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GFI Software Survey: Most IT admins considering quitting due to stress
Original Source: http://www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=14666
The number of IT professionals considering leaving their job due to workplace stress has jumped from 69% last year to 73%, underlining the increasingly challenging business landscape in the UK and the growing emphasis being placed on IT to help businesses grow, thrive and compete.
One-third of those surveyed by GFI Software cited dealing with managers as their most stressful job requirement, particularly for IT staff in larger organisations, while handling end user support requests, budget squeeze and tight deadlines were also singled out as the main causes of workplace stress for IT managers.
Key findings include:
- 68% of all IT administrators surveyed consider their job stressful.
- 21% of those surveyed work between three and five hours of overtime in order to keep on top of their workload. 12% work eight to 10 hours a week. In total, almost half (49%) are working six or more hours overtime a week.
- Over a third (35%) of respondents have missed social functions due to work issues. A further 30% of those surveyed have missed out on planned family time because of work demands.
- Over 63% of staff surveyed feel they are either as stressed or more stressed at work than their friends and colleagues.
- 28% of IT admins point to a lack of budget and staff needed to get the job done as their primary reasons for job stress.
- Of the 73% of respondents considering changing their role, 36% do so on a regular basis.
- IT staff from companies sized between 100 and 249 employees are most likely to quit their current role due to stress. Staff from the largest firms surveyed (more than 500 employees) are least likely to quit their role due to work stress.
- The top three sources of stress for IT admins are: management (35%), tight deadlines (19%) and lack of budget (17%). Interestingly enough, users dropped from the second biggest stress cause in 2012 (21%) to only the fourth biggest cause (16%).
Although users are not causing IT staff as much stress as they used to, it isn’t stopping them from creating moments that make IT admins want to tear their hair out in frustration. The survey asked IT admins what the most ridiculous thing was they had seen an end user do.
Responses included stories of users complaining their mouse wasn’t working when they were trying to use a foam stress squeezer, a user thinking there was a ghost in her PC when IT support staff remoted into it to deliver support, a user who reported the Windows version as being “Patio Doors”, and stories of users who folded up a 5.25inch floppy disc in order to fit it into a 3.5inch disc drive.
The most common issues were users complaining of hardware not working, only for IT to find the device was either not switched on or not plugged in, along with users spilling tea, coffee and other beverages over their computer or keyboard and then denying they had done it.
Personal lives and health affected by IT work stress
Of great concern is the impact that work stress is having on health and relationships. While a total of 80% of participants revealed that their job had negatively impacted their personal life in some way, the survey discovered some significant personal impact:
- 18% have suffered stress-related health issues due to their work, although this is a stark improvement on 2012 (29%).
- Another 18% also revealed they had experienced a strained or failed relationship due to work stress.
- 19% do not feel great physically as a result of stress, up from 16% last year.
- 28% have lost sleep due to work.
- Just over one-quarter (26%) have had to cancel commitments to family and friends due to work.
“The increasing importance of IT in the workplace — and with it, the critical responsibility placed on IT professionals – makes it impossible to overlook in this year’s survey figures,” said Phil Bousfield, GM IT Operations at GFI Software. “Companies are more reliant than ever on IT innovation, uptime and speed of deployment, and thus, IT staff are under extreme pressure to deliver for the benefit of the whole business. We all know that a happy workforce is a productive workforce, so it is concerning that so many of our survey respondents are stressed to the point that they are actively considering leaving their current role in order to achieve a better work/life balance. For SMBs in particular, the research is a stark reminder that IT staff need to be supported and given the right resources – staff, budget and technology – to do their jobs well and that management need to be an enabler, not an obstacle for IT progress.”
The Phases of Burnout
Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North list twelve distinct steps, or phases to total burnout.
- An overwhelming compulsion to prove oneself. In this step, perhaps there is a new kid on the block, or the organization has challenged one’s worthiness of a promotion or merit increase. The individual may feel slighted, challenged, or nervous about things happening at work. There exists a powerful commitment to win over those holding the power, no matter what.
- Working harder. The individual, feeling the pressure to raise perceived standards, begins to work harder, exerting more energy by taking on more and more responsibility to arrive at a dissonant feeling of being irreplaceable. The individual comes in early, goes home late, and is remotely connected, leaving family and friends somewhat abandoned during this temporary “stressor”.
- Neglecting their needs. As the hours extend and blur towards work and home, the individual continues to obsess over the artificially raised personal expectations, resulting in skipped meals, shorter sleep patterns, and neglect of personal life.
- Displacement of conflicts. The individual senses the world around him/her is not in tune with the individual’s motivations. S/he senses a problem, yet is blind to its true source. S/he dismisses the displacement as a temporary speed bump, and may seek substances, including light alcohol use and narcotics to maintain a pattern or artificially separate work life and personal life. S/he feels good when there is this separation, as the person feels s/he deserves the break.
- Revision of values. At the peak of the exertion, the individual begins to change his or her value structure. At this point, perhaps other resources begin to notice the changes in work patterns. New friends may emerge based on schedules and revised values, while old friends wither. Perhaps there is no longer time for golf or other hobbies, as the individual feels like the fruits of labor may be beginning to pay off.
- Denial of emerging problems. The individual begins to look around and become cynical or angry because the other resources are not working as hard as s/he is, yet are still considered equals. S/he may call others stupid, lazy, or harbor resentful thoughts towards co-workers.
