Computing Magazine

Why Do IT People Suck?

By Gjosefsberg @gjosefsberg

RespectIf you’re anywhere in the corporate world then you’ve probably had some kind of bad experience with a group of people affectionately known as IT. They’re the folks responsible for setting up your computers, making sure the network doesn’t break and helping you out when you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your email. They’re also the folks with the reputation for being surly, unfriendly, unhelpful, uncooperative and a variety of other, less complimentary adjectives. In fact, at most companies I’ve worked with, IT was the department people disliked the most and they were generally viewed as an obstacle to people’s productivity.

Why Is This?

How do a bunch of people who usually work pretty hard and are in general smart and friendly develop a reputation for being absolutely awful to work with?  By the way, I will firmly stand by my assertion that IT folks are very smart and quite friendly once you get to know them.  They’re no different than any other person I know and there’s nothing inherent in IT which makes awful people.  So why is it that they have such an awful reputation?  It’s an easy answer actually, they have absolutely zero respect for their customers.

Fly On The Wall

I’m a friendly person and I enjoy chatting with people.  As a result, I tend to build up a variety of relationships within a company.  At the last company I worked with, I would occasionally go to the IT room and chat with the folks there about life, work and various other topics.  I would frequently sit in the IT room and just listen the discussion of daily work and I was astounded by some of the comments.

  • This person is an idiot
  • Oh god, how stupid can this person get?
  • There’s no way I’m doing this, it’s [email protected]#%ing stupid
  • HAH!  Check out what’s on this person’s PC!!!

And so on.  In fact, they displayed an incredible lack of respect for their customers’ productivity, privacy and general intelligence.    To them, if you weren’t IT, you were some lower life form who didn’t know anything about computers and how they should be run.

By the way, when I say customers, I mean the people who worked at this company and relied on IT for support.  These were the customers who IT was supposed to service.  This is an important distinction because customers usually refers to the people who buy stuff from the company.  Not so.  As an internal service organization, the customers of IT were their fellow employees.  These were the people who consumed IT services and products and needed their support.

R E S P E C T, Find Out What It Means To Me

Now I’m sure the IT people in my reader base are currently saying to themselves “well, that’s because those people WERE stupid!” and in some cases they may be right.  In fact, there are many requests which people send to IT which make no sense.  However, this is no reason to lose respect for your customers.

Respect does not mean ” the customer is always right”.  In fact, the customer can and often is wrong.  Customers don’t know what they want and, in the case of IT, customers may have no idea about the technologies involved with their request.  Customers make mistakes, often horrendous ones.  Still, the one thing you cannot do is lose respect for your customers.

A Mile In Their Shoes

Employees make stupid requests of IT for the best of reasons.  In most cases, they have thought their problems through and have tried to solve them, they simply don’t know how.  They make suggestions because they believe they’re trying to be helpful.  They do dumb things on their laptops because they don’t know better.  In all of these cases, there is no malice, no stupidity involved, just a lack of knowledge.  Furthermore, there are many cases where employee suggestions or requests actually make far more sense than IT believes, IT simply cannot see this because they refuse to acknowledge that non IT people can have a good idea when it comes to networks and computers.  In other words, most IT people truly do believe that non IT folks are less intelligent than they are, especially when it comes to computers.  They refuse to consider that non IT people can have valid arguments and they will not consider a non IT point of view.  This is what I mean by lack of respect.

IT never considers why someone makes a request they consider stupid.  Even worse, they never ask the customer “why do you want this?”  They simply assume that the customer is an idiot and move on.  They don’t believe that the customer has the expectation of privacy on their own PC’s, they simply state that they’re stupid to assume this and proceed to look where they shouldn’t.

Oh Boy, Gal Really Hates IT

No, I really don’t hate IT.  I’m simply using them as an example to make my point.  In order to provide good customer service, you need to respect your customer.  You need to believe that they are an intelligent person who can have good ideas.  You need to believe that your customers have valid reasons for what they want and are not just trying to annoy you.  To do this, you need to put yourself in their shoes.

If someone asks you for a request which you consider silly, try to think of why they’re asking this.  Even better, respectfully ask them “why do you need this?”, proceed to actually listen and then feel free to make suggestions if you think there’s a better way.  Heck, you may even tell them that you simply can’t do this but then explain why.  Either way, you’ve made them feel listened to.  You’ve made your customer feel like you care about them.  In other words, you’ve shown your customer that you respect them and their opinion and that’s something they won’t forget.  In my own line of work, I frequently disagree with people’s suggestions and there are many times where I end up not adopting their ideas.  However, I always try to let them know they’re being listened to and that their opinions matter.

The Death Of Everquest

Here’s another example of bad customer service.  I used to play this online game called Everquest.  Everquest was an MMORPG where you created a fantasy character and then adventured through worlds filled with orcs and other monsters.  It was a lot of fun, especially when I played with my friends.  However, the game’s creators had very little respect for their user base.  They considered their user base the enemy and proceeded to treat them as such.  When a group of players managed to achieve something the game designers did not anticipate, the designers would punish them by removing certain abilities and saying “this is borderline cheating so we removed your ability to do X”.

Yes, game balance needed to be maintained but think for a second of how a different message would have resonated.  ”Hi, kudos to this group of players for managing to achieve something we did not think possible, that was really great of you guys.  We would like to talk to you a bit more and get your ideas for how this bit of the game could be better balanced.  In the meantime, we are making a few changes to keep the game interesting and challenging and would appreciate feedback from everyone on the issue”.  Both of these message convey the same thing “we will be making a change” but one makes the players seem like cheaters and the other makes the players seem like valued customers.


Ok, so why the heck am I saying this?  Well, because good customer service is the corner store of sales, and sales is the cornerstone of life.  Everything in life is about sales, and to make a sale you need to be good at customer service.  Think for a second about your boss.  In a very real way, he or she is your customer.  They pay you for your work.  If you want to get more sales (in other words, a promotion or a raise), you need to provide them with good customer service.  What about that hot girl at the bar?  She’s your customer too.  If you want to make a sale (hint hint nudge nudge) you need to provide her with good customer service.  And you do this by respecting your customer.  You can never provide good customer service or make a sale without respect.  You can never really understand your customers’ problem and provide them with a solution they want to buy unless you respect them and their needs.  This is why everyone hates IT, because they show absolutely no respect for their customers.  And if this is what’s working so badly for IT, do you really think it will work better for you?  If you lack any and all respect for your boss, don’t you think they’re going to notice?  If you lack respect for women, do you really think they’re going to enjoy your company?  (this applies to women too by the way.  I used to know a girl who thought all men were horrible and stupid animals and then she wondered why no guy asked her out more than once, but that’s another story).


So drill this into your head.

  1. All of life is sales.
  2. If you want to sell, you need to understand your customer
  3. If you want to understand your customer, you need to respect them

Now get out there and respect the hell out of someone!

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