IT Employment

IT can be a breeding ground for burnout

The IT field offers a lot of stress factors that can lead to career burnout. Here are some of them and what you can do to remedy the situation.

ComputerWorld published a piece this month called "IT career burnout: What to do when the thrill is gone." The author, Meridith Levinson, focused her advice on CIOs who were feeling burned out. The piece drew a couple of comments from IT staffers who were less than sympathetic toward CIO stress and burnout.

In defense of the piece, it was written specifically for the IT leader audience. Some staffers seem to believe that everything is sunshine and roses once you ascend to the "top," when, in fact, there is a whole other set of pressures and stress that accompany it.

But for those who were seeking guidance on how to recognize and then handle burnout on a staffer level, I have written this piece.

First, let's look at the stressors that can contribute to burnout in IT pros.

Long hours

Long hours are a given in IT. Long hours in IT were an issue even before the economy tanked, causing more people to be laid off and the remaining staff forced to take on more responsibility. Some of the long hours are due to the nature of the work, but sometimes they're due to the way you work. There are tons of sources out there that give good time management advice and teach you how to use your time more wisely. I've heard good things about Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Lack of respect

While the CIO may feel a lack of respect in the boardroom, IT staffers are often faced with it every day. Help desk personnel will occasionally get the appreciative end-user but many times they'll be treated as though they invented the technology that is causing the end-user problems.

Network administrators are usually below the radar, only showing up when the system goes down. People rarely recognize the time the system is up. In other words, the more successful a net admin is at the job, the lower his or her profile.

No recognition

Probably the complaint I hear most often from TR members is that they don't feel they are rewarded properly. In a bad economy, raises and promotions aren't forthcoming. Even despite these factors, IT can be a thankless job. After all, you're not out there doing the things that get attention like other departments (e.g., Sales gets the glory if they land a big account). Savvy bosses will constantly sing the praises of their staffers. It's the best way to get the IT department on the radar.

But if they don't, you need to do it yourself. Throughout the year you should log your wins and keep track of the metrics that show you're doing your job. Take the highlights of this and include them in your yearly review. I understand self-promotion is hard for IT pros who just want to do their jobs and not worry about their images, but if you don't, you'll be hit by another stressor:

Politics

I don't care who you are or where you work, you will encounter people who seem to work less, but have more political clout. It's infuriating but it shows the power of marketing oneself.

The effects of burnout

According to the American Psychological Association, burnout can cause depression, anxiety, and physical illness. Many people suffering from burnout turn to drugs or alcohol. If left unaddressed, burnout can cause physical and mental breakdowns, suicide, stroke, or heart attack.

Here's a free burnout assessment quiz you can take to determine if you're already suffering from burnout or well on your way.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

104 comments
tierwarm1
tierwarm1

I feel with most jobs you are expected to have long hours especially when dealing with technology or electrnics do to the fact that both feature are basically taking over the world so like the saying says "if you can"t take the heat get out the kitchen"

valorieshaw
valorieshaw

I do think that sometimes it IS about who you know in the right places.... Sometimes getting your foot in the door with the right connection seems to be more valuable than any amount of experience or education...

NutMotion
NutMotion

Thanks for the article. Young developper here, 2 experiences in small businesses (

TLComp
TLComp

... burnout is unavoidable. You get overworked, you get tired, you get burned.

winterspj
winterspj

Been working in IT supporting corporations and writing customer solutions for 24 years now. Change is constant for nearly all professional pursuits. This is what drives humanity and evolution of species. Stress is self-imposed. It is about managing expectations. Get that right and its a breeze.

jeff.allen
jeff.allen

RE: " In a bad economy, raises and promotions aren't forthcoming." Why limit this to a bad economy? I work for a large multi-national IT company. They have NO policy on raises and promotions. We have had wage freeze which is now in it's SIXTH year! Try THAT for lack of recognition and stress. How do I maintain my family's standard of living when most prices have risen 20 to 50 percent in that time? Leave? I am in my late 50's and in a specialised role... Jobs are just not there for us "almost retiree's"...

borg_88
borg_88

Back in the mid-90's I experienced a burnout and crash into a depression. It was the lowest point of my life, and I do NOT want to do that again! It wasn't due to lack of pay, respect, etc., just pressure to keep the systems running and almost always something to do on the weekend. Fortunately, I was able to transfer to another organization and things started going much better...

dennis
dennis

I figured out early on that this career was thankless and really unrewarding. I was able to create my own company and create rewards myself. If it wasnt for the 200k+ money I make I would have given up long ago. I would suggest that we start some awareness about this topic and how difficult our job is. Lets start some ideas, how about a IT Workers Union, where were protected against adverse job conditions, or what about a strike? LOL, that would shake things up huh. Kind of like the Mexican workers did a few years ago. We all realized how important they were after it become a widely discussed topic. What about some non IT people education, to educate the NON IT related person on how really hard it is for us and how we want to make things work but effing cant because of blah blah....

