Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Commandments for getting along with your IT guy

I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject and I really think I can help. You see to many people IT guy is a mystery; a reclusive, surly shadow that descends upon you in your hour of need and disappears thereafter, from sight and consciousness, moving on to the next user in distress. Dealing with such a creature may seem complicated or daunting. Keeping that in mind I’ve come up with 10 guidelines for successfully navigating the pitfalls of dealing with your IT guy.
***disclaimer*** I am perfectly aware that there are many fine IT gals out there but for the purposes of this blog both IT guys and gals will be lumped together and referred to as IT guy.

1. Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Password
We understand that you have multiple passwords and most times they are different. Requiring you to change your password, for security reasons, to you seems unnecessary. We get that. Nonetheless you have to change your password and you know you have to change your password. Resistance is futile. When the time comes to change your password you must engage whatever cognitive function you can muster and retain the information you’ve chosen to use. That brings us to the next commandment:

2. Thou Shalt Not Excuse Thyself In Any Way
When you screw up, own it. The natural inclination is to say “It wasn’t me.” Well it was you. No one else uses your computer, just you. The argument is often proffered “I remember my password; the system is not letting me in.” Let me tell you something “the system” doesn’t care who you are, “the system” doesn’t have any prejudice or bias against you and “the system” isn’t trying to sabotage your day. “The system” just wants the correct password and when it receives that password (that you set by the way) “the system” will gladly let you in. You know how we know that? Because everyone who entered the correct password was promptly let in and did not have to call us.
Another thing, saying “I’m not a computer person” or “I’m computer illiterate” is a cop out. It’s 2010, most jobs require some sort of interaction with a computer. And guess what? Your job requires that you use a computer. Why is it that people wish to be viewed as competent in every other aspect of their job but are unwilling to put any time or effort into figuring out what every ten year old knows how to do? You don’t have to be a “computer person” to operate a computer and saying you are “computer illiterate” tells us you are either lazy or not bright, we’ll let you pick.

3. Thou Shalt Not Start Thy Query With “Quick Question.”
The implication here is that you’re so busy that you need a brief answer right away or that the question is insignificant and therefore not worth either of our time. Both of these are irksome. We fully recognize that this prefix to your question is rooted in your IT guy’s ‘don’t bother me’ persona and that it is intimidating to call him. You may think ‘I’m simply alerting him that I’ll only require a moment of his time’. You don’t know that and can’t control that; beginning your conversation with “Quick question” is a bad idea. Simply state your problem or question and allow your tech support to judge the value of the conundrum and determine the length or brevity of his response.

4. Thou Shalt Respect Thy IT Guy’s Time
We all know the Brothers Grimm tale of a shoemaker and his helper elves. Each night the good shoe cobbler laid out a piece of leather and went to sleep. At midnight the little elves would appear and make shoes while the cobbler slept. In the morning the elves would be gone and the cobbler would find a fine pair of shoes ready to be sold. Well you are not a cobbler and we are not elves. We work the same hours as you. In the evenings and on weekends we go home to our family. We too get to take lunch every day. Inviting us to work on your computer while you are at lunch, at 5 o’clock when you are done for the day, or on Saturday when you won’t be bothered doesn’t work for us.

5. Thou Shalt Not Stop Thy IT Guy In The Hall
If you see your IT guy in the hall there’s a good chance he’s going somewhere. He’s not just wandering aimlessly around the building waiting for someone to stop him with a question or a problem. Odds are someone has already called or emailed him with a question or problem and he’s on his way to respond to them. Your hallway question or problem is the equivalent of cutting in the lunch line. It’s not fair to the others involved. Oh and if he’s not on his way to help someone he’s on his way to the bathroom. He’s been holding it for some time because he was on the phone with someone claiming that they did not forget their password or that they are “computer illiterate”. So please give him a break. A smile or a polite head nod in the hall will usually be returned in kind.

6. Thou Shalt Have No Other IT Guys Before Him
Whether your boyfriend, brother or roommate is an IT guy, computer guru or tech geek is irrelevant. Your support comes from your IT staff. Going to someone else first only makes the problem worse when they can’t figure it out and you are forced to call your IT guy anyway. Saying that you tried to work it out through outside resources does not garner you any points, only chagrin.

