our IT guy is an unresponsive jerk

A reader writes:

We’re a small company, and our IT department consists of one individual. He often works on high pressure, involved projects that affect the entire company. However, there’s no one on call for day-to-day issues like common printer problems or computer freeze-ups. He usually works with his door closed or is frequently off site, so contacting him is not always easy or direct. Direct interaction with him is almost unheard of, even when he’s in the next room.

He is also curt and dismissive, especially with junior staff—mostly part-timers, moms with kids—who don’t have a lot of experience troubleshooting computer problems. We do the best we can at solving our own problems and creating work-arounds, but sometimes we have to call on him when the problem is beyond our expertise. The complaint I hear most often is that he makes people feel stupid because they lack the technical vocabulary to describe exactly what’s wrong. I’m reasonably competent when it comes to IT issues, but even I have been subject to the heavy-sigh-and-eyeroll combo.

I’m middle management, and I get these complaints from my team. On occasion, I’ve escalated these complaints to my manager. I don’t like to do this, because I hate throwing a coworker under the bus—and the boss goes nuclear when he learns that problems are going unaddressed because people are afraid to approach the IT professional. (Aside: do not EVER call him the “IT guy.” You will be severely rebuked. He is the “IT professional” or the “Systems Administrator.”)

How do you deal with a crucial team member who’s uncooperative and/or unavailable?

It sounds like there are two different problems here:

1. Your company is relying on the same person to do high-concentration projects and to provide help desk support — when those are two very different roles with conflicting needs.

2. Your IT person is rude and kind of a jerk.

The first problem isn’t his fault, although he bears some of the responsibility if he hasn’t pointed this out to someone in a position to do something about it. If he lead the IT function in your company, it’s his job to say, “The current system we have isn’t working. We need someone who’s available for interruptions from staff when they need immediate help, and that can’t be the same person who needs to spend significant time on projects that require focus and concentration.” It’s also the job of someone above him to notice the same thing and address it, even if he’s not raising it himself. (And if I can see it from here, they should certainly be able to see it from there.)

It’s of course possible that the company can’t afford two separate full-time IT people, but if that’s the case, then they need to look at other solutions — contracting out help desk support, limiting the number of intensive projects the IT person is asked to do, telling staff members they’re on their own for day-to-day tech support, or whatever they decide makes sense. But it’s not tenable to just keep things are they are and let the situation go unaddressed.

As for the second problem — the fact that this guy is a jerk — that’s not okay, and his manager needs to address that head-on. Even if part of his job isn’t helping to troubleshoot tech issues (although it sounds like it is), it’s not okay for him to be curt and dismissive, roll his eyes at people, or otherwise make colleagues afraid to approach him. His manager needs to clearly tell him that he’s required to be polite and helpful, and that his performance is evaluated in part on whether people are getting the help they need from him … and that if they’re too afraid to approach him, he’s failing to perform a crucial part of his job.

Now, as for what you can do as a manager who isn’t his manager: You can and should continue to let your own boss know what’s going on. You mentioned that you hesitate to do this because your boss flips out when he hears it — but assuming he’s not, like, punching the guy, that’s not a reason to shy away from telling him. Someone should be reacting strongly about this. Don’t protect this guy from the natural consequences of his actions by not being forthright with your boss.

Depending on your relative positions in the organization, it might also make sense for you to speak to his boss directly to make sure that she knows what’s happening and how it’s impacting you and your staff.

And in many cases, it could make sense for you to say something to the dude himself. If he rolls his eyes at you or becomes curt, say something in the moment. For example:  “Let’s pause here for a minute. I’m confused by your reaction to this; my understanding is that part of your job is assisting with this. What am I misunderstanding?” Or “I really need you to talk more politely to my staff. I overheard your conversation with Jane just now, and she was asking you a reasonable question. I want to make sure my staff can get the help from you they need. Is there something you need us to do differently so that they’re treated more courteously?”

But do keep speaking up and pushing the issue. This guy is behaving this way because he’s apparently not being called out on it. Change that.

{ 568 comments… read them below }

  1. RG*

    What is up with tech people being condescending to others when asked a question? We ask questions ask the time, it’s encouraged! The same should apply to them. It’s not like I came out the womb installing drivers, I had to learn that stuff too.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      Oh, it really grinds my gears! Particularly in IT – computers are something that you can be an end-user to a fairly high level (e.g. advanced Excel user) and yet still not have the slightest clue when it comes to back-end troubleshooting and systems. I don’t need to know that for my job! Stop acting like I’m an idiot because I don’t know the name of all the cables in the back of my machine!

