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Frustrated Workers Hit Any Key, Literally

I was waiting in line at a store to buy an iPod Touch as a Christmas gift. (Shh, don't tell.) Finally, it was my turn at the top of the line.

"I'm wondering if you have the 9 megabyte iPod Touch in stock?" The young sales clerk stared at me as if I were speaking Aramaic. "Um...we only have...the 8 gigabyte iPod Touch?" I'm old enough to know that ending a factual statement as a question is the polite way of pointing out someone's idiocy. "Oh, yes," I said, "that's what I meant to say. Sorry." Apparently, gigabytes always come in even numbers as well. Who knew?

I shared this story with my spouse, who was born and raised in the Silicon Valley and probably used computers in utero. The kind of guy who delights in discussing the soul of any given machine while my mind leaves for vacation in the Caribbean. He burst out laughing at my story, but he wasn't surprised. He's lived with me long enough to know what a technology illiterate I am, partly by choice. "9 megabytes would be enough space to download maybe one Lady Gaga song," he said, smiling. He's gotten very good at breaking down technology in terms I can understand.

I mention this embarrassing tidbit because, for one, growing older combined with the effects of the Great Recession has made me more comfortable sharing my entrenched weaknesses (or selective interests, depending on how one looks at it); and two, I accepted a long time ago that I will never be a technology writer. Sure, I could force myself to learn the ins and outs of technology in order to write glorious product reviews, but the interest level just isn't there. For better or worse, I don't care about the internal workings of technology as much as I just want the damn thing to work when I attempt to use it. The IBM "user-friendly DOS" desktop years were almost the end of me.

The closest I will ever get to technology writing is exploring the psychological and managerial impacts of technology on the workforce, a topic I actually find quite fascinating. Now here's a recent study I can relate to: A Harris Interactive/Intel survey that explored "Hourglass Syndrome," a term Intel devised to describe how people deal with waiting for their technological gadgets to do their thing. Harris Interactive/Intel surveyed nearly 2,200 U.S. adults. What did they learn?
80% of U.S. adults get frustrated waiting for technology to work;

51% have done something "out of character" while waiting for technology because they're so frustrated;

62% admit yelling or cursing out loud when their technology can’t keep up with them;

29% tap their computer mouse while waiting;

24% bang on their computer screen and keyboard;

70% have watched strangers act out on a piece of technology while waiting for it to work;

33% have watched their co-workers lose their cool.

Yes, one-third of employees are going mano-a-mano on their gadgets out of pure frustration. Our collective inability to wait any length of time for anything anymore certainly factors into the frustration level, but I think workers are more frustrated by technology than companies care to admit. We love our gadgets as long as they're easy to use and they work quickly, but we get upset when they don't work as expected. A new iPass survey finds 97% of employees are juggling at least two pieces of technology at any given time, which means frustration levels are likely to be doubled, or even tripled.

With at least one-third of employees treating technology like a piece of American Tourister luggage, employers might be wise to remind them to be kind to their gadgets, especially if its company-owned technology. Or maybe the IT team can remind employees, since it will be dealing directly with the collateral damage caused by high frustration levels.

Here's an Intel clip about Hourglass Syndrome, which feels more like a pharmaceutical ad and (surprise!) is really an ad for Intel core processors. If you have an increased urge to gamble or take nitrates for chest pain, you may want to consult your doctor before using.

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