The recession has changed conditions for these workers, he said. While recent restructurings may have created new opportunities for motivated workers, organizations may not be making that clear to their employees.
As a result, valuable IT employees might leave organizations for those "that are better able to articulate the role of IT," said Schmidt. If there isn't a coordinated vision that links IT to a firm's future, "we're going to lose these folks," he said.
Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant, had a job that involved constant customer interaction -- and few ways to retreat from it. Although various stories have emerged about exactly what happened, Slater's slide into history has taken on a life of its own among disgruntled workers in general.
IT help desk workers, who sometimes have to deal with disgruntled and whinny users, might feel similar frustrations.
"Obviously, the help desk can't leave their jobs in such grand style," said Donna Earl, who heads a San Francisco consulting firm, Help Desk Coach. But they do have an option that Slater didn't: Help desk workers can hit the "mute button," take a moment to vent about the customer, then return to the call, she said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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