topgun743
topgun743

Your point ".....you will encounter people who seem to work less, but have more political clout" Well this is 100% and absolutely right! I have found from my own personal experience that you work hard and others eat the fruit in the end for sitting "nicely" idle.

kdroyce
kdroyce

I suffered complete burnout with an attendant emotional/physical breakdown about 6 years ago while working as an IT Manager for one of the largest wireless telcos. After the company was purchased, they started the process of consolidating IT and offered exceptionally generous layoff packages. I volunteered and left just to get my sanity back (Not that I wouldn't have been let go anyway). Here it is 6+ years later - I'm in a much healthier place emotionally and physically, but my career is a wreck because I just can't seem to get back on the horse. I'm not even sure if its worth it. Once you've lost your mind and recovered it, you never want to go there again. :-) Even though it hurt my career, I have been able to focus on the really important things in life - My relationship with my wife & kids. Cultivating friendships with others in a purely social context. Involvement with church leadership. Volunteering. Hobbies. And a whole host of other things. Each of us has only one life to live and its all too brief at that. Time is the currency of life; once its gone, its gone. Ask yourself whether you're squandering it or investing it. Then ask yourself if the stress is really worth it. Here's to a much healthier work-life balance! Cheers.

ScarF
ScarF

is due to the need of being permanently up-to-date with the technology. The companies are not willing to pay anymore for training. So, the IT guys have to pay it from their own pocket, on their time, or find any way of getting their skills updated. Even when a company introduces new technologies and ask the IT personel to learn it, they don't pay for it. The stressor is that you have to continuously develop your skills or risk to lose your job, while the company doesn't give a rat's a$$ on how you should do this.

canderson
canderson

Took the test and found I'm at 8.2 (Yellow light for burnout). If only I had some idea on how to reassess my priorities! Where I am, IT jobs are few and the politics branch from company to company. I used to like it where I'm at until an employee arrived with a luggage set of clout. Any advice guys? I have a passion for IT but now I'm so confused.

ScarF
ScarF

for this article. It reminds me why I work for my company, and why I must stay with it. The salary isn't at the statistical level for what I do, but I don't encounter any of the points presented by you. I have recognition for my work, I have permanent contacts with the upper management, I don't need to work long hours. Since I work for this company, my level of stress reached the lowest level in my entire career. A piece of advice: work as IT support for a non-IT company, with no more than 50-100 workstations, 10 servers, and max. 5 branches. It gives you lot of time for personal life and development. Now, I enjoy working in IT.

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

The way I've dealt with burnout is to "Not give a sh*t." Deadlines are entirely artificial, so I've ignored 'em for decades. What gets done, gets done, and too bad, so sad if the users don't like it. That's not to say I don't get on a roll once in a while and do a ten or twelve hour day, but that is an extreme exception. "Microsoft delenda est!"

pearlswest
pearlswest

Nice piece, useful info. Thanks!

Rolland St-Onge
Rolland St-Onge

For me, the reason of my burn-out was too much time spent on the necessity of the field. Working 8 to 12 hrs a day, studying 2 to 4 hrs to keep up to date, working in my personnal lab at home to perfect my knowledge, taking week-end contract jobs, trying to squeeze in some time for my family and spending as little as possible sleeping... After 15 years, the burn-out hit me like a ton of bricks and I ended-up taking a medical leave for almost a year. That's when I realized that no matter how much time abd efforts you put in your trade, first you have to take care of the most important thing, your health, otherwize, you end-up loosing every thing you work hard for and you're putting unnecessary pressure on your entire family. NOT WORTH IT!!

304johnson
304johnson

If the individual allows it I have seen people I thought would stay walk off the job because the customers berating left them upset You can only do what you are permitted to do in your job qualifications and some of the problems customers experience are manufacturer defects but the customers do not want to hear this Customers want IT to wave a magic wand or push a button and make everything new again

