.

  • unpopular answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:47PM (#28275345) Homepage

    I have an answer that's probably not going to be too popular around these parts, but I'm going to give it anyway: Learn to be political.

    There's not a particular technique or trick. You're going to have to learn about the culture of the company you are, and observe who is getting treated decently and getting respect. Get in with one or more of those people, and that connection will help you. Learn what the "popular kids" have in common and make it your own. Experiment and learn how to complain productively, how to get what you want, how to persuade those who disagree with you, and how to defend yourself against attacks. It's strategy. It's war. It's the way of the weasel.

    Now I'm not advocating that you actually lie, cheat, or do a bad job. Just understand that success takes more than doing a good job. Political savvy is a valid skill of its own.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ghostdoc (1235612)

      Agree with the above (where's my mod points?) All offices are political environments and being a geek in that environment can be hard. If you really can't hack it, then buy some protection: make friends with the Queen Bee (every office has one, usually the CEO's PA) and get her on your side to watch your back for you.

      I'd also add:

      Maintain a list of tasks that you have to do. When someone asks you to do something, add it to the bottom of the list. If they insist on a deadline, ask them what other tasks on th

  • by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:47PM (#28275347)

    It sucked. Software developers think they understand information systems and network admin better than you do, and they really don't. They're (hopefully) smart, well paid, probably arrogant, and often actually can do your job. That is, if they could be bothered with the administrivia that is necessary to do IT right, which they can't.

    You won't get respect easily at a SW company in IT. If you aren't generally first tier skillz, hyper productive, and fun to be around, your life is just going to suck.

    I would seek work at a non SW company. Non computer folk are much more appreciative.

  • by deets101 (1290744) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:47PM (#28275349)
    I found solace in drugs, booze and hookers. This worked out great for a while. After some time (about 10 hours) it started affecting my job and personal life. I have since been fired from job, so the stress is gone. The bad thing is that now I am addicted to drugs and it burns when I piss. Oh yeah, my left me and took our kids to her mothers.

    --
    My parents went to slashdot and all I got was this lousy sig!
  • White Board (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ozoner (1406169) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:49PM (#28275361)

    Here's what I did in that situation:

    I put up a large white-board, and each time someone requested a job, I wrote it on a strip and put it at the bottom of the list.

    When they complained about the delay, I pointed to the white-board and suggested that they negotiate with those above them for priority.

    It worked well.........

    • Re:White Board (Score:4, Informative)

      by daffmeister (602502) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:47AM (#28275819) Homepage

      Agreed. The whiteboard is a great idea but any visible trouble-ticket queue would work. I'm guessing that the problem is that each person views you as their sole resource. They need to see that they are one of many. A formal trouble-ticket system goes a long way to alleviating that.

      The other option (although you might be too small a group for this) is that all requests go through your manager. I've managed IT teams and when all requests have to go through me then I can be the bastard and the guys doing the actual work can be nice. If they need to bounce something they can just refer the trouble-maker to me.

      The key is to put something - a system or a person - between the requests coming in and the effort going out.

  • Two-way street (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kirby (19886) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:17AM (#28275607) Homepage

    The same way anyone else gets respect. Actually get to know your coworkers, make sure that they know you understand their concerns and needs (and it helps if it's true), be someone who isn't just the weird guy in the server room that nobody ever talks to.

    Don't consider getting to know your coworkers to be 'politics'. That's an anti-pattern.

    It's not a cure-all, but if at least some people start thinking of you as a human with a name, and actually trust you, it helps a lot.

    And also, return the favor. They're not just users violating policies and expecting miracles - they're stressed out people with demanding jobs that need support. If you don't respect them, it's _blindingly obvious_ and they will respond in kind.

    Not everyone's personality is suited to this approach, but a little bit of empathy goes a long ways.

  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:51AM (#28276157)
    I am a software engineer working at a firm that has 50% engineering and 50% sales and administration. We use an outside firm for IT support since :
      1) We can change our own printer toner
      2) If something is broken on our PCs, we either don't trust anyone else to fix it for us or simply need a new PC at which point we reinstall it anyway.
      3) There's no such thing as an IT guy that would even understand where to begin to install and configure our tools (which actually suck since we have to enter in hardware addresses just to get them to start)
      4) We don't use much more than an e-mail server, a file server, and a Cisco. None of which requires a system administrator on site.
      5) Subversion and Wiki servers are run on a separate machine that the developers take control of.

    I would seriously pity any fool that would even consider being the first IT guy to start working at this company if it ever grew large enough that it should need one on site. Being the IT guy at a small engineering firm where the people on site have historically simply fixed their own stuff would be a disaster. I've seen it before as well. You just don't ever want to be that guy. The problem is, most software engineers learned a lot of what they know by grinding through these problems on test networks, home networks, school networks, etc... It is very rare they ever had to do a good job and make something that could stay live 24/7. So they don't know what it takes to make a system stable for 60 users that can be depended on, instead, they know that it's just a line in a script, what's so hard about that.

