Question: I manage a network systems administration department at a medium-size company. The department handles new network installations, as well as maintenance and upkeep for the installed networks. Since the company doesn’t have an official help desk, my department has unofficially taken on those duties as well. It’s too much for my staff to handle, and no matter what we do, we are constantly being accused of deliberately ignoring one department’s problems in favor of another. We don’t play favorites, and we are doing the best we can. I’ve had enough. Should I look for another job?
Answer: I am going to assume that you have approached your boss and talked with him or her about the situation. Apparently the answer was less than satisfactory because if it wasn’t, you would have most (or all) of the problem solved by now. Unfortunately, with more and more companies trying to do more with fewer people, your boss is probably happy to have you and your staff do all the work you are doing. That attitude probably wouldn’t change, either, even if the entire department quit in disgust.
I can understand how the idea of quitting and finding another job as a network manager or another IT job would be appealing. It allows you to indulge in the fantasy of closing the door on the whole unruly mess and finding a pristine, unspoiled workplace for your next job.
It is just a fantasy, though. I hope you understand that and don’t quit out of exasperation or in a fit of anger. Companies are communities of people, and people form habits like calling the networking department when something happens to their computer. Even if you found a job where this specific problem wasn’t happening, then something else equally irksome would be happening.
Act before you leave
So, before you decide to even look for another job, try doing all you can to fix this situation as best you can. Think of it as on-the-job training in problem solving. The first thing that you’ll need to do is start keeping a problem log and have all your employees do the same. You’re probably already doing that with the official parts of your job. Do the same with the unofficial ones. You want to get some perspective on the actual scope of the problem, and a log will help you do that. You will also be able to point out to your detractors and complainers that they were helped in a reasonable period of time.
After six months of collecting data, you will have enough information to start analyzing it and figuring out how overloaded the department is. That’s the time to talk with your boss again—once you figure out how you want to solve the problem. Your boss is probably not going to want to hire more people, so try to come up with solutions that don’t have new hire splashed all over them.
For example, you may find that a significant number of the problems could be fixed if the employees had better training on how to troubleshoot small problems themselves. You could put together a short training video or program on this topic. It’s more time up front, but it might save you and your staff time and frustration later.
By keeping the logs and doing the analysis, you will give yourself valuable information about what you and your staff are actually doing on a day-to-day basis. You will also have information to share with others about what is actually happening versus their perceptions of what is happening. (By the way, it’s really hard to make most people feel they’ve been helped in what they think is a reasonable amount of time.)
After you’ve gotten the facts and tried to develop a plan to solve the real problems, you may discover that your boss isn’t interested in any of your suggestions. If you need your boss’ approval for the necessary changes, then you may have come to the end of the line in this particular job. Then, and only then, would be the time to start looking for another job. You can gather data, develop solutions, and be positive in your attitude, but you can’t change a recalcitrant boss.
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