Treating Your IT Pro Right: The Two-Way Street of Communication and Respect (Sponsored by Canon)


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Please note that all opinions featured in this article are entirely our own and do not reflect those of the sponsor.

We’ve heard about your IT help desk experiences, from inadvertent data center outages (it was a vacuum cleaner), to irresponsible bosses, and computers stuck to the floor, and now wanted to share a bit of insights from the Geeks Are Sexy Staff based on a particular story about the importance communication and respect. One user responded to our call to action writing about his experience and now we’re here to help. Read on…

This happened over 20years ago when I was tech support/field service for Gateway computers.

Client called saying that her floppy disk drive had stopped working. After I exhausted everything that could be done over the phone, I went out for a field service call to replace the drive.

I arrived to meet a nice elderly lady living alone with multiple cats. I started to take the PC apart to replace the drive when I noticed a “Burnt brown crust” on the drive.

I asked the lady “Did you spill a soda on the tower?

The nice cat lady replies “No I never drink around the computer”

As I put the drive to my face to take a nice deep wiff of the “crust”, the nice cat lady says “But when the kitties get mad, they like to spray.”

I almost vomited in this lady’s tower as the smell of BURNT CAT URINE hits me full in the face.

After scrubbing my hands and face in the restroom, I had to explain to the nice cat lady that “Burnt cat Urine” was not covered under her service contract.

geekIt seems that the one constant that we IT workers deal with is the stigma attached to our profession; we like boardgames, geeky toys, flash drives, hot-sauce, bacon, and more. Some of us might be overweight, underweight, awkward, antisocial, sweaty, you name it. Of course, not all of us like these things or exemplify these traits, but yet we get pigeon-holed into these stereotypes anyway. Somehow, those views get in the way of us doing our job, which is to help you do yours. With that, we seem to have a thankless set of tasks beset upon us with little regard to who we are as people.

The above story illustrates this clearly – granted, this customer may not have been “all there,” but the point is…do YOU want to smell cat urine? Between dealing with inept cleaning crews unplugging the SAN to finish up their floor waxing to the token sexist remarks given to our female colleagues (“I want a man to work on my network”), all the way to the to the clueless executive who rips his USB drive out of his computer .02 seconds after he clicked ‘save’ on that uber-important executive presentation… IT professionals get to deal with a wide spectrum of truly WTF moments that shape our perceptions of this challenging industry and the equally challenging people who keep us working. In the meantime, we are viewed as utilities rather than people and are treated as such.

Yes, we are thankful that we get to deal with the crazy problems. It keeps us sharp and current. What we aren’t thankful for are the people that perform some sort of Voodoo/random key-hitting/soda-on-the-keyboard event at their desk and get all uppity at the poor technician as he/she arrives at your desk to take a look. No, it’s NOT normal to be opening a bottle of SUPER glue at your keyboard. It’s also not OK for you to click ‘YES’ to every single toolbar installation as you are browsing for Sudoku puzzles during your “break.” If you do, though…don’t lie to us. It’s like when you go to your doctor…you’re not doing anyone any favors, especially yourself, if you keep the facts hidden.

I asked the lady “Did you spill a soda on the tower?

The nice cat lady replies “No I never drink around the computer”

I almost vomited in this lady’s tower as the smell of BURNT CAT URINE hits me full in the face.

We deserve better than this. Tell us what happened, no matter how inconsequential it may sound to you (I have a hard time thinking that cat pee is inconsequential in any situation, but I digress). It’s just disrespectful. Here are some other real-life examples of missed opportunities for better communication from users:

  • “The Internet is down. What did you guys do?” – I’m not even going to get into how absurd this statement is. A visit to the 7th level of the underworld – aka “below your desk” – uncovers a newly broken network jack in the wall because you’ve kicked it repeatedly into submission.
  • “My computer won’t power on. Fix it” – A cursory glance at the computer shows that you’ve pushed the power button in a full 2cm beyond where it should be and now it has become dislocated in the computer housing. Word of advice: It’s an electronic button, not an ignition device for your grill.
  • “My keyboard won’t work. I have two reports I need to get done today.” – Aaah, the passive-aggressive request…The somewhat charred scent of double-mocha caramel latte permeates the office as the laptop whirs to life when we realize that both corners of the chassis now has a sizable chunk of plastic missing due to various unreported drops. Sugar and pavement are both equally bad for computers.

So, please tell us if you do something that precipitated the event which brought us to your computer. We won’t judge…much. I would be lying if I told you that we don’t judge at all, but trust me when I say this: you will become the stuff of legend with our co-workers if you don’t. To put it bluntly, a little respect goes a long way here. You give us an honest report of what happened, and we can solve your problem in a much more expedient manner with less questioning on our part. Of course, we don’t want to be there fixing a completely preventable problem, but if you can help us speed things up, we can move onto other things, like just keeping everything running.

Today’s world works because of (well, not just, but…) people like us. We help to keep the data flowing – everything from nuclear power plants to grocery stores to your local mechanics. If everything is going well, you don’t even know we’re doing our jobs. We’re not firemen, we do our jobs when things are going right. Of course, if something goes wrong, we are definitely the first to get the blame. Sounds suspiciously like a relationship, right?

So, with that, let’s work on that relationship, shall we? We’ve already talked about communication, let’s spice it up a bit: a little recognition. This can go both ways – I’ve heard of help desks/IT groups giving out awards to their ‘user of the month’ for some outstanding way they were able to work with their technical staff to solve a problem. Likewise, I’ve seen users pick up a $10 gift/grocery card for technicians after solving a particularly difficult issue. Trust me when I say this; it speaks volumes. Let’s make our relationship fun and rewarding!


Accept us for who we are: We’re geeks, but it’s no surprise that geeks rule the world; we know how stuff works. Don’t ostracize us because we like Doctor Who (not “Dr. Who,” but we’ll let that slide if you’re nice). Don’t talk down to us because we are more focused on fixing your web browser issue (thanks Java!) than making idle chit-chat. In response, we can try harder to talk at the same level to get you out of trouble. We don’t need to talk down to you if we’re both working on the same team. If we can do this together, maybe next time, we will be more inclined to help you and make your life a little bit easier when it comes to the tech you use on a day to day basis.

[Picture Sources: dougwoods on Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | mdornseif (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Pixabay (Public Domain)]

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