Angry IT workers: A ticking time bomb?

IT workers are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. What can you do to keep things from reaching the point of no return?

What does IT want?

The most common tactic used by disgruntled geeks is widespread deletion of company data, says Dykstra. Sometimes the damage is obvious, but other sabotage may be harder to detect. In one case, Jones Dykstra and Associates was called in to help an international market analysis firm that kept losing some but not all of its e-mail. It turns out a recently fired techie had set the servers to automatically delete messages coming in from overseas.

Dykstra adds that most IT workers are too professional to take out their grievances on the systems they've worked so hard to maintain.

"The last thing any IT pro wants is a downed system," Dykstra says. "That just means more work. But the thing we see over and over again across every industry is that IT is always drastically understaffed. You go into companies and find two or three admins responsible for 600 users. It's easy to understand what gets them to their snapping point."

Staff reductions following the dot-com crash have stripped many IT staffs to the bone, forcing those that remain to double or triple their workloads. The piling on of work can demoralize the people charged with keeping the business going, says Laurent Duperval, president of Duperval Consulting.

"This morning I spoke to an IT colleague who was explaining to me that he had to work 75 hours last week in order to help complete a project," Duperval says. "The project has a strict deadline that must be met. It had original requirements that have since been expanded, but no extra resources (people, money, or time) have been allocated. Basic message? 'I don't care about you as an individual; the project comes first. Just do it, no matter what the cost to your health.'"

Although large enterprises are typically loathe to reveal how many technology jobs they've shipped overseas, a recent study by researchers at NYU and the University of Pennsylvania estimates that 8 percent of IT jobs have been offshored. Gartner Research has predicted that figure will rise to 30 percent by 2015.

"My big thing was the lack of corporate loyalty to the IT folks," says Mark Semple, a 27-year IT veteran who now runs a business coaching home entrepreneurs, Successful Together Coaching. "Outsourcing may look good on paper and to the shareholders, but it is devastating to the domestic workforce and their families. How can you feel good about working for an organization that just sliced 50 of your colleagues and replaced them with cheap offshore labor? Loyalty is a two-way street. It is demanded of the IT folks yet is rarely given in return."

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