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Study exposes IT rage when computers go wrong

Rebecca Thomson

Half the population could suffer from "computer rage", according to research from the British Psychology Society.

Over half of the respondents to a survey said they got angry several times a month with computers - and IT professionals don't help.

IT staff who understand technology may not fully comprehend the frustration and anger computers can cause, leading them to give the issue less prominence than it deserves when delivering IT products and services, the society said.

The study, led by the University of Bolton, said swearing and shouting at computers, hitting the keyboards and smashing the mouse have become an everyday form of expressing anger.

Those questioned said their frustration was down to unsatisfactory work progress and time pressures.

Of the 126 participants, 54% of people were verbally aggressive towards their computer, while 40% admitted they had engaged in physical aggression. The majority of people get angry with IT around three to four times a month.

Dr John Charlton, of the University of Bolton, said shouting could bring stress relief, saying: "Moderate outbursts of anger, in the form of shouting at a computer might actually be beneficial."

Social pressures mean people usually suppress anger in public, because it is not acceptable to display it overtly. But the British Psychology Society says they lose this self-control when faced with a malfunctioning modem. "A computer cannot judge or ridicule. There is no fear of reprisal, embarrassment or retribution."

It is in employers' interests to reduce this stress, with productivity slowing when computers go wrong.

"To address the problem of computing anger in the workplace, in addition to ensuring that computer hardware and software are adequate for the purposes for which employees are expected to use them, employers might consider advising employees of simple anger management strategies."


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