      1. Nighthawk*

        Heck, I’m a professional software engineer, and there are TONS of things I don’t know how to do. The computing field is just too large to know everything.

        1. Daythawk*

          WOW, the guy has to deal with heavy technical issues, that demand extreme concentration, loads of research, thinking, bugs, and these things affect the whole company (huge pressure), while solving support issues like failing printers or silly user questions??? I totally understand why he’s burning out, this sounds like a horrible place to work, with a management who knows nothing about tech is vast and even less about how people stress when pushed to their limits.

          Hey tech guy, you should consider a new job before you totally burn out.

          1. Jen*

            Yep. My husband is in a similar fix, and after years of them promising to fix it (and not doing so) he is severely burned out. He recently had stopped caring as much. He’s taking mental health sick days, sleeping longer, going home closer to reasonable hours. He’s in therapy and on meds, and actively looking for other work. I’ve told him point blank that of we have to sell our house, cash out the equity, and move somewhere I can support us, I’m willing to do it – whatever it takes. The sad thing is, he likes the company and what he’s doing. He just can’t do his focus work ever because the support work takes precedent. So they’re going to lose him, and I really doubt theres a thing they can do about it now.

          2. AnnoyedITGuy*

            Honestly, unless he’s got a user pool of more than 100 people, these are responsibilities that it’s reasonable to expect him to handle. I don’t understand why so many tech people have problems with this. If he’s remotely competent, then the Helpdesk stuff will be fast and predictable, while the strategic/backend stuff should be interesting enough to keep him engaged.

            1. Anonamoose*

              In my experience, that’s just not feasible (100 person support matrix – that’s actually nutballs in medium to large orgs). I would say anything over 25+ there should be at least a PT support person, perhaps one that works remotely (like a contractor through a VA), or finding a staff person who happens to have interest/talent and training her to assist (+ a stipend/raise, obvs). This isn’t rocket science, but it IS operational demand. 100 people plus high impact projects? No way. I would be an asshole too. (but I would also be looking at other offers)

            2. Vicki*

              >> Honestly, unless he’s got a user pool of more than 100 people, these are responsibilities that it’s reasonable to expect him to handle.

              No. No it’s not. He’s a System Administrator, not desktop Help Desk support and he’s being asked to do both jobs.

              >> If he’s remotely competent, then the Helpdesk stuff will be fast and predictable,

              Again, no, because the users are neither fast nor predictable and also, because he’s not an “IT Guy” he is a systems administrator and he has other things on his mind.

              >> while the strategic/backend stuff should be interesting enough to keep him engaged.

              It doesn’t matter how interesting it is if he has to keep losing focus while he fixes a printer or a PEBCAK error.

          3. blondeiq*

            We, the people, would love to give him some relief! I’ve always considered the help desk end of IT more of a “customer service” type position, and this guy’s temperament doesn’t fit. He’s excellent at his other work. If he wants to be antisocial in his little IT cave, nobody would really miss him.

            1. Anonamoose*

              Wellll, and his job doesn’t sound like it’s support. Systems Admin is totally different than Help Desk. Wildly different (unless it’s a super small org). I have met many crusty sys admins and I was fine with it since they just magically fixed things on the backend and I never interacted with them. Not so much day to day help desk role, though.

          4. dontworryaboutit*

            ****, yeah…I agree — I’m in a very similar situation and I’m doing everything possible to get myself out of it. I am burning out (been in professional IT support since 1990) and I have just about had it now. I am polite and courteous to everyone still (especially the people I support), but I don’t suffer fools very well…especially when they were placed in positions above me and have no idea how to do their own job, nor mine.

            Someone needs to tell that IT professional to get himself out of that situation in a hurry. I would NEVER work in a place like that…well…except for right now, but I’m in the process of leaving. It was not like this when I first began working here, but they changed a bunch of things around and now it is intolerable.

          5. Vicki*

            Don’t worry. If the OP follows Alison’s advice to the letter, that Sys Admin will be gone to a new job and your company will be up a creek. (Also, please note that a sys admin is NOT an “IT guy” and the fact that you are dissong yours for pointing this out speaks volumes”.

            OP – Do _not_ tell your sys admin that you need him to “talk more politely” to your staff. That. Will. Not. Work.

