Sysadmin is a thankless job

      4 Comments on Sysadmin is a thankless job

I recently noted (and replied to) a post in /r/sysadmin regarding the fact that someone received (Holy Didn’tExpectThat Batman!) some thanks for a job well done.

It’s something I’ve noticed in the jobs I’ve been in and the bosses I’ve had. Systems administrators generally don’t get thanks. They don’t get the same level of praise as the front line, who are seen and heard and are present at your desk to fix the problem. We sysadmins (and I’m using that term loosely to include network admins and other “keep the lights on” operations staff) are behind the scenes. We don’t get seen. You don’t see or hear from us, really, unless something goes MAJORLY wrong.

And, in most cases, that involves you yelling at us about that oh-so-important-thing being broken.

Sometimes, the yelling is deserved, if we’ve done something that’s caused the system to fall over in a burning pile of ash. But most of the time, we’re not the ones who broke it. It could’ve been the application itself. It may have been something another user has done, possibly even the person reporting the problem! And when we do get it back up and running, we’re not given a thanks. We’re given a “Oh good, it’s working” or worse…”That took so long, I don’t want it to take that long the *next* time this happens”.

I like being appreciated. I like being noted for the work I do. In our teams, we get noted. My manager notices when something is done well and makes a point of saying “Good job”. My managers manager does too – but that’s probably because he too came from an operations background.

My director? I honestly don’t think they even pay attention to us. We’re the ants that scurry around trying to, as I’ve said before, keep the lights on and keep things working. We’re the ones who “fix things” when a major incident is reported. We’re not thanked. Why should we be? It’s our job.

I don’t like that line – “Why should I thank you for doing your job?”


I thank people for doing their job – I thank the security guards at my office and at the places I shop just for being there, I thank the cab driver for driving me to and from places, I thank my local salespeople at my Coles/green grocer/butcher/bakery. I smile and talk with them, joke with them. I treat them like they’re human and act as if I do appreciate the work they do. Because I do. I know it’s their job, but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to receive some praise for doing it.

I don’t understand why we don’t get that same level of respect from the people we work with.

I’ve often compared us to bombsquad technicians. We only get called in when something gone *really* pear-shapred, you don’t see what it is we do to fix the problem, but when we finally do rise from our keyboards and empty coffee cups, the problem is fixed and everyone can go home. It might take us 72 hours to get there, but we get it done. But we don’t get thanks. Because it’s “our job”.

We have an organisational “suggestions box” (and don’t stress, I’m not going to reveal any organisational secrets!) and a suggestion that was recently raised was that thanks are being given to our external providers and our management, but not to the people who work here day-after-day to do the operational work and get everything, including the major projects, over the line. The response was luke-warm and while there was a “We do give thanks and I’m sorry this has been missed” it was half-arsed and felt as if it was forced. Of course you have to say thanks when you receive a message like that – there’s nothing else you can do.

When things go to plan, we’re just doing our jobs. When things don’t go to plan, it’s our fault and we need to fix it. Even if we’re the ones who were jumping up and down saying “THIS IS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM!”, even if we screamed so hard we burst blood vessels, even if we wrote an email everyday to our superiors saying “Don’t do this it will break stuff”….it’s still our fault.

So to all of you out there who think that the people who sit in the tiny dark office (or in my case, a large open plan office with annoying fluorescent lighting) are doing nothing and they’re not helping you and they’re only there to annoy the crap out of you with password policies and stupid internet restrictions – just know that we ARE doing something, we are improving the systems you use every day, we are keeping the lights on and, when things go wrong, it isn’t always our fault. But even if it is – please, pretty please, just say “Thanks” when we do fix it. Is that too much to ask?

4 thoughts on “Sysadmin is a thankless job

  1. Ravan Asteris

    And when it comes to review time, there’s no money for bonuses for us, since we are just a ‘cost’ center, we don’t make anything, develop money making shiny newness. But without us? They wouldn’t have a platform to shine on, just a pile of poorly set up special snowflakes that are mostly flake. We make shitty software work on mismatched hardware, but there’s never money to give use the good money.

  2. caskings (@caskings)

    The thanklessness you mention is one of the reasons why I prefer working in dedicated IT / Telco companies. When you are part of the product being sold, you are seen more as an investment or cost of goods sold rather than a pure expense.

    Thank you for having your blog on an ipv6 enabled host and advertising a AAAA record for your domain. It’s nice to see 🙂

  3. EnergizedTech

    I will add some positive. I worked for a Fortune 15 corporation for a while there. I loved the work and it was challenging. My direct boss and I were on a one to one basis (We were a team). But eventually it did wear down. But I think I can honestly say EVERY SINGLE boss I had I directly reported to, when bullets flew by us, when all Hell broke loose, when the fires of Hades itself flew down and we withstood it (or occasionally didn’t); Every single one thanked us constantly in one way or another. To Cameron, Ken, Graham and Stephan, Nishith, Colin and Vineet, Thanks for being great bosses

    The table floats both ways too. Sometimes great bosses don’t get the recognition they deserve….

    Senior Solutions Architect
    Cistel Technology Inc

    The Energized Tech
    Windows PowerShell MVP


Leave a Reply