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IT pros bare souls on job woes

In a recent salary survey, 45% of administrators and other IT professionals said they were less satisfied with their work now than they were a year ago. A flood of feedback on the issue indicates that the problem is about more than just low pay.

Letters to the Editor

salary survey less satisfied

Following are excerpts of reader letters that speak to issues such as work overload, lack of respect and hostile...

work environments.

  Offshoring pulling us down

Our jobs have gone from technical to overseers of offshore labor, and any failures in the projects are blamed on us, with continual excuses about why our offshore teams are failing, how things are improving offshore and why it is in our best interest to support this kind of business.

— C.B.

  Lost in a jungle

We are somehow lost in a jungle of rules, guidelines, documents, tools, targets and, above all, processes that are thought to show us the way, but rather they take the creativity and flexibility out of the job and hide the way to satisfaction. At one point you give up the struggle against this jungle and accept that you're stuck and just do as they tell you -- and then it's just that: something to live on, and nothing more.

— C.E.

  Maslow's hierarchy of needs

— P.E.

  Work is fast and dirty

I'm real proud that my work from the '70s and '80s is still running day and night in some installations. I can't say the same now. Most of the work we do today is fast and dirty; it takes much more time, resources and money now to keep things running after a project than it would to make it right in the first place.

— T.S.

  Line between work and personal time blurry

And "do more with less" seems to be the motto lately. Everyone wants everything yesterday.

The salary survey says it all. The current economy is dictating an employer market, but this too shall pass. I bet what you'll see is as the economy shifts to an employee market, a lot of folks will be looking to change jobs. We were spoiled in the late '90s with employers aggressively pursuing IT folks, but the party is over and reality has set in. I do not plan on leaving my current employer because I know things change, and hopefully so will my employer's expectations. If they don't, then I will have to look elsewhere.

— M.L.

  It's the people, not the work

— C.J.J.

  Cleaning house hurts morale

— L.B.

  Loss of respect for IT people

1. Many people are underemployed. IT professionals have always been a very mobile group. If you were unable to get the salary or challenge you needed at your current employer, you moved on. During the downturn, it was impossible to move to a more challenging position as your skills matured. Now, the threat of outsourcing is forcing people to stay in jobs they have outgrown. So you have a lot of very bright people stuck in boring jobs.

2. IT people have always considered themselves to be professionals like engineers and attorneys. As professionals, they have always been treated with some degree of respect. With the boom in outsourcing, many employers are beginning to treat IT people more like blue-collar workers. You are just another easily replaceable widget in the corporate machine. This loss of respect for one's hard-earned skills is hard to swallow.

— C.F.T.

  Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way

— B.W.

  Doing accounting, not IT work

— R.A.E.

  A lack of visibility, but still having fun

We are seeing those Twinkie-eaters making big bucks now, and are righteously becoming envious!

— A.S.

  Many reasons to be unhappy

— S.R.D.

  Tough starting out

— R.G.

  Love the work, hate the lack of support

— D.V.

  No help

— R.C.

  Boss doesn't see the need for more help

— T.C.M.

  Refuses to be a brown-noser

— B.T.

  A corrosion of standardization

— R.J.

  Other duties distracting

— D.F.

  Stuck in a rut

— S.M.

  Compensation is not keeping up

do not

— H.P.W.