    If you want a position where a system adminstrator receives more respect, then go to a non-tech company. For example, the happiest system admins I've heard of work at places like paper mills. Remember that you're working at a company where you're more of a convenience than a necessity. If you got hit by a bus, the software engineers would hate doing it, but they'd just start doing the work themselves instead. In a way, at the company you're working at, you're nothing more than a single person that asks the boss for money for new stuff instead of having 40 engineers dropping receipts on his desk. So, in a way, where you are working, you're simply a secretary.

    If you want recognition for your talents, go to a company where instead of being "The guy who could have been a programmer/engineer but wasn't smart enough" and head to a company where you're "The guy who keeps the company running".
  • What do you want? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Intrinsic (74189) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @02:09AM (#28276267) Homepage

    After 15 years of working in this field I can offer you some advise but you are not going to want to hear it.
    1. Do some work on yourself, read books on how to communicate with difficult people.

    2. If you dont like how you are treated in any situation you have two options: remove yourself from siuation. Or accept the situation gracefully and do you best to improve it.

    IMHO experience after trial and error, I have learned to trust my instincts. After years of working on my personality my goal is to be my genuine best with quality service and professionalism, by setting and example of being humble and compassionate to every one I meet, and I mean everyone regardless of what I think about the person.. Then after looking at the situation and finding no fault in my treatment toward others, I have to realize that I cant change people. I can only change myself and if my qualities are not enough to reverse someones bad treatment against me, I remove myself from the situation and find another company that values what I do for them and treats me with respect. I dont have time for people that are not able to appreciate my qualities. Let the deal with people that are just as miserable as them, They can be good company for each other.

    The next job you interview for, start doing some interviewing of them in return. Talk with them about your qualities, and talk about your history with the people you worked with in the past and explain how you want work with those kinds of people in the future. If your interviewers become defensive, or try to dismiss your claims, that is the first warning sign. I usually give it three warning signs before I walk out and thank them for their time. The second warning sign is an interview that is too much like an interview and offers no friendliness or balanced approach to genuine conversation along with the interview process. If its all business and no talk about personal interests or desires, its not going to be a friendly place to work.

    The third warning sign is when you ask or are given and opportunity to walk around and meet some of the people that work there. Ask them what its like working there, If you get allot of pauses in their communication or sideways looks that is the third warning sign.

    Meet your interviews more than once and make sure they make you feel comfortable in the work place before you make any decisions. No job is worth not feeling respected, you can always find another one.

    In my own professional life I have decide that I dislike most large businesses mostly because of petty politics and peoples obsession with status which means absolutely nothing to me. so I work for myself, I started my own small business providing excellent computer, web-site and video/audio services to people who give a shit.

  • by joedoc (441972) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @07:24AM (#28277957) Homepage
    I was the IT department head at a small Navy command from 1998 through 2006 (my position was eliminated via cutbacks...now I'm a contractor). I had small staffs of one or two guys over that time, but spent a few years slugging it out alone. I had many of the same issues you do, perhaps not with the intensity you've experienced. Navy enlisted folks, for the most part, tended to treat me respectfully, and the officer corps and senior staff nearly always knew better than to get on my bad side.

    Every person who came to this command had to sit through a face-to-face IT brief with me. I gently explained what they could and couldn't do, how to report problems, etc. They signed off on the brief so I know they got it and I had a record of it.

    Occasionally, I had some assholes who insisted on being...well, assholes...and breaking the rules. My policy was to sit down with them privately and explain that they did sign a document saying they understood the rules. I would also gently confront them with the problem they were causing, and I would ask them not to do it again. Then, I'd follow up. Still a problem? Disable their account, send a report up the chain. The fireworks would usually start (especially among the officers) when I shut them down...they'd run to the executive officer and piss like kittens about their access, at which point the XO would show them my message. Then he'd call me in, and we'd have it out in front behind closed doors. I always won. One or two incidents like this usually stopped them completely.

    I had a set of policies that were outside the "official" IT instructions, but they were mine nonetheless:
    1. We have a trouble ticket reporting system on the command web site. That's where all problems get reported. It's a simple form, fill out details, I'll contact you. How quickly depends on emergency level. This didn't apply to my boss (the XO) or the unit Commanding Officer. But they rarely had problems.
    2. I don't deal with problems that you tell me when I'm walking down the hall or working on something else. I'll listen, but you need to post a trouble ticket. That's the only way I can track and prioritize issues. If you tell me and don't report it properly, don't complain when it doesn't get fixed.
    3. Make sure they understand that the computers and the network don't belong to them. I used to tell my folks that all the IT stuff belonged to me, because someone in the Navy chain put me in charge of it. If they want to do stuff you don't want them doing, explain that they can do that stuff at home. Not on your network. Then cut them off if they insist.
    4. Use all the security and administrative tools you have at your disposal. I hate working with Windows, but my experience with their servers and domains was that you have a slew of security tools built in that can cut out pretty much all behavior you don't like. Document all your policies (especially for you own sanity - you need a way to remember how to undo stuff!), and make sure they understand them clearly.

