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Robert Mullins
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IT Pros Stressed Out, Looking To Jump Ship

A survey indicates pressure from management and lack of resources is leading to high anxiety and job dissatisfaction among IT admins.

The job of an IT professional has always been stressful, but a recent survey shows the anxiety level is increasing among IT admins, leading more of them to look for new jobs.

The third annual IT Admin Stress Survey from GFI Software shows that 77% of the 200 US IT administrators polled consider their job stressful, up 12% from last year. Seventy-nine percent said they are considering leaving their job for another one due to stress, versus 57% in 2013.

All the stress is affecting IT pros' personal lives, including their health. According to the survey, 38% have missed social functions due to work, and 35% missed family functions for the same reason. One-third of respondents have trouble sleeping due to job stress, and 25% have suffered a stress-related illness. Thirty percent consider themselves the most stressed-out people in their family or social group.

The survey also noted that the main contributors to stress for IT admins are pressure from company management, cited by 28.9% of respondents, and a lack of enough IT staff, cited by 23.7%.

Tech companies may be hiring more workers these days, but they're not always hiring enough IT people to support those new employees, so IT admins are forced to do more with less, said Sergio Galindo, general manager of the infrastructure business unit at GFI, which makes IT automation software.

The conclusions of the survey ring true to Eric Hanselman, a chief analyst at the technology research firm 451 Group. However, he said the IT admin stress created by new technology has also been relieved by technology.

Server administrators have had to manage more servers as computing demands have grown at companies, but virtualization has helped reduce the number of physical servers that must be maintained, and automated systems have been developed to manage all the virtual servers from one desktop, Hanselman said.

More recently, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend has played havoc with IT admins tasked with accommodating different personal portable devices employees bring into work. "January was always the worst month in IT, because it was after the holidays, and everyone was trying to connect everything they got for the holidays to the network," he said.

Now mobile device management technology has been brought to market to automate the task of allowing different devices with different operating systems to securely access the company network, Hanselman said.

But technology still manages to throw a few curveballs at IT administrators, such as the recent Heartbleed security vulnerability and the cessation of Microsoft support for the Windows XP operating system.

And the survey results raise the question of what IT admins hope to gain from moving to another company, where the same stress factors may appear.

First off, the Internet boom era of the late 1990s and early 2000s is not being repeated today, Hanselman said. "It was a time when people would jump from one company to the next for massive increases in salary. That's not the situation today."

Instead, IT admins looking for a new job are seeking more stability, perhaps new responsibilities, and a better work-life balance, he said. They're also looking for company management that recognizes the stress that IT admins face and deals with it.

"They need to be forward thinking to deal with stress before it starts to impact service delivery quality," Hanselman said. "It's only exceptional companies that are proactively addressing stress in the IT staff."

Robert Mullins has covered the technology industry in Silicon Valley for more than a decade for various publications. He has written about enterprise computing including stories about servers, storage, data center management, network security, virtualization, and cloud computing. View Full Bio

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Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2014 | 9:43:59 AM
Re: Discouraging results
You could be right, Drew. I could just be extra grumpy. Wouldn't be the first time -- just ask my kids :)
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 2:59:08 PM
Re: Discouraging results
I guess I was just looking for a silver lining where none exists. Oh well.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 1:20:40 PM
Re: Discouraging results
I don't know, Drew. The details of the survey don't really highlight anything positive, and it looks like more people are dissatisfied since the last time they ran the survey. IT pros seems to be just looking to get out of jobs that cause them a great deal of grief, which is too bad.
jmyerson
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jmyerson,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 12:09:15 AM
Postive Motivator
Susan, I agree stress (of faiture) can be a positive motivator. It takes at least two people (the IT pro and his manager or boss) to turn things around in a positive way.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2014 | 1:24:48 PM
Re: Discouraging results
That does seem like it would be a positive change Drew. If a similar survey had been conducted a few years ago, likely more would be willing to stick it out. Overall, though, it seems there are conflicting reports about job opportunities in the IT industry.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2014 | 12:40:10 PM
Re: Discouraging results
Good point SiliconMoon. Our contributor did ask the company that conducted the survey about exactly that, and the researcher told him they don't survey job stress in other occupations so they can't do a comparison with the larger workforce.

I agree that stress is pretty widespread in most industries.
SiliconMoon
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SiliconMoon,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/12/2014 | 12:19:31 PM
Re: Discouraging results
Good points all. I'd like to see a comparison of IT admin stress to people in other professions to give it some context. I would think stress is inherent in any line of work. As I like to say, "That's why they call it work!"
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2014 | 12:08:29 PM
Re: Discouraging results
On a slightly positive note, is it possible that the fact more people are considering leaving their job indicates a more healthy economy? That is, there may be more opportunities out there than in the past few years? Seems like a positive change.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2014 | 11:18:09 AM
Re: Discouraging results
And Eric Hanselman makes an interesting point about what those polled expect to get from jumping ship. With only exceptional companies proactively dealing with staff stress, the situation isn't likely to get better in another job.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2014 | 9:44:55 AM
Discouraging results
Wow, the results of this survey are pretty horrible -- almost 80% of IT pros are considering leaving their jobs because of stress? That seems excessive to me. I feel like in some cases stress can be a positive motivator, but looking further at this survey, the respondents appear to be truly staff-level employees, so they may feel less control, and like there is no end to the day-to-day grunt work. Are you experiencing these types of environments?
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