Monday, February 19, 2007

The Worst IT Worker in the World

I promised an equal time post to my recent "worst boss in the world" rant and here it is. A brief summary of the things you can do to totally reinforce the stereotype of IT workers being aloof, spoiled, uncommunicative and arrogant. Although it may sound like I have intimate knowledge of the following workplace sins, this shouldn't be taken as an admission of guilt on my part. My lawyer advised me not to admit anything.

Talk in jargon There are times when technical language is necessary to accurately describe things. By and large, that's when you're talking to other techies. It's rarely appropriate (or useful) to use technical jargon when talking to customers/business users. If you simply can't explain something to a non-IT person in a way they understand, that's what your project manager and/or business analyst are for. If you're a PM or BA and you can't talk without using jargon then there's a problem.

Treat anyone who doesn't understand your work as if they're stupid I'm not going to argue whether or not the person in question is actually stupid, but it's wrong to treat them as if they're stupid. Some people just have skills in different areas. Your work probably requires quite a bit of intelligence. The inability to do or understand your work is not by definition stupid. Don't try to be clever about it either. Too often I've seen IT people who think nobody is picking up on their sarcasm when they're laying it on with a trowel.

Focus solely on technology Most IT workers love technology for its own sake, or at least they have a strong affinity for technology. As admirable as it is to love your work, the technology itself is only half the picture when you work in IT. The other half (most often the half that controls what happens) is the business, whatever that means in your case. No matter how good a technology is objectively, the results it delivers to the business are what counts the most. By and large, the business side couldn't care less about the relative merits of operating systems, hardware or software. If you can't sell a technology in terms of the results it will deliver for the business then you're in for an uphill battle.

Refuse to acknowledge when there's an issue There's nothing that drives a user crazy like telling them they aren't experiencing a problem. And yes, often the biggest problem is the user themselves but reflexively assuming that the user is at fault is not going to win you any friends. I've seen this in multiple workplaces and read it on multiple online forums; someone says system X or site Y isn't working for them and the response is along the lines of "well, I have a machine configured like this and I never have any problems." Here's a tip: someone who's having a problem isn't really interested in hearing about how swell everything's going for you. Right or wrong, users want a solution, they don't want to be told that they are the problem.

Tell the boss's brother his idea is stupid OK, I did this one. I thought it made me a good worker - pointing out a moron former model was an incompetent prat who only got to be head of a business unit because he was dropped out of the same vagina as the boss. This was apparently not a universally held view and I didn't last much longer at that job.

React aggressively to any perceived criticism Go ahead. Start with the comments for this post.

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