J030-Content-IT-stress-survey-2015-Blog3_Users_SQIn the beginning, there was the mainframe, and the IT admin was happy.

He had sole access to the terminal; he dictated who used it and for how long. He was relieved that only geeks and engineers touched the hallowed beast.

Fast forward 50 years, and today’s IT admins may sometimes wish they had to deal with a machine spewing out punch cards and spinning tapes. At least if something went wrong then, they knew whose fault it was. Now, when something goes wrong they get the blame. The million dollar question: ‘who is it now?’

Are users the bane of every IT admin?

Give them a troublesome workstation, server or switch any day, but keep management and employees as far away from technology and the server room as possible.

According to our latest IT stress survey, management and employees are the biggest contributors of stress for IT admins. The majority are NOT tech savvy; they don’t listen or want to learn and are bold enough to tell the admin they don’t know what they’re talking about!

End users are the weakest link in the chain and although some of their actions may not threaten the security of the network, they DO threaten the sanity of the IT guy who has to face them.

We asked 400 IT admins: ‘What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen an end user do?’ We pooled some of the more ‘interesting’ replies.

Here goes.

Dumb and dumber?

The user really knows it all and here’s a star example. “At some point during our conversation, I asked the user if she knew how to take a screenshot so I could see what was happening. The user assured me that she knew how to do it and would do so immediately.  Well, she never emailed those screenshots, but when I went on site the next day, there were several 4X6 pictures of the user’s desktop there in an envelope with her name on it.”

It certainly takes some beating yet even the simplest of chores can set make an admin fume. Here are a few:

  • “A user called for help with a problem when the only thing that was wrong was the On/Off switch”.
  • “Complaining that the mouse is not working when it was not plugged in.”
  • “A user called support for help because they didn’t know how to switch on the monitor.”

Some users are really obedient, however, with one “writing click because I asked them to right click.” Seriously? Talk about the digital divide.

A lot of these issues sound familiar, but a few really stand out.

Deleting files, programs and formatting hard drives seems to be a common pain point for IT admins and it takes a lot of patience to deal with a user who decided to delete all .dll files on their machine.

And for those with a guilty conscience because they were using the PC for personal reasons, what is the best thing to do: “Delete entire programs off their computer to avoid being caught”. Presumably they thought they could cancel their tracks.

Even worse, two IT admins said their users caused thousands of dollars in damage to the network because they played around the power supply that caused a huge surge and fried half the equipment.

Sometimes, you have to pity some users, but what about the IT admin?

It takes a lot to push someone over the edge, but a few admins said they had seen users smash their monitors or device in frustration: “Someone threw a laptop across the office because they couldn’t get it to do what they wanted, and smashed it to pieces”, while another “threw the computer across the room in a fit of anger”.

Old habits die hard

Some users will never learn and it does become extremely embarrassing when they are caught with porn on their machine and have the audacity to blame it on someone else. Another oldie that many IT admins are familiar with is RTFM. Well, that in itself is the problem because no one reads them: “Users don’t read or follow written instructions. We have guides next to some computers with graphics about how to print and use scanner. At least 10 times a day, I am helping somebody essentially read instructions.”

Can it get any worse? Yes, if you witness an employee giving passwords for a system to a person on the phone who was not authorized to access that system. Social engineering with minimal effort!

And you know something really, really bad happened when companies resort to policy to keep things under wraps: “I’m not allowed under company policy to divulge that information.” Working for those companies must be fun (sic) for an IT admin.

IT admins will relate to a lot of the incidents above; more often than they want to admit. If you’re not an IT admin spare a thought for your colleagues. They have enough stress as it is.

Click here to read more about GFI’s latest IT Stress Survey.