The Office “IT Guys”: Refuting (and Embracing) Stereotypes About Tech Support and IT Providers

What pop culture gets wrong — and right — about IT support

Nelson Franklin as “Nick the IT Guy,” alongside Steve Carell’s Michael Scott

You’d be hard-pressed to put together a group of people in any American workplace who can’t recite a few lines from the iconic TV show The Office. Indeed, the show (Netflix’s most-watched-show in history until the series was reclaimed by its creator network NBC to run on their new streaming Peacock platform on January 1st) is still such an American obsession nearly a decade after ending that pop culture columnists, academics, and even psychologists continue to write think-pieces on it. The general consensus? For all its brilliance in putting ridiculous humor to the standard-issue denizens of the SMB workplace, the characters are recognizable to us in our own everyday lives at work: sometimes redundant, awkward, and full of the same relatable insecurities and dynamic quirkery.

To some of us, the genius of The Office is built-out by the familiarity of its peripheral caricatures. (Don’t we all know a Bob Vance, the firm-handshake of a business owner who can’t sever his personal identity from that of his namesake company?) But knowing the show draws from widely-held perceptions to build out archetypes of the characters encountered in a modern office, the minor appearances of IT service technicians Nick and Sadiq offer us IT providers a mirror reminder of some of the truths (and inaccurate stereotypes) of our role.

From the IT service team at Level5 Management, here’s our take on a list of stereotypes about IT support technicians and the IT service provider role — as garnered from The Office and elsewhere in pop culture.

PERCEPTION #1: The role an IT providers plays in a company is a small one.

REALITY: By nature, the best IT providers play supporting roles, but not minor ones. It’s your show, and you and your team are always the leading characters we are here to support. But behind the scenes, our responsibility and the role we play in your business’s success is enormous. In 2021, with every manner of global and local business dependent on technology for such a large portion of their operations, the IT provider is an indispensable part of any company — whether it’s an internal IT department or an outsourced IT company acting as a partner. It is quite literally our job to keep your business open and running.

PERCEPTION #2: IT professionals are socially awkward “nerd” types and their presence is generally unnoticeable or unwelcome.

In one often-quoted scene of The Office, Nick the IT guy eagerly tries to join the office conversation about Pam’s impending labor as she waits to go to the hospital.

Nick: Well, you don’t wanna wait too long Pam. Otherwise the baby’s going to become a teenager in there and, uh, you’ll be up all night. From the rock music.

Michael Scott: Shut up, Nick! God. Weird thing to say. Weird IT nerd. Don’t get revenge on me, nerd.

REALITY: Maybe this is evidence of our nerdiness in and of itself, but because we appreciate data, we can rely on organizational psychologists and their years of research to give us some insight into the accuracy of generalizations about IT personalities.

Contrary to how we are portrayed in films, studies using the Jungian personality traits or Myers-Briggs personality typing have found a prevalence of Extrovert types vs Introverts in IT, Thinkers vs Feelers, as well as Perceivers vs Judgers.

To be fair, we definitely see where the tendency to put analytical thinking before emotions can come off as being less social. At Level5, however, a keen emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for being part of our extraordinary company. Part of what makes our team of South Florida IT service experts so unique is that it’s been carefully curated for personality as well as IT experience and skill. We put a lot of emphasis on building trust and rapport with our client and their employees, who see us as an extension of their own teams. Personality counts for a lot in our world. We will never be the “weird IT guys,” we promise.

The employees of fictional Dunder Mifflin relied on technology to sell their paper products to a “paperless world.” (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

PERCEPTION #3: Your IT team is looking at all your private information.

When Nick the IT guy announces that he’s leaving Dunder Mifflin to teach computers to inner city kids, the office staff responds to his farewell by ignoring him or with confusion over who he even is. After becoming irritated that nobody can remember his name though he just told them what it was 30 seconds earlier, Nick reacts by spitefully exposing what he knows about everyone.

“Thanks so much for that. I saw all your hard drives, and guess what? Ryan, you’re not a photographer. And Kelly you definitely can’t fit into a size 2. Darryl, man you’re on Facebook. Why are you telling people you’re not on Facebook? People want to be your friend, man. And you, this guy,” he says, pointing at Andy, who was hiding the fact that he was the company whistleblower, “you told the press. You wrote a letter to the editor. I saw it, and I also saw your QuickTime movie of your little printer fire test. I saw it on your hard drive. This guy’s the snitch.”

REALITY: While the thought of an outburst of everyone’s digitally-kept secrets made excellent fodder for humor on TV, the truth is this would never happen in real life to a business outsourcing IT. Particularly with a managed IT service provider like Level5 Management, we are strictly bound to uphold confidentiality via non-disclosure agreements and industry regulations. In fact, we have a contractual duty to fiercely protect your data and the data of your clients or patients. Our job is to keep it guarded, and to keep you in compliance with all the data privacy regulations of your industry. 

But honestly, we simply aren’t looking through your personal information or browser history. And we aren’t reading your emails. It isn’t that we don’t find you interesting. But we are hard at work keeping your technology running smoothly, and there’s just no reason for us to go through your data.

If we do come across anything personal in the course of routine problem-solving or performing maintenance on your network or your devices, you can be sure it won’t give us pause. We’re kind of like doctors in that way — all hairy boils look pretty much the same and we regard them all clinically and forget them immediately. (Remember the IT personality types? We’re Perceivers, not Judgers.)

“You guys have these things so password-protected.”

PERCEPTION #4: IT providers roll their eyes at tech naïveté.

REALITY: This misconception is perhaps the most pervasive in pop culture depictions of our industry. Roy from “The IT Crowd” famously answers the phone with “Hello, IT, have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” But just like what you do, Information Technology is a highly specialized skill that takes years of study and ongoing education.

We don’t expect you or your staff to know tech any more than you would expect us to know how to litigate a legal case or practice medicine. As omnipresent as technology has become in our daily lives and businesses, it changes constantly and the vast majority of professionals are far too busy in their own fields to take on learning IT terms and how to troubleshoot.

It’s our job to handle these things so you don’t have to. It’s also our job to teach you how to avoid simple issues if you want to know. (Unlike break/fix and by-the-hour IT support companies who rely on your having repeated simple issues so they can profit from them.) So if you don’t know something you should know, that would be our failure — not yours.

Here’s a good example of how that concept plays out in another scene from The Office. In one of the first appearances of an IT support character on the show, Sadiq is patiently helping Michael set up an email surveillance system at corporate’s request.

Michael: Yeah, I tried to install it myself, but, uh, you guys have these things so password-protected.

Sadiq: That just means you have to enter your password.

Michael: Oh…

Sadiq: What’s your password, Michael?

Michael (glancing at a Post-It stuck to his computer screen): Oh, um…

Sadiq: Oh, it’s 1-2-3-4.

(While Sadiq’s patient nature and ability to provide clear explanations would certainly make him a candidate for the Level5 team, our clients use our password managers, never Post-Its.)

Need help ensuring that the passwords your employees are using to safeguard your business are never “123?” Ready to put your attention back into your own office and outsource your IT to a talented cast of characters?

It’s time to get happy. Focus on your business. Leave the IT to us. Call us today at (561) 509-2077 for a free network assessment and consultation — or just to talk technology with one of our Boca Raton IT service experts.