The trouble with geeks


Date: 2 May 2012

In fifteen years of IT support I've been around a bit. I've worked in big companies, supporting thousands of users as part of a huge IT team, and I've worked in small teams, supporting single-person companies. One thing that's universal is the contempt that IT people have for users.

Users are the problem

Users are nothing but a problem. They're a blight that causes issues with otherwise perfect servers, networks and systems. At least, that's what many geeks believe.

It's no surprise that IT departments are the most hated in many organisations. But why is this? It's not because they get paid any more these days, or that their role in the business is any more or less important than anyone else's.

It's because they make you feel stupid. It's only when dealing with the IT department that most people will encounter someone with much more specialist knowledge than them at work. People are scared of the IT department. And the IT department resents everyone else for messing up its perfect IT systems.

A deep-rooted problem

This problem is bad. It's deep rooted and it has to change. It's completely counterproductive for everyone involved: both a company's staff and the IT team itself.

Employees who have problems are reluctant to call IT because they don't want to feel silly. They know that as soon as they end their call to the 'senior technical support assistant' there will be humiliation and cackling. “John in accounts is so stupid that he doesn't know the difference between a back and a forward slash.”

I can imagine the mocking that prevails in IT department as I write. (It really happens – I've seen it first hand.) As a result, users tend to put up with problems. Rather than asking for help, they create their own workarounds, often creating more serious problems in the process.

IT people are here to help

As IT people our job is to help. We need to encourage people to call us for even the most minor things. If we don't, the next time John doesn't call it could mark the start of a malware infection that takes down the company network. Or he might waste his time, taking six hours to do to a spreadsheet what a geek could do in five minutes.

The 'them and us' mentality has to stop. And when it does, users will be more productive and happier and the business will be more successful. Business owners must find outsourced IT providers or IT managers that encourage the right attitude. Because without users there are no geeks!

Lee Wrall is founder and MD of Everything Tech, an IT support and service provider based in Manchester.

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