In a recent , 45% of administrators and other IT professionals said they were with their work now than they were a year ago. While money -- or lack of it -- would seem to be the most logical reason for job dissatisfaction, many readers say there's much more at issue. Our organization, which once demanded quality, commitment and aggressive scheduling, is allowing offshoring to pull us down into mediocrity. We accept poor quality work, lax schedules, slippages and bureaucracy as the norm. We willingly worked hard -- long and demanding hours, with extreme dedication and loyalty to a fault -- to make our company successful. Now we feel at any moment we could be replaced with offshore labor that will not be held to the same high standards as we are. A decreasing job satisfaction among IT people is a process that I feel has been developing within our company for years. However, I don't think this is so much related to salaries. In my opinion, it's got to do more with having more and more work. And what's worse, in most of this "more and more work" there is absolutely no fun. It often is made up of administrative tasks and stupid tracking. Problem administration has become more important then problem resolution. I think the downturn in job satisfaction can be attributed to the old Maslow's hierarchy of needs: A year ago, people were happy just to have their jobs in IT. As the landscape has improved, the basic need of job security is taken care of and we tend to look beyond that to job advancement. I think people are discouraged to find out that there really isn't much hope of advancement in their current job situations. If you couple that with the fear of leaving the security of their current jobs, people start to feel trapped. Very few people are satisfied in jobs in which they feel trapped. I'm still a developer/systems programmer/analyst/architect after 35 years in this business, so I am happy that there is work, but I'm not happy about the type of work. The separation of personal and work life is getting very gray. I have a pager, cell phone and remote access via Citrix and a laptop. The tools that help me while I'm at work also haunt me while I'm not. It's getting all too easy to get in touch with me off hours. It's not so much the job itself that's dissatisfying, it's the people you have to work with. Often, I'm faced with certain personalities who don't report problems to individuals who can fix them. Rather, they tend to vent to anyone within earshot about how lousy IT personnel are, with obvious results: the perception that IT is not responsive to the needs of its customers. This affects our employees' morale and job satisfaction immensely. I think my biggest reason of frustration at work has become the absolute unprofessional manner that upper management has gained. We have recently merged our technical departments from three separate departments into one and the new group of management has fostered an atmosphere of mass paranoia. They do not directly confront personnel on issues, they will talk to everyone else about it and let the rumor mill get to the person they should address. Plus, new management didn't like the old management people, so they are systematically cleaning house with all of the people that worked for a certain manager, regardless of experience or job knowledge. They want all remnants of certain people gone. The reasons for dissatisfaction are plentiful. Here are a couple of major ones. I believe many of us are less satisfied, as our superiors are now questioning and countermanding many of our decisions and requests. It is the old "responsibility without authority" problem. They want the job done and quickly but will not allow the IT department to make the decisions and implement the solutions without exhaustive study and time in committee. Many IT solutions become dated quickly. What is the best solution today may not be the best solution in three months. Mid-level management is afraid that any decision they make may come back to haunt them, so no decision can be made without the shared responsibility of the committee. Life is tough. I prefer the old "lead, follow or get the heck out of the way." I'm very unhappy on my job for a number of reasons. The main reason is that I'm doing more accounting work, e.g., running financial reports and being involved in the daily operations of financial activity. This is not my focus on the job. (I'm an MCSE). Unfortunately, my company was just bought out, and now I'm directly involved in the mess above. Am I happy? No way. I'm looking to make a move very soon. So often, developers make huge amounts because they are charging directly to a contract or team that will profit from their work. IT people tend to be internal to the company or group, with little or no visibility to management or to the customer -- unless, of course, the mail server goes down. Right now, internal workers are stagnating, but the key ones have their jobs. The recovery is still slow, with most of us doing four to five different jobs. I am network, security, systems, purchasing and telecommunications now. It is fun, it can be hectic, but every day is filled with great stuff. (And some evenings with not so great stuff.) Here are some of the reasons for unhappiness at my workplace: Continual downsizing. (Over the last three years, the organization that I work for has reduced staff by one-third to one-half.) Work overload. (Too many technologies to support.). Compensation. (I have worked at this organization for more than five years and there are no incentives.) Lack of opportunity. (The outlook is bleak and the capacity for staffers to move up is limited by higher-ups who cannot fill the void of support staff.) Negativity. (Being overworked and underappreciated have caused for some of the negativity.) It has been difficult, to say the least, to find a basic network admin position. I have my MCSE and am highly skilled. However, since I do not have experience with a programming language, nor 10 years in the industry, it appears impossible to break in. Most "entry-level" IT jobs are help desk related with starting pay around $20,000. The biggest reason I'm unhappy in my position is the lack of support and respect from the directors. I am the IT department manager for a small non-profit organization and sometimes work anywhere from 10 to 16.5 hours a day. Not only am I in charge of the network design, installation, support, upgrades and security, but also the phone system, the copiers, printers, 85% of the data entry and all of the mail equipment. I am not complaining about my pay or my benefits. They aren't great, but if I enjoy what I'm doing, I'll work for peanuts. I do enjoy what I do. I don't mind the responsibility, in fact, I love it. However, when management doesn't support your ideas and decisions it makes your job a lot less fun and a lot less worth it. There are too few workers to get the job done! Employers are willing to sacrifice quality at the expense of perceived productivity. I started out as a systems administrator about five years ago and I had only seven servers to maintain. I am now maintaining 23 servers and have doubled the software applications on these systems. And with current management, they just keep coming up with new reasons for more servers. I have expressed my feelings of overloaded to my supervisor and tried to explain that we need to hire a second administrator. He doesn't see the need. He doesn't see it because I have to bust my butt that much more now to keep things operational. I'm the computer/network/printer fix-it-guy in a four-person company. The reason I am dissatisfied at work is one reason mainly, but is greatly magnified by our owner/president. Our programmer and the do-everything-else secretary worship the owner/president. Brown-nosing would be a term that would be totally misleading. The owner/president compounds the problem by richly rewarding their worship. Why am I working here? I am nearly 50, and who in the world would hire me? I believe that the downturn in the IT job market also introduced a corrosion of standardization. The lack of standardization has been the cause of job dissatisfaction within the ranks of IT for many of my colleagues. I think for me the reason I am less satisfied with my job is the fact that we have reduced staff but maintained the same workload. I am expected to do the same job I was doing, and also to deal with the continuous distractions of the type of work a junior administrator (who left and wasn't replaced) was handling. It is difficult work on a complex architecture issue and be dragged off to support our SLA. When you get back to your "work" you have to reinsert yourself into the issue, and that can be difficult at times. It is natural when workloads increase to expect compensation to follow, but in this economy, it has not, and you don't want to throw your weight around for fear of souring your own career prospects. I'm not happy at all. I have been working for nine years in the same place. It's painful to get a new job mainly because you have to answer the burdening question: "Why do you want to leave your current job?" I am not unhappy with my work or with my coworkers, but the company I am working for has gotten extremely tight with the purse strings. Compensation is not keeping up with experience and I hope that with an economic upturn salary increases will become competitive with what I believe I am worth. I do enjoy my current position as network systems administrator, but as we all know, it seems as if one has to jump ship to be able to receive a salary increase that matches one's experience with their pay. I want to leave just to receive proper compensation, but that may be my only option.

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