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

Toni hit it on the head, when she said: "While the CIO may feel a lack of respect in the boardroom, IT staffers are often faced with it every day." At a job I had, the boss was a real...well let's say less than nice person (you fill in the blanks). In fact it would have taken him 2 years, just to get to miserable. Well, I got fed up with the individual, and we were in a meeting late one afternoon. He told me "this, that and the other thing" needed to be done the next day. I responded, "OK". Well, the next morning, I walked into HR, turned in my cell phone, note book computer, and employee ID. The HR head said I should be talking to my supervisor. My reply, "Why should I? He's the reason I'm quitting". Well within the week, I was driving to my new job, across the USA. As for the comment of "Help desk personnel..." you have to look at it another way. For the companies that outsource their help desk out off-shore people (usually India), it is very frustrating for customer. Most of these outsourced (off-shore) help desk personnel are a joke. When I was with Earthlink (as a customer), and called in for a problem. I told countless people that I had already checked "this, that and the other thing", but yet they had no clue on what I was talking about. ABSOULTELY NONE OF THE OUTSOURCED (OFF-SHORE) HELP DESK PEOPLE I DEALT WITH KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING. In this example (when I was an Earthlink customer), I asked several of them what a PING or a TRACERT was, and they didn't have a clue! Another thing is that you look at, is the %^%)) micro managers. Remember the one I mentioned above? Being an experienced DBA, I could perform maintenance (e.g. split, reload, partition, etc) on tables all at the same time, minimizing "down time". Well, this micro manager didn't want me to do that. He wanted only one table at a time to be worked on. The average time was about an hour (except reloads, which was done while the table was online. So for 12 tables, it would take 12 hours to do the work. Now some may think that having the table down for an hour was bad; WRONG! The database tables were set up, so at the end, you tell it to commit the action, and the system would suspend updates to the table, commit the transaction, and then resume operation. Any transactions that came in during the commit phase would just be held in "hold", and then processed. So instead of 12 hours of work, it would only take about an hour. His response was that it isn't possible to do what I said above. Well, I disobeyed his orders one time and did it as I indicated above (all in parallel). He got mud on his face, and wanted to fire me; but I took it to his boss, and well let's say that was in April of year XX, and I didn't quit until the beginning of year YY. He then was so unknowledgeable, he thought that "reloads" (compression) would take days and days. Generally speaking, if a standard "reload" (compression) would happen, this is true. We had one case where everyone was going ballistic because a table was at 99% full, and we couldn't increase the size. I laughed at him, and said I could have the situation solved in 20-25 minutes. He said there was no way. Well, 24 minutes later, the problem was resolved. What did I do? I created two new partitions, and loaded the old partition into the new ones. When you LOAD a partition into empty ones, the slack space is removed, and it is quicker than an reload (compression). Among other things, besides this "manager" being a jerk, I started to have chest pains. Well in the new job I had, there was more stress, but during the entire time I was there, I had no chest pains.

smatteson
smatteson

Every job seems to be interrupt-driven now but IT seems to have it worst of all. While I'm very grateful to have employment in these tough times, that doesn't change the fact I sometimes have to fight tooth and nail against unnecessary interruptions in hopes of accomplishing any of my projects, goals and initiatives. Yes, IT is there to service the business, but there have to be standards for planning, scheduling tasks, and distributing work so IT staff and users can both do their jobs. Being grabbed for help desk questions while working with a consultant on a system upgrade is unacceptable. Having someone stick their head into a departmental meeting to complain they forgot their laptop and need a loaner right away is also inappropriate. Having people run over while you're fixing Sally's system to breathlessly report "When you're done please come over and look at my Excel error, then Tom's browser problem, Jim's blackberry battery is dead, Carol can't log into the database, Ted's screen has gone black, Earl locked himself out of his computer, and...." means whatever you had on your task list is out the window. Ditto being accosted in the cafeteria, bathroom or elevator. Not sure why, but there's just something about the sight of the IT guy that sparks a flood of repressed memories in people and they immediately start chattering about the printer problem they had last week, the Adobe prompt they're getting, the shortage of disk space on their laptop, and other minutiae that will swallow up the rest of your day if you let it. Everyone wants a slice of your time, and there are only so many slices per day. Interruptions can be a quick path towards burnout if they're not managed and addressed. It's crucial to have a central point of contact for problems, an established policy for workload scheduling with managerial backup, and the courage to tell users "I understand your Word error is annoying, but please submit a help desk ticket and we'll address it as soon as possible. At the moment I'm engaged in several initiatives that have been planned out and scheduled." In every zombie film there's one poor schmoe surrounded by the raving undead who is quickly overrun by them. If you work in IT and are at the mercy of your horde of users (disclaimer: I love my users since they pay my salary), that schmoe is you.

