Employees Get 'It' Out Of Their Systems

Frustration levels with technology soar, according to new survey

Frustration levels with technology soar, according to new survey

When it comes to technology, Britain is a pot waiting to boil over. According to new research commissioned by Compaq, four out of five respondents have seen colleagues vent frustration at their IT systems, and more than half have personally felt stressed to the point that they want to fight back.

The research, Rage Against the Machine*, launched today was conducted by MORI on behalf of Compaq, the UK's largest PC manufacturer. The survey questioned more than 1,250 workers in Britain ascertain their views on whether IT was an asset or a burden, and the implications of the frustration borne by IT. Of those who had their own PC at work, nearly half have felt frustrated or stressed by the amount of time it takes to solve IT problems. Two in five blame computer jargon for exacerbating the issue, while three quarters of respondents who suffer daily problems with their PCs say that their colleagues swear at their monitors out of frustration.

Verbally abusing the PC is not the only response to IT stress; more than one in eight have seen their colleagues bully the IT department when things go wrong, while a quarter of under 25 year olds have seen peers kicking their computers. A similar number of respondents said that they had considered causing damage to their PC by deliberately pulling its plug out.

Professor Robert Edelmann**, a leading psychologist on the causes of conflict at work who has endorsed this study commented, This research shows that frustration with IT is clearly a serious issue. It proves that technology-related anxiety (TRA) is a by-product of our obsession with technology, and must be taken seriously as a modern malaise. Frustration with IT is affecting both our work and our home lives, to the extent that 'computer rage' is now much more prolific than the more commonly known road rage.

Joe McNally, managing director of Compaq in the UK and Ireland added, Computer frustration is no longer the domain for IT managers alone. Whether it is as simple as forgetting your password, or an issue of incompatible software and hardware, Compaq has found that these problems are negatively effecting all those who need to use IT as a working tool. We need to recognise the frustrations that people suffer with IT in order to implement the right solution. Compaq recognises this fact and has even set up helplines to support and advise those suffering from technology related anger.

Computer rage has a business cost too. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said that their work was interrupted daily due to computer crashes and other IT faults. Two in five who suffer daily breakdowns claim that this delay has caused them to miss deadlines, while one in ten have felt like bad mouthing their company to clients as well as friends because of frustration with the ineptness of their IT. This is despite the fact that one in six admit that their PC problems are normally down to their own lack of knowledge and understanding.

The research also explored the role of the IT manager and how far those responsible for IT removed or contributed to the problems expressed. Nine out of ten respondents would not like the IT managers job and only 7% said that their IT manager was given preferential treatment, despite the extremely stressful nature of the job. Of more concern is that fact that 75% of respondents claimed that their IT manager couldn't sort out more of the problems that occurred with the IT at work, suggesting that IT vendors and employers alike should be taking more responsibility for delivering an IT compatible and stress-free atmosphere at work.

If you think that you could be suffering from technology related anger and would like help please call Professor Edelmann on a special helpline number: 0845-270 4114 (calls charged at local rate) and select one of the options put forward (depending on what type of computer rager you are).

Other key findings from the research:

  • Asked why PC problems occurred, 22% said that the IT department solved the symptoms but didn't tackle the underlying cause of the fault.
  • More than a quarter said problems were due to incompatible hardware and software.
  • More than one in five respondents in the Midlands believed that the blamed an unwillingness to invest properly in IT for their company's problems. In the rest of the country this figure falls to one in seven.
  • When things go wrong with IT, most respondents blame their IT manager, the software supplier or themselves for the problem.
  • More than a third of all respondents aged 55 and over blamed themselves for their IT problems.
  • One in three of those who suffer daily interruptions by IT say that it takes at least an hour on average to resolve the problem.
  • Two in five who endure daily breakdowns claim that computer crashes have caused them to miss deadlines.
  • More than one in ten of those who suffer daily interruptions say that the stress caused by IT has seriously affected their professional relationships.
  • More than one in six under 25 year olds have felt like taking IT aggression out on someone or something else.
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents based in the North say that their colleagues regularly swear at their PCs out of frustration.
  • One in five respondents who work in the financial services sector have seen colleagues bully their IT department when things go wrong with their IT.
  • Workers in the public sector are most likely to refuse to deal with IT problems, by walking away from their problematic machine.
  • Nearly one in five workers in the manufacturing industry say that their PC makes them feel stupid of ignorant.
  • One in six believe that their colleagues have used IT to cover up their mistakes; only half of this figure admits to doing the same thing themselves.
  • Nearly a third of those who suffer daily problems with their PC claim that these problems force them to stay late or take work home with them.

* Copies of the report , case studies and visuals can be found on the Compaq website www.compaq.co.uk or from Sharon Groves at Firefly Communications on 0171-381 4505 or [email protected]

** Professor Robert J. Edelmann is a Chartered Clinical, Forensic and Health Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has lectured at the University of Sheffield, University of Surrey and the Roehampton Institute. In addition to his international research reputation he has worked extensively as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist specialising in problems resulting from stress as work. He has advised organisations on issues ranging from Workplace Bullying to Organising Working Practices. One of his books, Interpersonal Conflicts at Work, has been translated into a number of different languages and has achieved worldwide sales.

Technical details

The questions were placed on MORI's Omnibus, and a nationally representative quota sample of 1,255 adults were interviewed by MORI/Field & Tab across 158 constituency-based sampling points. Interviews were carried out using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) face-to-face in respondents' homes between 5-8, 19-22 March & 9-13 April 1999. Data have been weighted to reflect the national population profile.

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