Different people, different problems

November 23, 2010

People are rarely glad to see their IT person; they see their IT person because there is a Problem.

IT employees generally have a reputation as arrogant and slovenly. Occasionally smelly, too. I’ve striven [sidenote: I have a hard time with “strive”. I’ve…strove? I’ve…strived? I’ve…stroven?] to relate to people (in IT you say “users”) and I’ve realized that the people I help are both frustrated and often embarrassed about whatever their issue is. Frustrated, because something is not working right. Embarrassed, because so many people feel like they should be able to just figure it out. A computer occupies a weird space in modern life; it’s not exactly an appliance, or a car, but it is just as common. It is sort of approachable (at least more so than car maintenance for so many people today) but troubleshooting is mingled with the absolute terror that Something could definitely Go Wrong.

I encounter so many people who say “Oh, I know enough to be dangerous” in regards to their computers who would not think twice to call someone for a car problem or a broken appliance. Not that computers should be left solely to the “experts”…but misplaced confidence can be a bad thing.

But that last paragraph reveals something I am concerned about-the creeping arrogance. One thing that allows me to do my job well is my ability to empathize with people and help them out of their particular problem (hopefully!) without making them feel bad or stupid. But there are times when I want to throttle someone, to demand to know how they got to where they are.

I have a few clients who say “oh, I don’t care, just make it work,” and in some ways that is a better approach–we both know where we stand. They call, I fix it and go.

I’ve dealt with a particular person recently who displays an astonishing lack of knowledge about their own position. I am not an accountant, nor do I have any knowledge about this company’s custom financial software. The only information I can glean from this person is “Something is different” in the software at the moment. When I inquire as what should be happening, they are unable to explain or demonstrate how things should be; just different then they currently are.

Usually this means I’m not asking the question the best way, but I’ve run out of ways to ask and cajole; I’m met with blank stares and the same explanation “it” should be “different”.

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