Friday, April 16, 2021

The Human Reason Behind Low IT Morale

In recent days Datamation has received reader responses regarding several
articles and columns about low IT worker morale and technology industry employment trends.

The articles can be found here, here
and here. In a nutshell, they convey the following information:

  • Surveys show record lows in IT worker confidence, primarily because of
    “a significant decrease in optimism about personal finances and hiring
    intentions, as well as increased concerns about job loss,” according to one
    staffing company.

  • Job growth in the IT sector is slow and there has been a recent round
    of layoffs, but the real reason for low morale, according to some analysts
    and staffing executives, is that IT workers have unrealistic expectations
    that the industry will experience another Gold Rush.

  • Outsourcing is not going away, and will actually increase, according to
    a Villanova University business professor who also is a regular Datamation
    columnist.
  • All three of the linked items above contain information and opinions that
    arguably are accurate and correct. But I think they’re all missing something
    crucial: The human element. (The survey of IT workers comes closest because
    it’s based on feedback from real live people. But like all surveys, it is
    relatively bloodless.)

    Real People

    I was reminded of that by a couple of readers. One describes himself as a
    61-year-old unemployed programmer. Right away, that’s a tough spot to be in.
    It’s even worse if many of your employment opportunities are being shipped
    overseas to low-wage tech workers, and you’re being told that trend will
    only accelerate.

    Then there was the reader whose reply to one of the articles above was so
    heated that the pixels on my monitor began smoking. He says he has more than
    a decade of experience in IT and more than one college degree, but has been
    unemployed since 9/11. Here’s a small sampling of what he wrote:

  • Pursuing lowest cost via OFFSHORING is a national crime.
  • Praising OFFSHORING, despite its huge failure rate, is induced by greedy
    executives who do not care that they are putting my country into crisis.
  • I am annoyed at seeing the calm, no outrage, no commentary, lifeless
    demeanor of editors and business writers on this crime.
  • Because journalists, like corporate executives and venture capitalists,
    often tend toward arrogance — after all, we’ll spend a whole workday
    Googling for information, interviewing a couple of consultants and whipping
    together an article on deadline, so therefore we’re experts on that
    topic — we often dismiss these emotional missives as the rantings of a
    crank. “No wonder this guy can’t get a job,” we’ll muse. “Look how angry
    he is!”

    Through Their Eyes

    Yeah, he’s angry. You might be angry too if your personal finances have been
    wiped out, you’ve been forced to sell your house, your kids can’t afford to
    go to college and you can’t get hired in the industry for which you’ve been
    trained. Thousands and thousands of IT workers across this country can tell
    you this story, and the employed techies who responded to the Hudson survey
    cited above — you know, the one where morale is at an all-time low — are
    afraid the same thing might happen to them.

    Still can’t understand the anger? Try viewing these pieces of news from the
    perspective of the unemployed IT worker:

    April 14: IBM posts Q1 profit of $1.41 billion, or 85 cents per share.

    April 26: IBM increases quarterly dividend to 20 cents per common share, an
    11 percent increase.

    May 4: IBM plans to cut 10,000 to 13,000 jobs, about 4 percent of its
    workforce. Most of the cuts will come from European operations, but about
    one-quarter will be in the U.S.

    June 23: An internal IBM document reveals the company plans to hire more
    than 14,000 new workers in India (where programmers are paid about 20
    percent of U.S. salaries).

    And that’s just IBM. Financial analysts expect HP to announce massive
    layoffs this summer — anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of the
    workforce — after new CEO Mark Hurd in May cited a need to cut expenses in
    the wake of the company’s Q1 earnings report — which, by the way,
    exceeded Wall Street expectations.

    It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to guess what the next chapter
    will be for HP. When it comes, it will generate more frustration and anger
    among jobless and imperiled IT workers in the U.S. — but little surprise.

    It’s very easy to pontificate about the inevitability of globalization.
    What’s not so easy is to watch your job and career drift overseas, courtesy
    of profitable corporations that enjoy immense tax breaks from the U.S.
    government and have benefited for years from the skills and knowledge of
    U.S.-trained and educated tech workers.

    But most IT workers already know that. And that’s why their morale is
    low.

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