    I've always found that violators of my rules tend to get upset when they can't get to their stuff or find their passwords being reset every six hours. Sometimes you have to get their attention.

    By the way, make sure you get away from the desk for a while during the day, even if it's just to go outside for a short walk or stretch. Just getting some non-office air in your lungs and stretching the back, legs and arms will make you feel a lot better.

    I don't do sysadmin stuff now. I'm a web apps developer, a contractor, I get paid very well (a high security clearance helps), and my job has little of the stress and responsibilities I had before. This is much better.

  • I had your job. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:43AM (#28278717) Journal

    Well, maybe not your exact job, but close enough. The thing is, you seem to be confusing " friendly, helpful, and responsive" with being their bitch, and "being a bastard" with asserting yourself and your rights.

    Here is what I did:

    1. Determine who your boss is. I don't mean any dotted-line bosses, or your "customers". I mean the person that can fire you. If that person is not with in two levels of the CEO, you should start looking for a new job because the IT department is an after-thought.
    2. Get a complete job description and an org chart.
    3. Think about how your job has been for the last 1.5 years. Try to determine why you are not treated with respect. Is it a result of you not standing up for yourself or is it because your boss would over-ride you when you stood up for yourself?
    4. Come up with a plan of action to correct the situation.
    5. Go to your boss, explain the current conditions, and present your plan of action. If your boss is not part of the problem, he will support your plan. If your boss is part of the problem, keep looking for a new job.
    6. Implement the plan or leave for a new job. If you leave explain to everyone above you why you are leaving.

    As for the plan of action, consider the following:

    1. You boss needs to stand behind you 100%.
    2. Learn to use the word "no". If someone comes to you and wants something unreasonable, use the word. If they get upset, send them to your boss, who should ask them "What did the IT guy say?" and then he should repeat your answer to them. See #1.
    3. If they are rude to you, call them on it. Tell them you there to help them, but you do not have to put up with abuse. If they persist, take their computer back to the shop and tell them you will bring it back when it is fixed. If they complain, See #1.
    4. Enforce your "pretty liberal policies", to the letter. If you have input or control the policies, make them less liberal and put some teeth into the penalties. Then, apply those penalties. Oh, and it might not hurt to make an example, possibly public example, of someone who constantly violates the policies. See #1.
    5. If someone comes to you with a complex project, give them a reasonable time frame for completion. If they demand it be done sooner claiming it is an emergency or that they need it done, remember that a lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on yours. Explain to them that you have other projects, some more important than theirs, that are ahead of their project and their project will take time as it is complex. If they don't like it, see #1.

    As you can see, this requires that your boss stand behind you and back you 100%. If not, then you are better off finding a new job. But, even if your boss will over-ride you every single time, you are better off pushing problems up the chain of command. Eventually, they will stop coming to you and start going to your boss. Then, you can turn to your boss and say "Which of these four 'important projects that have to done before everything else', do you want me to do first?" You can force your boss to set priorities and then when people come asking about their oh so important projects, you can say "My boss said I am to work on these projects in this order. Your project is number y, I am on x." and if they don't like it point them back to the boss.

    If you haven't gathered yet, the objective is to either get the authority you need to assert yourself and your rights, or force everything to go through your boss and make him deal with them while you look for a new and better job.

  • 3 Your Users (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roxton (73137) <roxton @ g m ail.com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:50AM (#28278829) Homepage Journal

    1) Love your users. Be happy to help them. If you're having a bad day, either fake pleasantness or apologize for seeming "a little off" and explain with open sincerity about your bad day. If you can't create an atmosphere of good faith and empathy, you don't belong in IT.
    2) Don't assume that because you can do something, it must be easy. Google searching, for example, is not easy. Don't assume that knowing how to do something really well means that that you can be effective at explaining it. If a user gets confused, blame yourself. "Sorry, I haven't found a good way to explain this." "Oh come on, you're not stupid; it's just not as intuitive as it should be. We're still in the dark ages of software."
    3) Recognize that people need validation. In general, people hate having to ask for help. Acknowledge their need as reasonable. Any kind of hesitancy to help will create a sense of invalidation, which can poison your reputation forever.
    4) Where reasonable, cultivate friendships with your users.
    5) If the user seems incapable, your response should be ..oO(That user needs training.) Not ..oO(That user is an idiot.)
    6) In policy disputes, be an advocate for the users. When you enforce policy, be clear that it is out of obligation.
    7) Acknowledge that your role is to give other people the tools and environment they need to do their work.

    Hope this helps.

Algol-60 surely must be regarded as the most important programming language yet developed. -- T. Cheatham

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