- Withdrawal. During this step, the individual begins the visible social spiral by withdrawing from teammates and co-workers in favor of other external vices. S/he may be feeling lost and hopeless; however, the external stimuli, including drugs, sex, and alcohol makes the feelings go away temporarily.
- Obvious behavior changes. The combination of social, emotional, and/or biological changes begin to manifest themselves. S/he is more easily agitated, or completely withdrawals from contact with others. Friends may become concerned, but are afraid to be a target of the individual; therefore, begin to withdrawal themselves. The person may begin to show signs of apathy towards the world around him or her.
- Depersonalization. The individual loses contact with him/herself. As life becomes mechanical and meaningless, the individual is clearly going through the motions of artificially inflated expectations.
- Inner emptiness. In a last ditch effort to salvage one’s sanity, s/he may begin to over indulge in external stimuli, overcompensating with sex, overeating, or drug and alcohol abuse as a replacement for traditional leisure time.
- Depression. Having failed at either the artificially inflated expectations of self and others, or abandoning personal relationships, the individual may become hopeless, exhausted, and indifferent. Emotions, ranging from apathy to severe agitation set in.
- Burnout. In response to an overwhelming sense of failure, suicidal thoughts and physical or mental collapse occurs, resulting in the need for medical attention.
It is important to note that one does not need to reach or experience all twelve phases to be clinically diagnosed with Burnout Syndrome. Perhaps the individual will seek to find a new job at phase 4. Perhaps the withdrawal begins at an earlier phase. The information presented here is not intended to clinically diagnose or assess the severity of an individual; rather, guide the reader through academically accepted phases from seminal researchers.
6 Ways To Beat IT Career Burnout
By Cindy Waxer
More and more IT professionals are getting fed up with their jobs and the constant pressure of having to perform miracles with increasingly limited funds, pay, and accolades.
“With the state of the economy, and IT departments having to do more with less, we have seen an uptick in the number of IT professionals getting fatigued,” noted Rachel Russell, a director at TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions and IT services. “In some cases, they’re even a little resentful because of the amount of work they have to take on in order to keep the lights on in their organization. They’re tired.”
Fortunately, career burnout doesn’t have to lead to server room temper tantrums and a one-way ticket to unemployment. Russell offers six tips for IT career rejuvenation and getting yourself back in tip-top shape. Let the healing begin.
1. Ask yourself if you’re simply stressed or honestly burned out.
Every IT employee has a bad day or two, or three. But the occasional fit isn’t cause for concern. Rather, it’s important to determine whether the negative feelings you’re harboring are a temporary glitch or a constant companion. “One indicator is how long the stress has been carried around,” said Russell. “Everyone goes through moments of high stress, but if it’s been a consistent type of anxiety that the employee has been carrying around, or gets to a point of real negativity, then it’s likely burnout.”
[ Security pros' salaries are on the rise. See 4 Tips: How To Land An IT Security Job. ]
2. Know thyself.
Like it or not, there are some personalities that are simply more prone to career burnout. So before you blame a demanding IT manager or a disastrous deployment for feelings of burnout, you may want to look deeper inside. “The personality of wanting to please, not being good at saying no, or not being able to push back in a diplomatic way–these people tend to get hammered,” warned Russell. “There is so much work to be done out there and if you don’t know how to push back effectively or handle your priorities, you’ll get overwhelmed. Also, people with more of a cynical bent to their personality can achieve burnout. This lack of positivity can be draining and lead to burnout faster.”
3. Explore your company.
When you’re suffering from career burnout, it’s easy to feel as if there’s no escape. However, oftentimes the answer is right under your nose. “It’s important for employees to network beyond their IT department so they know what opportunities exist outside of that group and team,” said Russell. "That way they’ll know if the frustrations they’re running into are really prevalent across the enterprise or unique to that department or area." For example, startups are especially prone to creating pressure cooker environments. "I once worked for a vapor products wholesale supplier, creating the specialized transactional processes for a business that was just starting to boom. With the legalization of marijuana, vaporizers and accessories were becoming a very hot business and the owners and venture folks knew that success depended on getting the platform fully functional before the competition had their systems operational. So the pressure to complete projects quickly was enormous, and that lead to mistakes, which lead to more pressure to correct those mistakes, and thus a vicious stress inducing cycle was created for my team. As a result we had several valuable team members quit which only amped up the stress on the rest of us. We found a sympathetic ear in one of the marketing directors who not only gave us great advice, but also pushed back on our team leaders, pointing out the benefit of slowing down and getting things right the first time out. Fewer mistakes = less time doing reworks = less acrimony and complaints about our work = fewer dissatified team members. This simple understanding gave my team some breathing room all due to the intervention of trusted director unrelated to IT!"
4. Reignite your passion.
Are you overwhelmed by a recent ERP project? Or are you no longer inspired by what you do for a living? If your day-to-day duties are starting to feel soul-destroying, it may be time to switch careers altogether. “When IT professionals start feeling the passion putter out and can’t think of new ways to innovate, or they’ve tried to innovate many times to no avail, then it’s time to look outside of what you’re currently doing,” advised Russell.
5. Go back to school.
Career burnout can sometimes be a case of arrested development. For this reason, Russell recommends that IT professionals keep their skills fresh. “You have to stay passionate and a lot of that passion comes from being invigorated and feeling like you’re learning,” she said. “There are so many different training and learning certifications out there–you can take things online, you can register for community college courses. IT changes so fast, just keeping pace and feeling like you’re fresh is an excellent option.”
6. Take a week off. Seriously.
“By off, I mean off,” says Russell. No smartphone, no email, no telephone calls.