Seven tips to get on the good side of your system administrator

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I find it incredibly annoying when non-tech people assume that system administrators are walking computer encyclopedias. With this in mind, here are a few pieces of advice that will get you a few extra brownie points from your favorite system administrator:

1- Asking questions about how to fix your home system is fine, as long as you are being reasonable about it. We don’t like spending half our lunchtime answering your personal computer questions. We’re human beings too, you know! We need to take a break sometimes. If you need your home computer fixed, just hire us to do the job. Just because we’re work colleagues doesn’t mean that you can make us your tech slaves.

2- Ask our permission before you start telling all your friends that we can fix computers.  Just because we helped you doesn’t mean we want to help everyone.

3- Please stop assuming that since we work with computers, we automatically know how fix and operate all electronic devices operating on the earth’s surface. Why would I know how to program your coffee machine or home DVD recorder?

4- We like chatting about stuff besides computers. Star Wars, Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons are fine conversation starters, too! Seriously, geeks like to chat almost about anything. Try it sometime, and you’ll see that we’re a fun bunch.

5- Stop thinking that all we do is surf the Internet all day. Yes, we do spend a fair amount of time online, but it is for good reasons. And even if we’re not always extremely busy during the day, we often have to work late at night and into the weekends. I’ve often worked past midnight, and yes, I had to come in to the office the following day. You didn’t know that right? Why do you think that the IT enrollment rate in schools has dropped approximately 50% in the past 5 years?

6- If you are getting an error message, don’t forget to write it down before calling us. We don’t know what “I’m getting an error” means unless you tell us exactly what it says!

7- When we fix something for you, don’t forget to thank us. Even though we’re being paid to do it, we like hearing that we’re doing a good job, just like everyone else does.

By following those seven simple steps, you’ll be on the road to having a better relationship with your system administrator. If any of you would like to add additional points to this list, feel free to do so by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

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15 Responses to Seven tips to get on the good side of your system administrator

  1. Sysadmins and helpdesk techs truly do have a difficult job, and it is fair to say that most co-workers have little idea how difficult it is. I've always had a good relationship with the IT guys I've worked with, because I don't assume they know everything and I always try to be considerate. My IT skills are generally far lower than theirs, but I've found that having some sort of clue goes a long way with them. So I always do a bit of research before bringing up work computer issues and keep a detailed log of any errors I experience along with vital screen captures, etc. Most of the time, I can fix my own errors but those pesky but necessary system permissions prevent me from doing so. I suppose I'm the worst kind of user for sysadmins, because I know enough to be dangerous but not nearly as much as they do.

    That said… From my own observations, some well-meaning IT folk go on about things that most co-workers simply cannot understand, and probably don't want to understand for fear of their heads exploding. Users primarily want their systems to work, and they don't often care about the details. It's not easy finding the right balance with co-workers, and each user is different so what works for one might not work for another. I've often had to "translate" for my clueless co-workers because a helpdesk tech was far too technical. And vice-versa, I've translated my co-workers' simplified complaints or problems to the IT group.

    As for item 4, well I cannot remember the last time a sysadmin or helpdesk tech chatted me up (or one of my co-workers) about my personal life, so it goes both ways there. I think it's just something we all need to do better.

    Oh, and if you do need to rebuild someone's computer, i.e. reformat and reinstall, be sure to first ask if they have already backed up their important data and settings to a network drive (and if they have wrongly saved things to their local drive even though they should be saving it to the network per company standards). Users always falsely believe you guys will backup data for them, or that you'll automatically check, etc. It isn't your fault, obviously, but you could save people from much anguish and save perhaps months or years of work if you just asked that question before wiping the drive.

  2. Sysadmins and helpdesk techs truly do have a difficult job, and it is fair to say that most co-workers have little idea how difficult it is. I’ve always had a good relationship with the IT guys I’ve worked with, because I don’t assume they know everything and I always try to be considerate. My IT skills are generally far lower than theirs, but I’ve found that having some sort of clue goes a long way with them. So I always do a bit of research before bringing up work computer issues and keep a detailed log of any errors I experience along with vital screen captures, etc. Most of the time, I can fix my own errors but those pesky but necessary system permissions prevent me from doing so. I suppose I’m the worst kind of user for sysadmins, because I know enough to be dangerous but not nearly as much as they do.

    That said… From my own observations, some well-meaning IT folk go on about things that most co-workers simply cannot understand, and probably don’t want to understand for fear of their heads exploding. Users primarily want their systems to work, and they don’t often care about the details. It’s not easy finding the right balance with co-workers, and each user is different so what works for one might not work for another. I’ve often had to “translate” for my clueless co-workers because a helpdesk tech was far too technical. And vice-versa, I’ve translated my co-workers’ simplified complaints or problems to the IT group.

    As for item 4, well I cannot remember the last time a sysadmin or helpdesk tech chatted me up (or one of my co-workers) about my personal life, so it goes both ways there. I think it’s just something we all need to do better.

    Oh, and if you do need to rebuild someone’s computer, i.e. reformat and reinstall, be sure to first ask if they have already backed up their important data and settings to a network drive (and if they have wrongly saved things to their local drive even though they should be saving it to the network per company standards). Users always falsely believe you guys will backup data for them, or that you’ll automatically check, etc. It isn’t your fault, obviously, but you could save people from much anguish and save perhaps months or years of work if you just asked that question before wiping the drive.

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  4. To be honest, my experience with sysadmin people has been the worst. At least here in Mexico, they tend to be of the bossy and rude kind of people. I'm a very polite person and I don't try to badger them with computer questions all the time. As a matter of fact, I try to get things solved by myself. But I have had situations in which the tiniest kind of issue gets these guys angry. They immediately assume its your fault. Even worse, there might be some cases that you probably know more about somethings regarding computers than your sysadmin. If you make the mistake of showing the lightest shade of brilliance regarding something they don't know, they get angry and refuse to help you ever again. My boyfriend is right about something about these guys: They tend to be bossy and mean when they are above you, but once you are friends with them, you can show them right away what kind of dorks and illiterates they are. As I've said before, this is my experience with mexican sysadmins.

    US sysadmin guys are better persons, as far as I have heard. They are more dilligent and nice. They deserve my respect and I would sure be very polite with them, because THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO :)

  5. To be honest, my experience with sysadmin people has been the worst. At least here in Mexico, they tend to be of the bossy and rude kind of people. I’m a very polite person and I don’t try to badger them with computer questions all the time. As a matter of fact, I try to get things solved by myself. But I have had situations in which the tiniest kind of issue gets these guys angry. They immediately assume its your fault. Even worse, there might be some cases that you probably know more about somethings regarding computers than your sysadmin. If you make the mistake of showing the lightest shade of brilliance regarding something they don’t know, they get angry and refuse to help you ever again. My boyfriend is right about something about these guys: They tend to be bossy and mean when they are above you, but once you are friends with them, you can show them right away what kind of dorks and illiterates they are. As I’ve said before, this is my experience with mexican sysadmins.

    US sysadmin guys are better persons, as far as I have heard. They are more dilligent and nice. They deserve my respect and I would sure be very polite with them, because THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO :)

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  9. Additional tip: Try to remember simple solutions. I'm not saying you should aim to replace us, but if we've helped you with the same problem three times and you haven't managed to recall any part of the solution or preventive measures, we're going to resent it quite a bit.

  10. In addition to # 6: if you are to lazy to write down the error… just learn how to use the the SCREENSHOT (Ctrl + Print Screen) or use snipping tool on Vista or windows 7.
    that way we can see the error much better.