ICan2
ICan2

Those expectations can be the killer of many things. Like happiness, relationships, goals, careers. If EVERYTHING is going wrong and EVERYONE is against you try lowering your expectations and see what happens.

four49
four49

I think you pretty much answered your own question. The company is not giving you a raise because they know you won't leave. Why pay more to retain you when they can keep you for the same price? They don't care about you or your family; you are merely an entry in the Liabilities column of the balance sheet. I don't mean to seem so unsympathetic, I think many people are getting a raw deal in situation like this. I'm just telling you why you haven't been getting raises.

kdroyce
kdroyce

Good on you for going out on your own... I did IT consulting for several years and got tired of fighting everyone else's fires to my own detriment. I loved the money, but ultimately it wasn't worth it to me. As an IT manager in a previous life, it was my duty to be a solution provider at the cheapest cost possible. Before outsourcing had gone mainstream it was part of my job to downsize (right size) my team by outsourcing work to India (Tata Consulting). I faced a moral dilemma with respect to taking away a dedicated, skilled person's livelihood and started to consider the long term implications for our industry (fewer and fewer domestic jobs) and the personal toll soon to be inflicted on thousands of IT workers. Unions started to look pretty attractive at that point. Realize, I am totally against unionization and have been since long before becoming a manager (opens the door for major corruption, nepotism, and tremendous inefficiencies). Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that a union wasn't the answer, at least not long term. Our industry is all about change and is evolving at a frenetic pace. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, I see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future. This, combined with many other industry trends, portends a rocky road for the "established" IT professional. BTW: I'm not all doom and gloom. Change brings opportunity and that is a good thing. Cheers!

four49
four49

You did it right, by creating your own company and specialty. That got you much farther than a union would have. Look what unions have done to other industries; we don't need them destroying IT. And realistically, if American IT unionized, all but minimal IT operations (and maybe even entire companies) would be moved overseas.

CIO3PO
CIO3PO

The wrong environment can bring this on so fast that you wonder what happened to your passion for IT. I'm almost there after only 2 years as CIO (at a small company it's just a title). I am currently in a situation where the boss has grandiose (and unrealistic)ideas, the staff are averse to any change, the company is small which gives me little ability to gain experience with new technologies, and office politics rule everything. Constant interruptions, etc...just about everything everyone here has mentioned is happening daily. I thought moving to a larger company was the answer but now that I've read the other posts I see that this is an IT world phenomenon that can only be escaped by the grace of finding the perfect IT environment. Well I'm off...wish me happy hunting.

ICan2
ICan2

Back in the 90's I worked 70 hour weeks on a regular basis. I had a gardener, a housekeeper, and a babysitter. My round trip commute was 5 hours out of my day. I was on 2 antidepressants, I weighed 250 pounds (I'm 5'3)my personal life was a mess. It had nothing to do with the company I worked for. The situation was created by me. Once I realized that, I started making changes. The dot coms were falling, the real estate market was booming and I got out. I got out from under my $3000.00 monthly mortgage, I got out of the Bay area (although Im now back because it's home), and I got out of a very dysfunctional marriage. and then I had a complete breakdown. That breakdown saved my life. The relationships I have with my children, friends, co workers, neighbors, etc. are richer now that I ever thought possible. lowering my standard of living took some getting used to. But the rewards of not HAVING to work myself to death in order to keep up with some pre-conceived materialistic notion of what "successful" means have been ten-fold to who and what we used to be. I don't have to work for "Huge Techno Corps". I don't have to have impressive positions. I just need to work and do a good job in order to be able to live the way I see fit. I take no meds today and I weigh a comfortable 140 lbs. Suicide and terminal illnesses are no longer entertained in my head. I joined a woman's cycling team and I ride almost daily. I love life and I love my career. But I had to be the one to recognize where I was, get honest about how miserable I had become and then be willing to do something about it in order to survive. It didn't happen on my own, and its taken years to get where I am today. Im not defined by my career, I know too well it can all disappear tomorrow. And if it does it won't be so bad as I no longer live beyond my means and I have plenty going on in my life to occupy my time. That is not to say I wouldn't be concerned but somewhere life has taught me that a job is just a job and nothing more. Either you like it, hate or endure it and ultimately, its up to you to create your own happiness.

BradTD
BradTD

God bless you for finding that inner peace. Your perspective is spot-on. Hoping I avoid the pains that so many others on here have gone through, but I see myself heading in that direction if I'm not careful. "Time is the currency of life"...indeed!

MDmd
MDmd

The same is true no matter what industry or deparment you work in. Life-time learning is becoming a fact of life for everybody! I do have to say that this is probably more so in IT, but that's a personal bias, and since IT technology mostly revolves around product and software lifecycles and most businesses and ourselves do not revolve around the same lifecycles there will always be this conflict.

jack
jack

either you are a superman or the users you are supporting.

asics447
asics447

It is what it is - a mostly thankless job - but we do it anyway - have been on both sides of Large and small companies and it is all the same basically - high stress enviroment and it is not for everyone - nobody really cares and it comes down to money- I have left 1 (OutSAurCing outfit) in particluar that made me so miserable that wehn I left afeter a couple of days my wife said to me immediatly - WOW you are a different person - some jobs are not worth your piece of Mind and health - Why ??? because if it is that bad - the stress will kill you literally- Breath take a step back walk away clear your head and breath.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

despite being told otherwise, you brought the tonne of bricks down on yourself.

