Jidaw Systems

Workplace Stress and your IT career

Dear Jidaw,

Thanks for what you do with Jidaw.com. It has helped my understanding of certification and career issues.

I need your advice. I feel compelled to reach out to you because of the skills you impacted into me. I am going through some workplace stress. It is affecting my desire to improve and grow my skills in the IT field. It makes me feel bad and discouraged about developing myself. But I believe with good counseling I can put on the right path. Please what steps should I take to achieve my career ambition?

I work as an operations staff in a cyber café. One of my colleagues is the system engineer. He is responsible for all the computer maintenance, software installations and network administration. I have a diploma in tech support/computer engineering. I invested in this program because I believed it would help me contribute better in the office and also to achieve my IT career goals. However, things didn't turn out as I expected. The system engineer is extremely uncooperative and hostile. Anytime he is carrying out repairs, maintenance or even software installation, he prefers working alone. He gives me the impression that I'm not experienced enough to work with him.

Recently there was an incident that intensified his hostility towards me. While I was on duty alone, the server stopped working.  I put the system off and removed the system case to check what the fault could be. I discovered it was the CPU fan that got burnt and it wasn't cooling the processor. So I decided to replace the fan with another one from one of the other workstations. And the server started functioning properly and browsing continued. But I was surprised when the system engineer got back and instead of praising me, he went on the offensive. He threatened that if there was any problem in future with the server, I would be held responsible. Ever since that incident, I have decided not to participate or contribute in such activities.

As someone with an opinion I respect what do you advise?




Thank you for your mail. I appreciate your concern. I commend you on your efforts so far in developing yourself.

Before dealing with the engineer's attitude towards you, I must emphasize that there should be controls in every computing environment. It is good to have initiative and passion for what you do, but make sure you have the authority to carry out whatever tasks you perform. As you will have to bear the consequences - good or bad. It's a risk we should all be aware of in the working environment.  In a situation with such tension as you describe there is a need to always exercise caution. You have to be careful when dealing with issues of this nature, so that your zeal to contribute and grow your skills will work best for you.

Apart from the control issue, what I see is an attitude problem. The engineer doesn't appear interested in helping you grow your skills. We live in an imperfect, competitive world. As I see it the engineer may feel that he is "protecting his territory". This is unfortunate on his part, as one of the most important soft skills is the ability to grow others. "If others working with you are not growing you are not growing". He is not helping himself or his career growth. You may have great tech skills but your growth and opportunities will be limited if you don't develop the ability to collaborate and work with others. Even if he believes you're not experienced enough, since you shown an interest, what would it cost him if he were your mentor/guide? In fture, can he include you part of his personal network?

Learn from his attitude. Not everybody will like you or cooperate with you on the job. It is a hard lesson that we all learn in the work place: For whatever reason, it might to due to insecurity, inferiority complex, pettiness, timidity, lack of respect or even ignorance.

Look on the positive side. This is an opportunity to grow important soft skills - a major difference between classroom training and workplace experience. The ability to work with difficult people is a great asset in a competitive environment. Avoid the temptation to run from the challenge. The engineer is not cooperative and so what? This is not meant to sound harsh, but you need to get out of your comfort zone and develop some backbone. Are you in IT for him or for yourself? You can't afford to allow others determine what you will be or where you will get. He may be nasty, unfriendly, Big deal! What will you do if you work with "the boss from hell"?!  What the incident should do is to fire you on to develop your soft skills and create opportunities for yourself. It isn't always easy, but you can do it. Dig deep. Be resourceful.

Have you tried to create a rapport with him in the past? Look at his personality triggers. Are you sure it isn't your manner of approach that puts him off? Do you have any common interests? Is he someone whose friendship you can cultivate? 

Explain your position to him in a professional and civil manner. Let him know you need his cooperation. But if he still doesn't change his attitude, don't force yourself on him. Remain civil and avoid confrontation with him. "If you try to force a pig to fly, the pig will not fly and the pig will get angry."

Create and find practical alternatives within your organization that will allow you to grow. Make opportunities for yourself to practice what you have learnt so that you can keep your skills current and gain further exposure. This may involve finding somebody in your company you can trust and who can take action concerning your position. Do this in a persuasive manner to show that you have the skills, you're willing to learn and that your contribution will be in the best interest of the business. In view of the attitude of the engineer, determine the best approach to use within your organization - formal or informal. Your aim should be to develop and gain valuable experience on the job in a professional manner.

Whatever the outcome, you must additionally recognize that the workplace is not the only place where you can acquire experience. I suggest that if you have the opportunity you consider non-traditional ways of acquiring experience. Such as part time jobs for NGOs, religious bodies, volunteer groups? Some may not pay but at least you will get the opportunity to keep and grow your skills, while making useful contacts.

Acquisition of knowledge and practical experience should be your priority. Continue to invest in yourself based on your career goals (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html). To succeed in IT you must be ready to build a solid technical foundation. This will not handed over to you on a platter of gold and you must be prepared to make the effort. It is hard work that requires sacrifice. Already this workplace problem you have is one the challenges we all face. Other challenges may include lack of opportunities, slow career growth, lack of recognition/appreciation of your efforts and so on. Challenges are not straightforward and require perseverance. Channel despair and anger into positive action.

According to Aldous Huxley, "Experience is not what happens to you, but what you make of what happens to you."

In conclusion, I will advise you not to be discouraged but to accept this situation as part of lifelong learning and a challenge to be overcome. The issue is not the problem but how you handle the problem. But you can only do this in your own interest with a clear focus and a positive take-action mentality.

Only you can allow others to determine what you will achieve. Make wise choices based on the information you have and the resources and opportunities available to you.


All the best in your IT Career,


Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com

Jidaw.com's mission is to help you build and sharpen your career focus. Time permitting, we would be glad to answer your career questions, but before to sending an email, please check the IT Career Resource Center first to see if perhaps your question or problem already appears there or can be solved using the resource center.

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