            If you want and need simple tech support, go to your boss and the sys admin’s boss and start talking up getting someone people on call for simple tech support. There are companies that contract for that.

            Again – if you try to insist that your sys admin act “polite” while doing the piddly little jobs that take him away from his real work – you will lose him.

        2. MT*

          I knew it was a nightmare situation as soon as LW said “IT department consists of one individual.”

          We’re split up into more sub-departments than I probably am even aware of, and even still each one of us wouldn’t mind another hand or two. I would go crazy if I couldn’t say “that’s a question for so-and-so” to streamline the user to the most effective person for the job.

      2. Avangelis*

        Not all of us are like like that.

        I only get annoyed when I’ve had to take multiple times to show someone a task. If I have to sit with the person five times, 30 minutes each time to teach them the same task there is a problem. Whether it be my teaching or your learning I’m not sure. But there’s a problem that’s keeping me from doing my job efficiently. There’s also cases where I knew the task was hard so I created step by step documentation for the users but I still get called away from a major project.

        It’s annoying because I have major projects that boss is relying me to get finished quickly. I cannot stick to my deadline if I have to sit with the same people for 15-30 minutes everyday for the same issues.

        Performance reviews come in and I then look bad because my projects are delayed. I’m playing two roles really help desk and systems admin which burns one out overtime esp when most of us aren’t being compensated fairly. I am very polite but after the 5 or 6th time of help on the same issue I do get annoyed a little bit.

        And to be honest, the majority of the time these fixes are things I’m not aware of myself. I google the issue and then fix the problem from a simple google search.

          1. Avangelis*

            Which I did but manager is about money. She knows she needs another IT people yet expects the same high level of performance for a person doing two jobs .

            And people can be seriously rude when their tech is working properly. I’ve had people cuss me out for settings they changed on their own computer. They’d come into my office slam their computer on my desk and ask ” what did you do / you better fix this now!”

            There’s being nice but after 5 0r 6 times of helping one on the same task, that is apart of their job there is a major issue

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          I understand. Just to clarify my comment, when I said ‘particularly in IT’, I didn’t mean that it happens more in IT, just that I find it particularly irritating when it does because it seems to ignore that you don’t have to know a lot about how computers work to use them perfectly competently

          1. TootsNYC*

            I agree; I think it’s **particularly annoying** in IT, because that’s such a specialized field!

            It’s like being snotty at someone because don’t know quite how spark plugs work exactly, or what a differential is–you can drive a car quite well enough knowing that.

            It’s especially annoying when someone has such a high opinion of themselves -because- they know this stuff, and then they act like other people are idiots (like, below the median) for not knowing it.
            “I’m better than ordinary because i know this, but you’re WORSE than ordinary because you don’t.”

          2. Jeff*

            When I supported home health care nurses, they would always say something like, “I’m sorry I’m so dumb with computers.” My response would invariably be, “That’s because you went to school to learn nursing! My job is to fix computers, so don’t ever think of yourself as dumb or inadequate just because you cannot solve a computer issue.”

            Being a good IT technician is 60% customer service skills, 80% good problem-solving/technical skills and 14% math.

        2. Anonamoose*

          That sounds more like the need to take a step back for a day or two and create some KPs to cascade to the department. When someone calls you and says they need X, ask ‘did you check the KP yet? How far did you get?’. Boom, you’ve filtering out most of your super-small but easy to fix BS. The rest, yes, totally go to your boss about. But don’t forget to smile, even on the phone. ;)

          (*cough* ex IT manager)

      3. Somelier*

        Imagine how grinds the gears of your IT guy when you ask a question that can be easily solved with a quick search on Google.

        1. Emelle*

          This guy sounds like the IT/SysAdmin/help desk guy at my last corporate job. Except if we did so much as add a bookmark with out his approval he would lose his mind. And don’t even think about changing your wallpaper on your desk top, because that will cause a company wide email about how the computer is not your personal property. (But also, don’t ask too many questions when people get upgrades and their old computers vanish, unless you are the auditors…)

        2. Gaia*

          And imagine how frustrating it is for someone who doesn’t have the technical knowledge to even try Googling for an answer to their question to be treated like an idiot because they cannot do this.

          I am grateful I have enough knowledge to troubleshoot most issues on my own. But a huge number of people I work with do not. At all. They come in all ages, backgrounds and skill sets. That is why we have IT desktop support. It is part of the job to answer questions you think are silly or easily searchable. I get this IT person clearly doesn’t want this part of the job, but for now it is his.

