The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 24 September 2010]

Why are my IT people such douchebags?

An explanation for the perennial questions asked by cubicle workers around the world: Why are my IT people such dicks? Why won’t they let me install whatever software I want?

[This entry was originally posted on the now-defunct Hug Your Machine]

If you’re the kind of nerd who enjoys installing and using different kinds of software, your IT department at work can be serious buzz kills. Want to use GMail instead of the icky Lotus Notes installation the company set up for you? No luck: It’s blocked. Want to install an application that will shave hours of tedium from your work week? No luck. The IT department decides what goes on your computer, and ū—: Distraction-Free Writing Environment is most definitely not on their list. Oh, you can ask them to “bless” the application, but that will take a long time and ultimately depend on how the stars align.

So why, oh why, do IT departments do the things they do? Aren’t they supposed to help you use your computer better and thus add shareholder value? Why are they such little powertrip-Nazis?

To understand, you have to understand the IT department’s main mission: Keep the computers and the network running. That’s what the company is paying them for. If the computers or the network stop working, unpleasant things happen to IT workers. Escorted-off-the-premises type unpleasant.

Notice what the IT department’s mission does not include: Make employees more efficient and happy. You could argue the IT department’s mission should be to make employees more productive and happy. Good luck with that.

Which doesn’t mean that IT workers don’t want the people they support to be more efficient and happy, it’s just that it’s not part of their job description, so if they want to keep their jobs, they will always err on the side of caution. That copy of ū—: Distraction-Free Writing Environment that would unleash your inner Hemingway might make Word start crashing, flood the network with packets, send corporate secrets to the Russian mafia, or a bunch of other untoward things that will make IT workers’ lives unpleasant. Sure, it most likely won’t, but what if it does?

Solution: Keep it off the company computers.

In other words, there are reasons why your IT peoples’ eyes start to glaze over when you talk about how great ū—: Distraction-Free Writing Environment is—for the IT worker, there’s only downside.

This is not to say there aren’t power-mad sadists working in IT departments. Trust me, I’ve had to work for and with some of them. It sucks. They’re the kind of people who decide that no, you can’t change your desktop wallpaper. Why? Because you might use an inappropriate wallpaper. Muhahahaha! Dance, peon, dance! They are the minority, though, praise your deity of choice.

Unless your particular IT staff happen to be of the sadistic, power-mad variety, there are ways to make them more receptive to your ideas. The first thing you can do is incredibly simple: Make their lives easier. If you’re the kind of person who makes them reset your password once a week, they will be deaf to your ideas. Once you get the bozo label, you and ū—: Distraction-Free Writing Environment will never meet at work. Ask any IT person, and they will tell you that the people whose offices they don’t know the locations of are their friends. So, stay off the bozo radar.

The second thing you can do is to find the upside for the IT department. If ū—: Distraction-Free Writing Environment will save them work, you can bet it will find itself fast-tracked onto the approved list.

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