“Control Alt Delete”: Why is the Office IT Guy Every Employee’s Enemy?


“Control Alt Delete”: Why is the Office IT Guy Every Employee’s Enemy?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

When grown-ups dole out unwarranted career advice, they invariably forget to share the most important part – how to tolerate annoying coworkers for eight hours a day. Nobody told me about the coworker that’ll send you an email, and then walk over innocently asking you to check your inbox, or the coworker who thinks it’s perfectly normal to have a conversation from across the room while screaming their lungs out. And then there’s the coworker who wants to get to “know” you while you’re at the urinal.

After the shock of the first few encounters, I’ve learned to restrain the urge to throttle these colleagues. But the persistent thorn in my side has to be the IT guy. I’d much rather have my computer burst into flames while my fingers are stapled to the keyboard than have to deal with the nuisance of interacting with him.

You see, whenever a tech-related issue arises at the workplace, you approach the IT guy. This seems counter-intuitive, as you’d have to be incredibly foolish to think that the IT guy can actually solve your problems. For every problem you have, no matter how complex, critical, or cushy, the IT guy has a one-stop solution to tackle them all. “Restart your computer.”

“How do I get my laptop to stop freezing every five minutes?” you ask.

“Restart your computer.”

“How do I connect to the office Wi-Fi?”

“Restart your computer.”

“What do I tell the cops when they ask why I shot you in the face?”

“Ask them to… restart the computer.”

I fear that if this goes on any longer, I’ll either go irrevocably insane or get charged with homicide. Sometimes, I wonder why he was hired if “restart your computer” was the solution to all of life’s problems. But it only riles me up further, so I desist and save the migraine for other attributes of his that set me off.

To top it all, if you approach him with a problem that can’t simply be fixed by restarting the computer, then he’ll be sure to explain it in the most complicated manner. For instance, I once wanted to copy a few images to my pen drive, but the computer wouldn’t let me. Every attempt simply resulted with a prompt window which read, “You do not have permission to access this drive.” So along comes my guy Friday to troubleshoot and he says, “Your pen drive only works in FAT32 and currently you’re using NTFS.” Which, for noobs like me, is a minor formatting issue which could’ve been fixed by using the pen drive the IT guy already had (which is exactly what we did after the computer froze).

If Spider Man’s spider senses tingle when someone/something is in danger, the IT guy’s IT senses tingle when someone is infuriated.

You might’ve thought he was being difficult before, but imagine having an issue of utmost urgency – accessing a particular server to send files that your client needs urgently – all while IT guy says he can’t give you access unless you send a mail to the IT help-desk. To me, the IT help-desk is a sure-shot sign that the IT guy has a mild-to-extreme case of schizophrenia. Only one person makes up the famed IT help-desk, and that’s the IT guy. And once you send him the mail, he will not only respond to it but also expect feedback once he has “fixed” your problem.

Needless to say, he requires feedback no matter how significant or tiny the task. And that tends to put you in an awkward position. Imagine having to give feedback for tasks like “Helped me find my laptop charger,” “Added me to HR’s recreational activity mail thread,” and “Taught me how to punch-out from the time thingy”. Turns out, feedback is proof that they did, in fact, complete said tasks, which in turn will get them extra IT points and better job offers.

By the looks of it, I am not the only one who has trouble with the IT guy – it’s a job that is universally reviled. Just check out this exhaustive list of hate-definitions on Urban Dictionary. Here’s a sample: “I asked him to reset my password and he threw 4 inch tape cartridge at my head.” A Reddit thread asks, “Why does everyone hate their IT department”, and the most upvoted response almost made me sympathise with the IT crew. “People hate technology because technology never bends to a person’s will. It must always be the person who bends to technology’s will… This feels like spite to a person; not only does the technology refuse to comply, it also refuses to acknowledge and respond.” Since it is routine for people to vent their anger on others, the comment states, the IT guy becomes the easiest target.

A Forbes article titled “Why Everyone Hates IT People”, has some more clues: “Why does the IT department drive everyone nuts? The answer lies deep in our primal need to contribute to our tribe… We come to the office with the same mental hardwiring we acquired 200,000 years ago when our species emerged. Back then, tribes with individuals creative enough to make new discoveries survived better than less innovative groups. Today, our workplace is our tribe… When creativity is stifled, we become frustrated, unfulfilled and complacent. Unfortunately, in most organizations, workers blame the most obvious bottleneck, hence, they point the finger at the IT department.”

Have I just been going after the fall guy? Or have I just encountered especially diabolical ones? I am not sure, but I do know one thing – the ones I have come across have a lot of time to kill.

And kill they do. If Spider Man’s spider senses tingle when someone/something is in danger, the IT guy’s IT senses tingle when someone is infuriated. The tingling is a reminder to approach the most frustrated employee at their breaking point, and tell them that he has to run a maintenance check on their computer lest the company’s servers go kaput.

“I’m right in the middle of something right now. Can we do this at another time?” you ask.

“I’m afraid I have no choice but to… restart your computer.”