The world is round. Night follows day. And my computer will crash at PC? Fear not, you're not alone and the syndrome has a cool name too. least once today. These are undeniable truths, pure and simple. But unlike most other things in life that occur on a daily basis - the trains running late, crowds on Oxford Street - things I have come to accept with only mild irritation, my computer crashing still ignites the internal touch-paper.
When I had a tower system on the floor beside me it was simple. Lift my toes, pivot my heal and whack! A simple 45 degree side-foot into the midriff of the box. Instant karma. It didn't solve the problem, but boy, did it feel good.
Not so good was the reaction of our IT manager, who, after inadvertently witnessing one particularly ferocious assault, promptly replaced all the tower systems with desktop ones. Now, a kung-fu kick of Cantona-esque proportions is required for me to vent my frustration. True, I can still thump my keyboard or slam down my mouse but it's just not the same. A dislocated ten-a-penny peripheral doesn't reverberate quite so sweetly.
According to research conducted by MORI on behalf of Compaq, the British demonstrate a particular aptitude for this skill. The report, entitled Rage Against the Machine, says four out of five of the 1,250 respondents questioned, have seen colleagues vent anger at their systems. 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 blamed computer jargon for exacerbating the issue, while three quarters of respondents who suffer daily problems with PCs said their colleagues swear at their monitors out of frustration.
Now there's a Lernout & Hauspie opportunity for interactive communication if ever I've heard one. Dealers could be stocking their shelves with the latest x-rated editions of 'Iswear Xpress' or perhaps Dragon's 'Naturally Swearing'. Simply tell your computer to '**** off' and up pops a box with a colourful riposte such as '**** off yourself' or maybe even 'come on then you ******* ****'. Whether or not such a response would incite or placate the user I don't know, but the novelty factor at least for the first few months would protect a system or two.
But verbally abusing the PC is not the only response to IT stress according to the report; more than one in eight have seen their colleagues bully the IT department when things go wrong. I assume these are not instances of push-and-poke scuffles in the fag break but are reported instances of frank and honest conversations over the telephone or via the corporate intranet.
For us old IT-timers it's just a fact of life. But for the spotty hot-heads fresh from university, it's simply not acceptable. A quarter of under 25-year-olds said they had considered causing damage to their PC by deliberately pulling its plug out. A pretty immature act and probably one that only exacerbates the problem. With the average system taking several minutes to boot up the red mist would have plenty of time to turn into a crazed haze.
More importantly for the folks who take an interest in the bottom line is that computer rage has a business cost too. Twenty three per cent of respondents said their work was interrupted daily due to IT faults. Two in five who suffered daily breakdowns claimed this delay has caused them to miss deadlines, while one in 10 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 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 10 respondents would not like the IT manager's job and only seven per cent 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 per cent claimed their IT manager couldn't sort out the IT-related problems that occurred at work, suggesting that both vendors and employers alike should be taking more responsibility for delivering an compatible and stress-free atmosphere at work.
So what to do if you feel a tense nervous headache developing without resorting to physical retribution? Just chill out - if you think you could be suffering from technology-related anger and would like help you could call Professor Edelmann on a special helpline and select one of the options put forward - depending on what type of computer rager you are.
So I did. Now, I'm no clinical psychologist, but surely this must be some mistake. If you think this therapy is going to frustrate irate users to high heaven, then press one; if you think it's just a cheap marketing stunt then press two; if you think automated telephone helpdesks are monotonous and blah blah blah, press three.
My advice, for what it's worth, is to ignore all this advice and carry on swearing, thumping and kicking away regardless. It's not your PC anyway and after all, it's now a medical condition to rival yuppie flu or RSI: TRA - technology-related anxiety.
KEY FINDINGS FROM THE RESEARCH
-When PC problems occurred, 22 per cent said the IT department solved the symptoms but didn't tackle the underlying cause of the fault.
-More than a quarter of respondents said problems were due to incompatible hardware and software.
-More than one in five respondents in the Midlands said an unwillingness to invest properly in IT was to blame.
-When things go wrong, 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 it takes at least an hour on average to resolve the problem.
-Nearly two-thirds - 62 per cent - of respondents based in the North said 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 their PC makes them feel stupid or ignorant.
-One in six believe their colleagues have used IT to cover up their mistakes; only half of this figure admit to doing the same thing themselves.
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