One of the hot topics at the moment is sexism and bullying in the work place. I have been very lucky that in the main, this has not been an overly large issue for me. My part-time roles through university were car delivery driver and newspaper van driver, which were very male-orientated roles.
Coupled with a very tomboy dress sense, it probably doesn’t invite the kinds of sexism that my female colleagues may have experienced. I have always been seen as “one of the boys”, though equally the “boys” were always quick to come to my defence if I was in trouble. I generally felt supported by my work colleagues rather than threatened.
In recent years, however, I have experienced bullying. And it saddened me that the bully in question was a fellow, albeit older, female. But it was my very understanding male boss who helped to resolve the issue.
The biggest challenge in my IT career are my experiences with colleagues on the Autistic Spectrum.
Despite understanding the condition, I still struggle to when they get agitated with me because I don’t understand IT concepts. The concept is obvious to them and they don’t understand why it is not obvious to me.
I do not cope well with anger, tension and raised voices. Their attitude undermines my confidence and makes me feel insecure in my own abilities.
And it if makes me feel this way, and I understand IT, however must our users feel?
Experiencing this myself helps me to understand and reinforce my attitude of empathy. It reminds me that their experience in the past may have been similar. And it will have undermined their confidence to seek help.
IT Support is about providing support to people, not just equipment. If we are undermining confidence, then as IT Support professionals, I believe we are failing in our role.
IT is no longer about the systems behind the scenes. It is part of our daily lives, from the computer on our desks, to the SMART TVs in our home, our phones, tablets and watches. Not all our customers are ten-year-olds who have experienced this from birth.
We have an aging population who will be retiring later in life than any other generation before them. In the University it is common to find Fellows who are still working in their eighties. They come to us seeking support, as they continue to write articles based on their area of expertise. They are very aware of their lack of IT savyness. And for some, they are also very aware of their degrading memories. It can be easy to make fun, or get frustrated by their plight. But this in itself is a form of bullying. It diminishes their self-confidence and self-worth at a time when they are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
As IT becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, we need to be fostering ways to encourage those who struggle with IT, no matter their age. Technology changes with every system update. And in this increasingly technological world we now live in, they need and deserve our support.
As a manager, my role is to foster inclusivity within my team. By doing so, I hope this equally fosters a sense of inclusivity within them. To help their clients and remove their struggle.