MDmd
MDmd

You forgot about the users who try to use IT as the scapegoat for why their work isn't done and as an outlet to vent their tech and work frustrations! I'm definitely one of those schmoes...but the sad reality is that businesses survived without IT before we become so "Important" and at the same time IT has helped created some new business problems, added more costs than it was suppose to save, our technologies we deal with helped eliminate so and so's job, and thanks to the wonderful sales and marketing tactis of some IT technologies everyone in IT gets associated! Like someone else posted: Sometimes we are thought of like doctors. Other times we are thought of as the evil salesperson who helped sell them a lemon. Other times we're though of as just another IT person who thinks they are stupid and will lie to them to make them go away. And yet other times we just help support systems that helped or made it possible to eliminate MaryJo's Job.

KJQ
KJQ

I was visiting my brother in New York a few years ago (combined with an IT course to save my org. the travel accommodation costs) and got to attend the annual Christmas party at the Canadian Embassy where he worked. When we got to the head of the receiving line and my brother introduced me to our Canadian Ambassador, he said "You're an IT Manager aren't you?" After confirming this he said to me, "I'm having a problem with my computer, do you think you could come upstairs and have a look at it?" That night returning to my brother's apartment, his doorman asked if I could have a look at his computer as his modem was acting up!

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Nice words. Users normally make me requests everytime, in every space in our office. I already encourage them to open a ticket via helpdesk. Is important to educate users, there is no other way.

ScarF
ScarF

It is a fact of life. Even at home we have to learn more and more technologies. Look at the today's TV sets as an example. The stress comes from the lack of balance between the company's requirements and support. They require you to know all the technologies they use, and even to learn technologies they want to start using, without providing the necessary time and money for doing this. Instead, there will always be a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head - as a danger to be laid off for not having the required skills. While, not knowing how to configure your TV set will give you a bad TV image as the only result (and, maybe, a visit to the optician). I have really no idea how much a sales rep has to learn for keeping the pace with his profession - this is not disrespect by any means -, but in IT this is a continuous requirement.

ScarF
ScarF

to find my way after coming down in flames from my previous job as CIO. I reordered my priorities and found that the job is that entity which pays your bills. It took me one year on my present job to fix everything, automate the repetitive tasks and educate the users. Now, I have enough time to support everything in 40 hours a week. I work overtime only when the tasks involve unacceptable downtime during the working hours. I even have time to prepare myself for the dreamed Cisco certification. One detail: I am the only IT guy for a company with three branches. Two of them are 4000 km away from my office and I support them remotely. I don't have budget responsibility, and I have to argument any IT expense needed by the company. And, I keep a very tight asset management so the upper management will always know what to expect in advance. Again, I consider myself very lucky and I quit planning to develop my career further. Of course, I keep checking the jobs market and - at least, once a year - I go to an interview.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

There are too many bitter hacks left in IT. If you love what you do, you don't need external validation. Early on when IT used to pay a decent wage, you guys didn't need validation, but now that wages are dropping, you want a pat on the back. Face it, IT is a utility. Just like you don't care about who pumps the water and electricity to your home, your non-IT folks don't care about your existence unless something breaks. If you think you deserve a pat on the back, call your local electric and water company and thank them for the uninterrupted service. Pray to God and thank him for making sure the sun rises and sets. If you want to bitch about anything, bitch about the pay. But as a utility, the nature of IT is thankless. If you loved what you do, you wouldn't need validation or commendation from the outside. No one knows or cares about your existance until the lights get turned off so to speak. It's called a utilitarian relationship. People don't like us, they don't appreciated us, they just need us for something.

