Why Tech Pros Aren’t Happy

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In a bid to keep top tech talent in the building, some tech companies have resorted to extraordinary perks, from free sushi at lunch to in-house gyms and dry cleaning. But is the talent actually happy? According to a new survey, software engineers, developers, and sysadmins are pretty miserable in the office.

The company conducting the survey, TinyPulse, asked 5,000 employees in the tech space about their individual experience on the job, including overall happiness. Only 19 percent of respondents felt overwhelmingly positive about their work life; another 17 percent said they felt valued at work; and a mere 47 percent believed they had strong relationships with co-workers.

Compared with the responses from employees in marketing and finance (also surveyed by TinyPulse), those numbers are dismal. In addition to generalized unhappiness, only 36 percent of tech employees felt their promotion and career path were clear—compared to 50 percent of non-tech employees.

“There’s widespread workplace dissatisfaction in the tech space, and it’s undermining the happiness and engagement of these employees,” TinyPulse concluded. “The problem goes beyond workplace satisfaction—Gallup found that engagement is one of the key ingredients for employee innovation.”

These survey results indicate something that should be obvious to any company, large or small: While conventional perks are great, employees are also looking for a broader sense of mission, and want to feel that they’re valued by the larger organization. Encouraging strong relationships between co-workers can also help mitigate feelings of unhappiness. Free sushi only goes so far.

Image Credit: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock.com

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18 Responses to “Why Tech Pros Aren’t Happy”

September 02, 2015 at 10:05 pm, jezra said:

You lost me at “In a bid to keep top tech talent in the building”. What if the building is the problem? For some, quality of life is more important than “free sushi at lunch to in-house gyms and dry cleaning”. I’m sure in some place there is someone who would prefer free dry cleaning to not having to endure a horrid commute to work, but I have never met such an individual.

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September 03, 2015 at 7:52 am, Don Joe said:

Here’s the thing: tech pros are inherently pretty sharp minded. All of those cute office perks cost far less than the salary amortized to the extra hours those “perks” are intended to keep us slaving at the office. Want to make tech pros feel more valued? Let them go home without guilt at 5:00 pm so they can refresh and stay creative for you. And if they have to stay up all night on call – either on rotation or for emergency – stop expecting them to come in the following morning. They already put in their hours.

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September 03, 2015 at 8:30 am, Javier said:

I thought companies stopped giving out perks long ago. It’s all about the bottom dollar. “What can we get away with” has been the current status quo.Routinely putting in 80+ hour work weeks and chopping staff because you can call it “emergency on call”, appears to be all the rage. Not to mention a broken dev cycles more concerned with pushing ‘enhancements’ than fixing what already implemented

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September 03, 2015 at 12:50 pm, James said:

I have been in the industry over 16 years. I’ve had some really great experiences like working for a major entertainment company and traveling overseas for contract positions.

Despite these great experiences, because IT is often seen as “overhead” and non-revenue generating, layoffs and cutbacks are more the norm and “extras” seem to be less of the prevalent in my experience.

An earlier comment hit it right on the nail head. Any “extras” are merely tools to make you feel justified in being treated poorly. “Yeah, I worked 16 hours yesterday, but isn’t this sushi great?”

It is hard to quantify and demonstrate the value of a network continually being functional for any given period of time or the work that goes into protecting data or the fact that users are able to log in every day and access resources as expected.

These are all background noise to companies and are rarely recognized or valued.

Until businesses start to see IT staff for what they really contribute to the bottom line, tricks like this (when you can find a company who even cares enough to try) will continue to be used regularly and we will continue to be overworked and undervalued, For most companies, that is just business as usual.

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September 03, 2015 at 3:13 pm, John Doe said:

All three posts below are correct. Companies still don’t understand that people who work in I.T. want FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES and the ability to TELECOMMUTE to work. A butt in a seat doesn’t mean that work is getting done ! When I telecommuted I always put in more hours and was more productive. Why ? Because I wasn’t getting interrupted and I didn’t have a horrible commute. There are plenty of tools that enable I.T. workers to stay in touch with co-workers and management remotely.

I am currently looking for a new part-time telecommuting position and what I notice is that very little to NO employers want to let you telecommute UNLESS you know a programming language that is “hot”, a.k.a. hard to find or unless you agree to 70%+ travel.

I can see why I.T. workers are miserable as I have been in I.T. for 29 years and unfortunately the pressure of understaffed departments, outsourcing and continual 50+ hour work weeks has been getting worse since the 1990’s. I.T. wages have STAGNATED since the 1990’s due to outsourcing of I.T. jobs. I actually made more money in the 1990’s than I do now.

Things will not get better till outsourcing is eliminated, companies provide a better work-life balance for I.T. employees and companies actually start training U.S. citizens for I.T. jobs so that I.T. departments are not continually understaffed.

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September 03, 2015 at 9:57 pm, SteveR said:

There’s an old joke in the tech industry that marketing and finance people are happy because they get to make the lives of the engineers miserable with their impossible demands. Just look at any Dilbert comic strip.

Engineers are often unsure about their career path because their life tends to be an unending series of new projects that begin to look the same. Your first few years as an engineer are all about gaining technical competence, but your position in the organization doesn’t change much other than getting titles like “senior engineer”. You can work your way up to project lead, but after that it’s becoming a manager and leaving technical work.

I’ve worked at several companies that claim to offer a “career path” for engineers, but once you hit 40 or so there’s not much to look forward to unless you want to leave engineering. Nobody even likes to talk about engineers over 40; they’re basically considered to be dinosaurs.

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September 03, 2015 at 11:34 pm, UncaAlby said:

@Don Joe, good points.

