Why It's Time to Lose the Snide IT Attitude

By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 10-05-2006

In the years before the tech bubble burst, IT was king: there was a huge demand for professionals with technical prowess and an overwhelming shortage of able bodies.

Techies could pick their job and name their salary. They could wear jeans and t-shirts to meetings and nobody would raise an eyebrow. They could roll their eyes when an employee had the gauche to not know where to put their Ethernet card.

This was no more amply personified than in the "Saturday Night Live" skit from those years: Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy. Yes, the arrogant, sarcastic and unapproachable IT professional was prevalent enough in corporate culture that it became a running joke in popular reference.

Yet years later, the "stupid users" attitude among tech professionals still exists, but it's a lot less funny. In today's business environment, the sneering and condescending approach is increasingly intolerable, and where it has not happened already, it will soon be met with a slew of ill-effects, from outsourcing to bad end-products and compromised careers.

Below, eWEEK spoke to three IT professionals about why expectations of IT professionals are changing and what will happen if the stereotypes don't change with it.

You don't want your users to hate you

Tempting as it may be when you get your nth call of the day from an employee who "can't get their password to work" but really forgot it, responding by rolling your eyes and audibly groaning doesn't resolve the problem.

"I'll often warn IT guys that 'I'm technically challenged so bear with me,' and they usually respond more patiently, but why should I have to explain or give a disclaimer to get good service?" said Elaine Berk, founder and president of EBI Consulting in Westport, Mass., which specializes in customer service improvement.

Berk asserts that no place is this attitude worse personified than with the term RTFM (read the [expletive] manual).

"It taps into a very old mentality. Fifteen to 20 years ago there were these giant manuals and the term RTFM emerged by techies without the patience to explain what they were doing. That F doesn't stand for 'fine'. Part of this mentality is still around and it's been passed down to the younger guys," said Berk.

Even the word "users," many argue, sets up an us/them relationship that, from the get-go, is set off on the wrong foot.

"'Users' is an easy way to dehumanize the people who are using your project. They become these mindless, faceless people at the end of a network ant not individuals you've gotten to know," Matthew Moran, IT consultant and author of "Turning Technology Into Solutions" and "The IT Career Builder's Toolkit," told eWEEK.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Why It's Time to Lose the Snide IT Attitude