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

"The 'G-Man.'" I don't agree with you. The problem is that this manager was a jerk, and that's being polite (I have a bunch of explitives to describe him). He had highly trained, and experienced people working for him, and he was ridiculous micro manager. He went to the extent of telling us how to type the command in (e.g. "SELECT * FROM TABLE_X" verses "select * from table_x" or "Select * From Table_X"), when it didn't matter on the case. This was to the extent of just at the SQLCI (SQL Command Interpreter) prompt, not in program, macros, etc. For instance, he even when to the extent telling us to put it in this way (multi lines): SELECT * FROM TABLE_X Instead of "SELECT * FROM TABLE_X" (single line) Again, this was at the SQLCI (SQL Command Interpreter) prompt; and the case didn't matter. This was just during normal operation". A good manager will give a task to his/her people, provide the parameters (but not micro parameters), and let them go; especially when the they are highly trained and experienced. It's just like the example I gave: "So instead of 12 hours of work, it would only take about an hour. His response was that it isn't possible to do what I said above. Well, I disobeyed his orders one time and did it as I indicated above (all in parallel)." This manager had no experience as a DBA, but I had years and years of experience. At one job, before I worked for him, had tables that were > 144 partitions. Additionally, when I had started a new job, I was in classes for 6 weeks, provided by the vendor that gave us nothing but the nuts and bolts of DBA work on their computer. How can a person that had no experience as a DBA, and only did development on small test tables, tell a real DBA how to do their job? They can't! You might be saying where do I get off "putting down" my manager. Simple, I was in management positions/lead positions both when I was in the USAF and since I got out. I managed 30+ people from all around the country, and managed a shift in the Air Mobility Command's second largest data center in the world. My people were given their tasks, the parameters, and "I let them go". They were trained, to where if they came across something they couldn't handle, they knew who to talk to get help (other people on the shift, or me), and then report success, delays, failures accordingly. During my time in the USAF my actions, as well as those of my people had a direct impact on command-and-control during things like the Grenada campaign/invasion. How was that, again allowing the trained and experienced people do their job. If I had tried to micro manage, then "stuff" would have hit the fan. So having a manager standing behind you worrying if the command is all caps, all lower, or mixed case is nothing more than a micro manger who is too afraid of allowing his/her people do their job. I had one manager (not the micro manager) that managed SQL Server, Oracle and Tandem (HP/Non-Stop) DBAs, with the background of Oracle Database (I think). Although he didn't know the "nut and bolts" of Tandem or SQL Server, he would ask questions (for understanding), assign tasks, and let his people do their work. He was excellant, because within a month or so, he picked up an excellant understanding of SQL Server and Tandem (HP/Non-Stop) databases. If something would happen (say a customer called), he would get the information, pass it to his people, and let us "go for it". After the issue was resolved, be might say, something like "Was the problem like this, that or the other thing we had earlier in the month?". All we had to say was, "Yes", and that was the end of it. So when you have a manager that micro-manages, he/she is worthless and insecure, and doesn't know their A** from a hole in the ground. Overall, both in and out of the service, 25% of my supervisors that I remember were jerks and micromanagers, and eventually they all were removed from their position, or fired.

smatteson
smatteson

... there are times I simply don't tell people I work in IT because I don't want to be surrounded. Furthermore, I will not attend some social events with people who know my occupation if I am not in the mood to brush off the incessant questions of "What kind of laptop should I buy my kid going off to college?" and "What's this iPhone thing I keep hearing about and should I get one?" It's not that I'm antisocial, or bad-tempered, or disinclined to provide helpful advice or assistance to others. I do enjoy helping people utilize technology and solve issues they are having with it. If I went to a party and got one or two technology questions, I'd happily answer them. The problem is, sometimes it never stops. If you go to a party and tell someone your occupation, word might spread like wildfire that "Hey, this IT guy over here can tell you whatever you want to know about your printing problem." And instead of discussing current events, biking, hiking, weather, travel, books, movies, music, or whatever else you might like to spend the evening chatting about, you'll be working. For hours. Providing free advice. Sure, you might drum up some business if you do a consulting gig on the side, but if you have enough work and just want to enjoy a party (and maybe relax your mind with a couple of drinks) you have a tough choice: be firm or give up your recreation. Even being firm can lead to hostility. Smiling, I've told people "Yes, I'm an IT guy, but I'm off duty right now, so I recommend the Geek Squad for you. Now, didn't you and Edith go to Spain last year?" And then they stubbornly shake their head and say "No, no, this is just a quick question. My Blackberry seems to have this really weird problem with coverage whenever I'm on Route 95. I think that it's..." So then you have to interrupt, state "Sorry, but as I said, I'm off duty. This is a party and I'd like to enjoy it as a guest, not as an IT consultant." And then come the dirty looks and the "Geez, what's HIS problem" attitudes. It really boils down to rudeness and the inability on the part of some to recognize that professional skills are a resource like any other, not to be raided or stolen for free. If I meet a plumber, I do not say "Oh, you're a plumber - great! I have this leaky faucet; can you explain step-by-step how I can fix it? What do you mean, I should make an appointment with you and pay you? You've got time to give me all the details now, don't you?" It's great to be in a field that is in high demand (though it's frustrating to deal with the constant outsourcing/cloud computing is the future/IT is a cost center and does nothing for our bottom line mentalities that devalue our role). But to avoid burnout you have to be able to leave the field for a bit, to recharge, unwind and retain your enthusiasm.

smatteson
smatteson

the holier-than-thous who think any IT person expressing any frustration whatsoever with any aspect of their employment ought to get down on their knees and beg the user community for forgiveness, while self-flagellating themselves with a cat o'nine tails and chanting "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy." You know, the types who pop up on these forums screaming at IT staffers who vent a bit about dumb user antics and insist that said IT staffers are a bunch of ungrateful, whining jerks who should all be fired and "need to remember where your priorities are" etc. in an effort to browbeat them into thinking said IT staffers exist solely to service every single whim of ever user, at any time, place or occasion, without hesitation or question.