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September 03, 2015 at 11:54 pm, Unca Alby said:

This article is nice, but its conclusions are BS. Tech people don’t give a rat’s hindquarters for a “sense of mission” or to be “valued by the larger organization,” or even to have a “strong relationship with co-workers.”

Let me tell you what Tech people want, some of which have already been mentioned by others.

We want FLEXIBILITY. Don’t have heartburn because we might sometimes take a two hour lunch, or a 20 minute nap.

We want TRUST. We said we worked 8 hours a day and we meant it, even though we probably worked longer. A punch clock tells us you don’t trust us. Turning in our cell phones tells us you don’t trust us. Monitoring or blocking web-sites tells us you don’t trust us.

Think about it — if there is anybody you NEED to trust, it’s the people who could plant logic bombs undetected all over the software if they actually weren’t trustworthy.

We want AUTONOMY. Yah, we know, your favorite project is most important to the company. But sometimes we burn out on one thing, and working on something else nearly as important can help us recharge. Both things have to be finished anyway, so what does it matter if WE choose which one to do right now?

I’m not even going to ask for telecommuting. I know that’s not happening, unless you’ve worked at the company for 15 years and babysat the CEO’s kids.

You might notice that “free sushi” is not on the list. Not even more pay or Christmas bonuses. Really, most of us are in the field because we enjoy it. We’d work for free if it wasn’t for the landlord threatening to throw us out for non-payment of rent.

So, employers, think about it. Are you treating your Tech people like Professionals? Or like cattle?

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September 04, 2015 at 11:45 am, SteveT said:

I don’t know what the answer is, but free sushi is just going to make me puke! It is not a perk. I am perhaps a bit more sensitive to this kind of thing. I’m a lacto-vegetarian (not a political-vegan), and have been my entire life. During my university years I came down with a never-ending acid-reflux problem. Two years ago, my doctor increased my dosage of a common over-the-counter pink pill to 2 per day. All foods trigger my condition, but sushi give me chalk scraping on a chalkboard any day.

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October 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm, Greg said:

I’m not going to talk circles around the issue. What we lack is HOPE. Most of us work in positions that are, truly, dead end. Our managers have been managers for 15 years and we know they aren’t going anywhere. The positions, as they are backfilled, are downgraded to a lower grade. There is no HOPE to be elevated up the structure and make more, do more or be more. This concept leads to job-hopping. You can never be invested in a position and become personal with the people around you because you have to leave to get promoted and make more to provide more to your family. They want more for less and provide trinkets to incite the illusion of happiness. I’ll work more if I have HOPE that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and my investment will lead to fruits. What used to be happiness has become tolerance to more of the same. What’s next? Indifference?

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October 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm, Jim McGuiness said:

Many companies have non-tech administrators making technology decisions not the least bit informed by a clear information policy. Working in tech stimulates intellectual capacity growth. This eventuates into falling respect for “the deciders” as tech folk are often put into the position of facilitating the machinations of short-sighted utilitarians whose objectives are dictated to the tech group. Information policy should always inform technology policy. Technology implementation without this comprehensive grounding in information policy creates friction if not Babel.

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October 29, 2015 at 10:13 pm, Keith Morse said:

I don’t like sushi.

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October 30, 2015 at 11:36 am, RobG said:

and as usual the comments provide much better real world insight than the “expert” advice in the article itself…

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October 30, 2015 at 1:01 pm, Darrell said:

Here’s another point not yet mentioned…

Over the past several years, salaries, bonuses, and benefits had slowed and in some cases, decreased.

But things are picking up now, right? Well, there is another trend I am seeing. Rather than outsource, which I believe is decreasing, companies are transferring people from overseas who work for significantly less compensation and are more susceptible to having an exceedingly large workload put on them. They have more to gain, more to lose.

For current IT professionals, this is decreasing the potential of greater compensation and promotion and increasing the risk of being displaced.

So companies are incentivized to make greater demands of workers and disincentivized to compensate. It can be disheartening.

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October 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm, Darrell said:

… and about the 40+ year old dinosaurs…

I’m 50 and have more energy, creativity, and productivity than ever.

… so there!

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November 03, 2015 at 10:30 am, Brian C said:

Let’s face the facts, folks. Tech employees are no longer the super stars who make or break products and companies. In part because basic tech has been simplified by smart phone – to smart everything- tech is not the black box mystery of past decades.

Indeed, tech workers are now a dime a dozen and thanks to global reach of technology, easily outsourced. The party is over so stop being prima donnas and either suck it up or quit. As one who has had 70% global travel – not by choice – I’m sick of your whining while you still make great salaries and enjoy a great professional life. You’re doing what you chose but life and situations change.

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November 03, 2015 at 5:06 pm, greg said:

Spoken like a true gentleman. You couldn’t be more incorrect. Technology is even more complex now. On top of that, complexity brings an increased project workload. Brilliant, increase the load, pay us less and then tell us to shut up when we desire to be recognized and compensated for our dedication and hard work. You represent the problem. We are dedicated to your cause and you consider IT expendable. Tell us all where you work so we don’t accidentally work with you or for you.

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November 04, 2015 at 11:30 am, wageSlave said:

The technology labor market is no longer a free market. 96% of all job listing are controlled by head hunters. The market has been cornered. There is no reason for employers to compete. The prices are being set by the following ratio: what the employer is willing to pay – head hunter commissions = what you get. With control of access to the labor market a couple major firms in one geographic location can set prices for their clients and more importantly they can deny you access to work forcing you to accept lower wages.
This article doesn’t define the problem correctly leading to a solution. Apparently a lot of the posters don’t either. The employers don’t have to compete, wages are being suppressed, and talent is leaving the industry. What we are hearing here is the pre cursor to the end result.

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