        3. AnnoyedITGuy*

          Even googling for technical answers is a specialized part of the job. I know it might seem obvious to you, buy you’ve spent years separating the wheat from the chaff in google searches.

          Plus, I’d rather have my users ask me than have them randomly applying settings they read on a blog someplace.

        4. Daisy Steiner*

          But you’re assuming (a) that I haven’t googled it, and (b) that I’m able to make any changes based on that advice. We’re constantly told not to fiddle with any settings. If I’m asking IT, it’s because I CAN’T fix it myself.

        5. JessaB*

          Unless of course you’re on an intranet that does not have outside access at all. Not every company allows employees access to Google.

            1. NaoNao*

              I once worked for a company overseas that blocked almost ALL outside websites. We worked in a “clean room” style environment where no pens, paper of any kind (including tissues! fortunately the culture was to use handkerchiefs for “light duty” hygiene stuff) or cell phones were allowed on the floor. We had to use Wikipedia as a kind of Google because almost every list result from Google was “SYSTEM ERROR: THIS WEBSITE IS NOT ON THE WHITELIST/FORBIDDEN” (etc).
              For tech issues, we were to call the Global Technology Services, who would “raise a ticket” and put in a queue, and then assign it to the proper branch office GTS. Then we would physically get up, walk to the office of GTS and pound on the door and escort a GTS employee back with us to our desk to fix the issue.
              I once spent MONTHS trying to get replacement ink for a printer. Ah, the Philippines. Sometimes I miss it but then, yeah, not so much.

        6. blondeiq*

          While I understand the irritation these nuisance issues might cause a highly trained technician, the people asking the questions are themselves extremely limited in their technical capabilities. They know how to switch on their computers and do their own jobs–nothing more. If you were to tell them to Google their own problems, they would be both angry and mystified. There’s a reason why a lot of the junior-level people stay junior, despite being around for years–they don’t go the extra mile, or even the extra half-inch. That’s why a help desk really requires a person with the patience of Job. This guy ain’t it.

        7. Anonamoose*

          Yes but that’s why there is the gif ‘did you check google’?

          I still don’t get it either. It’s not even generational. I have found that there are simply people that just refuse to learn certain things or are unwilling to ‘do someone elses job’ even if that avoidance totally impedes their productivity by waiting 30 minutes on hold for help, when it could be resolved in under 2 minutes.

          I am one of those people who occasionally call and when I found out it was an easy fix, apologize profusely. <— these are 9/10 the times when I don't google.

    2. Always Anon*

      Who knows. My brother is in IT, and he has the whole condescending attitude as well when you are talking to him about IT related stuff. I remind him frequently, that I’m not stupid just because I don’t know how to fix an IT issue.

      1. Leeza*

        My dentist doesn’t make fun of me for saying “this tooth hurts”, rather than telling him 5th molar or whatever, or the name of the nerve, and he’s certainly never mocked me for not knowing how to pull it out myself.

        1. jw*

          Because you’re not expected to be aware of dental stuff on a day to day basis. But computers are used everywhere all the time now. It’s a tool. People need to know how to use their tools for the day to day job.

          1. Colette*

            Most of us use our teeth more than a computer.

            And being able to use something does not require knowing how the back end works.

          2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

            Think about your comment. I use the printer at the office all the time, but outside of knowing how to change out the cartridges (I still refer to the instructions because we don’t have to change it often) or add more paper or clear a jam, I’m not going to know how to fix it. It can be the same for people and computers.

          3. Ellie H.*

            I agree in that I think it’s incredibly helpful and useful to be able to do some more basic stuff yourself (finding and installing drivers, system restore, blah blah – these are probably too basic and there’s more complex stuff that should be included, but can’t think of anything right now), but we could also compare it to cars. Lots of people use their cars on a day to day basis but it’s not expected to know how to fix, repair, replace more complicated things beyond changing the oil, changing a tire, stuff like that. There are some things where even though they are daily-used tools, we typically outsource repair and maintenance to experts because they involve more complicated systems. Same with plumbing and electricity. Really helpful to know how to do the basic stuff (snake a drain, unscrew the U-bend under the sink to remove a clog) but a lot of fixes are reasonable to call in a professional.

            1. neverjaunty*

              And even if we do know, we often outsource it to professionals because that’s their job and they are better at it than we are.