BradTD
BradTD

Make them use the help desk, and prioritize the requests. Everyone thinks that their item is a priority 1, but I have the ability to modify that field in our help desk system--and do regularly! Also completely agree that it's impossible to plan and complete projects, data calls, etc., when you're constantly getting interrupted by mundane (and often stupid) items.

kdroyce
kdroyce

IT can provide competitive advantage via cost avoidance or direct support of adding to the bottom line. Things like e-mail are a commoditized service and if that is your specialty then prepare to become irrelevant and marginalized. As for pay, there are still highly lucrative roles in the IT space. You just have to read the trends, identify the next "hot" thing, and prepare yourself as quickly as possible to get while the getting is good.

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

But well put. Thank you for outlining a different way to view things. Of course, now I'm wondering what all those electrical and water utility guys do when nothing's broken. Are they sitting around talking or are they keeping up with the next electricity technology that is coming out? :)

Retired_USAF
Retired_USAF

I just reread this, and I want to clarify something. MY COMMENT: "I had one manager (not the micro manager) that managed SQL Server, Oracle and Tandem (HP/Non-Stop) DBAs, with the background of Oracle Database (I think). Although he didn't know the "nut and bolts" of Tandem or SQL Server, he would ask questions (for understanding)..." MY CLARIFICATION: The reason behind his questions, was to have a basic understanding of what happened and what we did (he never tried to do our job) for future reference. Why? Because it was company policy that all problems were reported through proper channels (users weren't allow to contact the DBAs (for example) directly). In this way, my manager had basic knowledge to ask additional questions, to filter out whether it was a real issue or not; meaning was it UE (user error) or not. If there were any doubts, he would contact the appropriate team and get their input, but the user would not be talking to the DBAs. He would pass issues that for sure needed DBA action to us and all that was debatable. The issue would be worked on, and resolved, and we would report back to the manager the basic information that was needed. Then on a weekly basis, the teams would get together with the manager, and review the previous weeks on-call problems. If something new came up, that wasn't of general knowledge. The team would discuss the situation, see if that was the best solution, and then the on-call DBA would write up procedures for the "on-call book". Once completed, the solution would be reviewed by the team, and approved as a "general procedure". Then, if the situation came up again, the procedure(s) was available. However, if the procedure was deviated from, you wouldn't get fired. The entire team and the manager knew that things can change and "general " may not be able to be followed exactly. Did the team (and manger) worry about the case of the commands, if a macro was used? No! The basic policy of this manager was that during normal business hours, anyone could work on an issue, but they ALL had to inform the on-call DBA of what they were doing. But guess what, this is basic misstatement! It was his policy, because the TEAMS (Tandem, Oracle and SQL Server) wanted it that way, and he agreed to it. In addition to this, the on-call DBA would always be notified of problems assigned to other DBAs. Actually, as agreed to by the TEAM, all assignments (and resolutions) for DBA work was shared with the entire TEAM. For instance, if it was determined that a partition had to be split, once done, the resolution was basically like "split partition 10 from $prod10 to $prod20 and $prod30." We knew that there where some other minor work (like updating define files) to be done that goes along with this, but all that needed to be said was "split partition 10 from $prod10 to $prod20 and $prod30." Why, because we were experienced and highly trained, and we knew what else was involved. After about 3-4 months after him becoming my manager, he was very proficient on understanding the Tandems enough to be able to know what was "hot" or not. As you can see this one manager did allow his teams to be self-managing up to a point. The creation of the "on-call book" procedures was the idea of the team, not the manager, but he loved it. The idea of the on-call DBA writing up the "new" procedure was the team, not the manager, but he through it was great. The idea of notifying all DBAs of the assignments of the others was accepted as great. Oh...this is just micro managing, some will say. No it isn't...it's called coordination. One DBA might be assigned task #2 and another one task #1, and they must be done in order. This way DBA#1 and DBA#2 can coordinate their efforts, and if DBA #2 task has to be delayed because of problems with DBA #1 task (say a timing issue), then they can notify the manager, who can feed it up the chain of command. Oh...the coordination of efforts is a manager's job, some will say. I don't agree. Who knows better, on the technical side on what needs to be done first, second, etc then the experts; the DBAs in this case. This manager knew what how to manage his people. He allowed us sufficient leeway to be self-managing, which increased productivity. Finally, he did issue one order, that was non-debatable. He required each DBA to learn another platform (e.g. Tandem would learn SQL Server or Oracle). The Team (e.g. Tandem) sat down (without manager direction), and decided who would learn what. We lucked out that half of the team wanted to do Oracle and the other half SQL server, so it was equally distributed. It ended up the same on the other teams. Why did he do this? Professional growth and efficiency. In this way, each team understood better another platform, and also gave the individual more marketability if they were to ever leave the company. Although it never came to the point, a Tandem DBA could assist a SQL Server DBA (for example) up to a point, if "stuff" hit the fan. One of the very few managers I really respected.

