Television sitcom The IT Crowd was a fictional show that contained many valuable lessons about life in the real workplace. Broadcast on Channel 4 from February 2006 until July 2010, it revolved around the IT support team at fictional London firm, Reynholm Industries.
The company IT experts, Roy and Maurice, worked in a dark basement office with supervisor Jen, who knew nothing whatsoever about technology.
They all worked under the dubious guidance of erratic Denholm Reynholm, a boss who was lacking in people (and many other) skills.
Running for 25 episodes over four series, The IT Crowd was critically acclaimed. Filmed in front of a studio audience, it achieved viewing figures of 1.8 million people per episode.
Workplace digital culture
The series teaches us about the wrong way to deal with workplace digital culture and has become popular among many people working in digital technology because despite the over-the-top characters, a lot of the situations that happen ring true.
Ahead of its time in many ways, the show was first broadcast at a time when a lot of companies were still getting to grips with digital technology. In 2006, when The IT Crowd was launched, the United Nations had just introduced its international One Laptop Per Child initiative to help pupils become more tech savvy.
The verb “to Google” was first added to dictionaries to describe the increasing use of search engines, while Amazon Web Services launched cloud-based services.
The workplace was nothing like today’s tech-savvy environment: for some employees, supervisor Jen’s complete lack of knowledge about the internet was familiar. The IT Crowd lovingly portrayed a satire of workplace digital culture at the time.
Roy and Maurice always offered the same advice to employees whose computer had crashed – “turn it off and on again” – while the IT team worked in a cluttered and dingy basement away from the rest of the workforce.
Reynholm Industries seemed to veer from one disaster to the next, often due to the IT department’s isolation and the team’s feelings of being disengaged from the company.
Motivating in the workplace
IT experts felt uninspired in general by the attitude not only of the upper management, but also because staff in other departments seemed to think of them as “geeks”. They didn’t feel like they were a part of the team and any innovations they developed were stifled by poor management.
The IT department was treated with continual dismissiveness and apathy by Reynholm Industries.
In reality, technology plays such a massive part in the modern workplace that the IT department is crucial to the running of every company.
It’s easy to laugh at events in The IT Crowd, after all, that’s the purpose of the series, but one thing that shone through was the complete lack of motivation felt by the basement team.
Just why is motivation important in the workplace? Many studies have revealed work motivation is an essential factor for the success of any organisation, promoting efficient performance and inspiring individuals to achieve the company’s objectives.
Happy and motivated employees are more productive, so shutting a whole team in a basement and never integrating them with other staff is a recipe for disaster.
Today, surprisingly, some organisations continue to marginalise the contribution made by their digital team. Although this doesn’t usually stoop to shutting them in the cellar, the same culture still exists.
A lot of businesses lack digital integration, and this leaves IT employees feeling undervalued. Their innovations are not obviously visible and are often “behind the scenes”, so people don’t appreciate the vital role they play.
An example of this occurs in The IT Crowd when it becomes apparent other staff and management don’t even know the IT team’s names. Instead, they answer to, “You there – computer man!”
Modern businesses who lack digital integration sometimes try to do tech tasks themselves, which can be a big mistake.
Many of The IT Crowd’s long running jokes stem from their colleagues’ total lack of knowledge about digital technology. While it’s amusing to watch, in the real world, this can be detrimental to the company.
Their resulting lack of motivation can become detrimental to the business. For example, in The IT Crowd, Maurice, a quiet genius, comes up with many innovative ideas that can help his colleagues. One example is when he creates a new invention, a machine to combat stress, in just one afternoon.
This sort of innovation should be supported, encouraging the inventor to express their creativity and further develop the project. However, when the company shows no interest and the invention disappears without a trace, Maurice is less likely to show any such initiative again. Instead, he lulls further into a mood of apathy.
Lack of understanding
Jen is partly to blame for the situation because she has no understanding of IT herself, so she isn’t particularly suited to her role as relationship manager, as it involves marketing the contributions of her team.
When someone with no knowledge of IT tries to explain new innovations to a CEO who isn’t particularly interested in the first place, it will never end well.
It is important for IT experts to be empowered to explain the vital work they do to management and other departments. This will benefit the company and help to achieve future success.
There are many benefits to having your own tech team, as they are a crucial cog in the wheel of your organisation.
You don’t want them to feel undervalued, as embracing digital culture leads to the organic development of staff members at all levels. This empowers them to take responsibility for small digital advances and actions in their own job role.
The contributions of IT staff should never be marginalised, and employers must make every effort to integrate them into the team.
Serviced offices: London
Working in a professional environment, such as serviced offices, can help every team to feel integrated and more motivated. Our serviced offices in London are located among the world’s largest banking and financial institutions within the international business hub of the UK capital.
With an industry leading IT infrastructure that offers 10 Gb pipes, feeding our office centres with incredibly high speeds, this can satisfy even the most demanding business, making life much easier for the IT team.
Equally important are our back-up lines that provide a robust failover system to ensure business continuity in the unlikely event of downtime of the primary line.
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