7. Hast Thou Rebooted?
With the inevitable bumps in the road that come with regular computer use you’ll experience a glitch, a bug or a frozen application or system. Before frantically reaching for the phone and dialing your friendly neighborhood IT man, stop for a moment, take a breath and ask yourself “Have you rebooted?” You see this will save you from shamefully answering “No.” when your IT guy asks you that very question when you know good and well that would most likely have done the trick in the first place.

8. Thou Shalt Not Be Cute
Your IT guy visits many different people throughout the course of the day. He sits in offices and cubicles, on some chairs that are comfortable and others that aren’t. Working on computers requires that he sits at a desk that is not his own in a workspace where you are accustom to seeing others sit. When stumbling upon this out of the ordinary scene you may feel compelled to make comments such as these: “Why Barbara you’ve changed.” or “My Bob, you look different today.” or “Suzie, did you get a haircut?” These are not original and to your IT guy, who hears this six times a day, it is maddening. Resist the urge; fight it with every fiber of your soul. We beg you.

9. Thou Shalt Not Be Disingenuous
Starting your phone call with “Hey buddy” or “What’s up brother?” does not make us buddies or brothers. Asking “How’s your day going?” or “What’s new with you?” may seem polite but in the context of why you are calling is moot. We are not buddies as we never hear from you other than when something is wrong or you need something. This is not a social call; you are calling because you have a request for help or service. Pretending it is anything else is just a waste of our time and your energy. You give no thought about your IT guy unless you have a problem. We accept that, let’s move on.

10. Thou Shalt Express Thy Gratitude
IT guy is a thankless job. He is remembered only in your hour of greatest frustration and angst; to be immediately forgotten once the crisis has been addressed or the problem solved. If you really want to get along with your IT guy this commandment is above all others. Say thank you and mean it. You will endear yourself to him in a way that even he doesn’t understand.


  1. This is gold (and I've forwarded it to my IT guy, with the Subject line "Quick question").

  2. 11. Thou Shalt Use the Approved Process to Report Your Problem.

    Use whatever trouble-ticket process or central phone number your IT department has established for reporting problems. (You can make exceptions for computers on fire or other obvious business emergencies; you can't make exceptions for your impatience.)

    12. Thou Shalt Be Honest.

    Fess up if you tried to install a game, visit an "adult entertainment" web site, started clicking on unwanted windows in the hope they'd go away, or had to audacity to try a deep-level repair on your own. It's a sure-fire formula for putting enmity between you and IT: watch the IT guy work for 20 or 30 minutes before giving him the details he needed up-front.

  3. 13. Thou Shalt Not Begin Sentences with the Phrase "For Some Reason...."

    To quote your mother when your turtle died, everything happens for a reason. Of course in this case "for some reason" means "I'm having trouble with something a drunk Junior High student could workaround, but now will swear from the top of a mountain that whatever's happened had nothing to do with me." There is no ubiquitous reason sabotaging you, for the overwhelming most part you're the reason.

  4. 14. Thou shalt get a Mac and then be able to leave the IT guy alone...

  5. #3 - I do and WILL use the preface of "quick question". Some questions and situations I bring to my IT guy are very involved, and some are very quick. If I have an involved question, I preface that with "do you have xyz minutes?". Quick questions are prefaced accordingly. My IT guy is honest enough to cut any inquiry short with a request to come back later if he is busy.

    #4 - Definitely.... which is why I preface inquiries with a guess as to how involved they are.

    #5 - Again - my IT guy is honest enough to state clearly when he is in the middle of something, and when he has the luxury of stopping and answering a question. So, I will stop him in the hallway, just as the accountant will stop me in the hall if he needs help with his stuff.

    #7 - Not necessarily. Sometimes error messages need to be shown the IT guru. Rebooting removes those messages.

    Overall - not a bad list of suggestions. But to call these suggestions "commandments' suggests the writer detests his users. Since (for better or worse) IT has a not-insignificant customer service function, that does not bode well for the writer.

  6. Tim......

    #3 - If you have the question, you do not have the answer. Chances are you do not know how long it will take to get an answer. In my 10 years of IT experience, "Quick Questions" rarely have Quick Answers. This says to me “I know you are busy, but my question is more important.”