KiloWatt1975
KiloWatt1975

I've made it a point to never go to a party and say I know anything IT or Video. But then most times, they already know. I just say, I'd have to do a P.O. and look into it and leave it at that. While in the field, I require no interruptions to keep the people whom jacked a system out of my hair. When done, I make it clear that I now have tracking logs installed, even though I don't, other than what is already active, and that I'll be able to look at the system remotely. Yeah, bit of a fib, but then we always get, "I don't know how wizards of warcraft got installed". So as I'm working, I think to myself, hahaha, I don't have to be here everyday! Mind over matter. If I don't mind, it don't matter! A good 50% of problems are from people who don't know how to install programs correctly. My last job, Win7 was installed with hardware, raids, and could not find a scsi card driver, so it installed SQL drivers to make it work, and make performance drop less than XP. Once I uninstalled the card and 6 SQL programs, defraged after removing Acrobat and other programs from start up, the edit system would not crash. GoodLuck All... stand up to the looky lou's and tell them you don't want any interuptions until you need info. But I rarly teach someone how to install a program, as I'll then get another hour rate at some point. I also don't let them know my utility disk, and uninstall their 30dollar downloads and install my own. They don't know, and I don't tell them they waisted 30bucks. A reg.clean and cookie delete, plus Services.msc setup generally does the trick. My old single AMD-FX3.8 performs better than some PCIe 2.4gHz systems, running the same HW/SW.

BradTD
BradTD

I hate being asked about computer problems that people have at home. I avoid providing free advice at all costs. Like all of us, I need my down time to not think about this stuff.

tbmay
tbmay

I spent most of my career in corporate and organizational IT before I started my own business. If leadership wants IT to call it's users customers, they need to accept the fact that ridiculous amount of time are going to be wasted dealing non-strategic issues. I have CUSTOMERS now. But if I work on their problems or implement solutions, they get a bill. They are customers. Even in this situation, though, the business owner or manager I'm working for is the only real customer, even if I'm setting up a network for many users. The employees aren't paying the bill and often enough the boss wants something the employees don't. In organizations I had bosses that had different agendas than the users. I was hammered one right after another by people who REFUSED to follow the appropriate channels of requests and I was forced to be "rude" by their standards just so I could do what I was supposed to. In cases like that the manager, quite often, will take the users' side, at least to their faces, because that wins him/her more political points. But he still wants HIS assignments carried out. Say bad manager all you want. I won't disagree. However, the abstraction that exists between people who actually understand technology and people who just "want it fixed" creates a vagueness that can be taken advantage of by people who are somewhere between the two groups of people...as well as the groups themselves. That is the vagueness of this line of work that causes burnout. Working for myself, it's taken me a few years to learn how to deal with it, even as the guy who calls the shots. I still don't have a perfect system but basically my policy is if you have the money, I have the time. My rates are my rates though. Either they will accept the terms and pay the bill or they won't get any energy from me. You aren't going to make everyone happy. In this line of work, if you're working for a boss that insists on making everyone happy, you'll be burned out quickly.

kdroyce
kdroyce

The reason we exist as a profession is to facilitate a competitive advantage for each of our organizations. That may be through cost avoidance (improving efficiencies in some way, shape, or form) or strategically adding to the bottom line through increased sales. This means we have internal customers to whom we provide a service. As frustrating as it can be, we should never forget this fact.

tbmay
tbmay

....they aren't customers. I can sit on my duff and watch TV and go broke. I don't have to solve problems to do that. We (myself included) have put ourselves in this situation by giving away so much time, because we tend to be obsessed with getting everything right, and people have come to expect it. When I started my own business, I said to myself, that was over. Of course, I still found myself giving away gobs of time and energy because of all the gray areas associated with this line of work. I nearly went broke because of it. I've balanced that now. Long story short, if something's not going to be worth my time, I simply don't do it. I bill for anything beyond brief conversations. Some customers didn't like it when I made that transition but most of them keep calling. If you let people take advantage of you, they will. You can take that to the bank. I'm not saying be a jerk. Don't do that at all. Just make sure, for your own sanity, you're not letting yourself be taken advantage of.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Not all are paying customers but they are customers.

BradTD
BradTD

USERS = Useless Single-minded Entirely Retarded Stooges Not politically correct, but it has made me and my staff laugh at various times over the years when our users frustrate us by asking for the impossible.