    #4 - Again, chances are that you have no idea what it will take to fix a problem or answer a question. A inquire with a "guess" as to how busy someone is, is useless. Especially when you do not know the first thing about what they are doing.

    #5 - I don't care if your IT Guy is your son. At work, he hates you. Trust me. End users like you are all over....and are all hated. I often have many things going on at once, and we have processes in place to properly ask questions and report problems. You thinking you can butt in front of everyone else in the hallway with a ‘quick question’ is asinine and arrogant. This will quickly put you in the back of the line.

    #7 - well....if the error messages do not show up again, I would say the reboot fixed it and you don't need to bother your IT guy (who hates you). If the reboot doesn't fix the issue, don't worry, the error will pop up again and then you can call in the IT Guy. Or here is a thought…..take a screen capture of the error!! Good work!

  7. Ah, so true!

    I'll overwrite 14, since Macs give me more headaches than PC's:

    14. The old adage is true: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." I'm sure you knew before today that you were getting on an airplane this afternoon, so you should have raised the issue sooner.

    15. If you don't tell us there's a problem we can't fix it. I don't care if you've been having this issue for 6 months - it doesn't go on the list of things to fix until you let us know about it.

  8. 16. If you going to contact use with an issue, be kind enough to actually return a phone call or email. We do not like sitting on a problem for a week because you are to busy to respond.

  9. These were all dead on. Especially Number 8 for me. That happens on a daily basis, I thought it was just the company I worked at. And I always feel bad with the oh You've lost so much weight, when the fat bastard who's desk i'm sitting in is right behind them and can hear them say it. Great.

  10. Nice work on this.

    My take from a few years ago:

  11. 16. Thou shall not dash away to some other task as soon as the IT guy gets there. Chances are the IT guy may need to ask you questions about your process, have you fill out a screen, or log back into where you were. It's very annoying (not to mention inconsiderate) when you leave as if the problem has nothing to do with you.

  12. One last comment.

    17. YOU ARE NOT AN IT GUY! Just because you worked with a computer in your last job as a Food Service Worker, or when they used punchcards for programming, or got a high score in Centipede, does not mean you know more than the IT guy. Otherwise, you wouldn't have called him/her in the first place. So stop trying to impress him/her by displaying your non-existent expertise. It is both annoying and insulting. Just nod humbly and let him/her fix the problem without the back talk.

  13. Here's another one - 17. Thou shall not call or email your IT guy directly. As the others have said, there are processes in place to get your issue looked at and by calling or emailing your IT directly only annoys him as you think your problem is the only one out there, is more important than others who have followed the correct process and are waiting patiently, and think we will drop everything to help you. Won't happen and 98% of the time your call or email will be pushed to the bottom of his list. So don't get upset if he does not get back to you as fast as you would like him to.

  14. In regards to number 14:

    In some industries, Engineering for sure, sometimes they don't even know about overseas trips until the day of.

    They end up spending about 12x more on airfare to get things done a few days quicker. Because those couple days can make or break deadlines for certain product lines or qualifications, losing 10s of millions of dollars in revenue.

    Some things are emergencies. And they happen more often than you might think.

    Also. There are commandments. Where are your Thou-shalt's.

    How about we rephrase those:

    14. Thou shalt not panic. This will be just as fast without the whining.

    15. Thou shalt not complain about the duration of a problem if thou hast not reported it previously.

  15. 9 and 10 are contradictory. This wasn't a social call, you weren't interested in social niceties at the beginning, why should you be interested in them at the end?

  16. You should add one more commandment. Please don't eat over your F-ing keyboard. We don't want to feel what you eat nor do we want to touch the inside of your nose! Please keep your mouse, keyboard, and your hands clean!

  17. Another commandment:
    - Thou shalt not abuse caps lock, exclamation marks or the word urgent. The IT guy will determine whether a case is urgent and vital to the operation of a company. No amount of capitalized words or exclamation marks will positively affect your position in the queue.
    - Thou shalt not be demanding an urgent response and then take forever to reply yourself. If you can't be bothered to regularly check for a reply, clearly your problem isn't urgent enough to warrant fast response on the IT guy's part.


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