              1. Daisy Steiner*

                THIS. I don’t understand why me asking IT support for help with something, even if it’s something I could do myself but with less chance of success and taking three times as long, is a bad idea, or that it means I’m a computer idiot, or think I’m ‘better than’ IT or something. It’s a better use of human resources to have them fix it efficiently and correctly, so that I can get back to doing what I’m best at and paid for.

          4. bellabee*

            I use a car every day too. That’s a tool. And I can do the basic things I need to do to operate and maintain it. I fill up the gas, check the oil, change a flat tire, put coolant in if the light comes on, jump a dead battery, etc. But hey, if the car breaks down in the middle of the road and it isn’t the coolant, tire, or a dead battery…I’m calling a mechanic. It is there JOB to know and understand the complicated inner workings of that tool. Not mine. Same with IT. I have my computer and I use it every day. I keep the virus software up-to-date, I let the system do its frequent updates, and I utilize the programs I need to do my work. But things happen. I’m not the expert, IT is. And I expect them to do their job with the same professionalism and efficiency that I do mine. It isn’t much to ask.

            1. jw*

              You’re kind of right on. But a system admin is NOT the computer repair guy. So the wrong guy is being called. It’s like taking your car back to the factory and not to a mechanic. (That might not be an exact analogy, but I hope the point is made)

                1. Audiophile*

                  But those aren’t exactly interchangeable, though a lot of small companies think they are.

                2. Slippy*

                  Sysadmins generally dislike being called help desk or anything that can possibly confuse their job with help desk because that would be a 30 to 50% pay cut if their title got changed.

                3. Colette*

                  It doesn’t matter whether he likes doing both, or whether they’re different jobs in some companies – if they’re both part of his job, he needs to do them and be polite doing it. If he’s not willing to do that, he needs to find another job. The time to decide he wasn’t willing to do both would be when offered the job, assuming that the job description was clear.

                1. AnnoyedITGuy*

                  I think that depends on the size of the company. Anything less than 50 employees doesn’t need a dedicated helpdesk tech. Sysadmins really want to stratify their job, and that’s fine in a bigger company, but in a small one? You need to wear more than one hat.

                2. LJL*

                  Then outsource the help desk. It may not justify a full position, but there is a need, from what I can see.

            2. bellabee*

              It doesn’t matter if IT is not interchangeable with System Administrator. All that matters is what the guy was hired to do. If he was hired to do both, that is his job.

              I totally agree with all of Alison’s points about the different problems happening in the company. Yes, it is possible that this guy his frustrated because it is impacting his work. But it sounds like that is what he is hired to do. And even if it is beyond his job duties (hence the *all other duties deemed necessary* line in job descriptions) he is still a professional and should treat everyone with respect. No excuses for the behavior. None.

            3. Marcela*

              I hope you are going to the mechanic with a description of the problem with your car. For most people asking me for help with computers, no, they don’t. They just say “there is an error, it doesn’t work”. As if I could be a mind reader. As if I want to (spoiler: no).

              1. TootsNYC*

                are they not expecting you to ask follow-up questions? That’s what doctors do, and even when car mechanics to.

          5. neverjaunty*

            When you take your car in for repairs, is it OK for your mechanic to roll her eyes at you because you don’t know how to rebuild an engine on a ‘tool’ you use every day?

            If you order food at a restaurant, is it appropriate for the waiter to act put-upon that you eat every day, and yet you can’t manage to cook yourself a bearnaise sauce?

            Stop making excuses for rude jerks.

            1. Leatherwings*

              I like these comparisons. I feel like some tech people I’ve met feel a special kind of put-upon when asked to do things outside of their regular job (though I do recognize that this is particularly prevalent in the tech field).
              To further your metaphor, it’s like asking a mechanic who specializes in engines if he can help fix the dent in your windshield. Yeah, that may not be what he likes doing, it’s not what he signed up for, and it may not even be his job. That’s not a good reason to be rude about it, there are better ways of taking care of it.

              1. jw*

                That’s because a tech person is not the same as a support person. So you are actually putting upon them because you’re asking the wrong type person.

                Support people are customer service reps. The computer guy is not a customer service person.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  “I’m not in support” is not actually an excuse for someone in IT to behave like an ass. Basic courtesy is not a technical skill or certification that is reserved for CSRs.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  Yeah, I understand the difference but in this work place he is expected to serve as the support person. Is that fair or reasonable? Probably not. But people who need help don’t have another option.

                  That’s not an excuse to be obnoxious to the people who didn’t create the system, they’re just living in it.

                  Also, support people aren’t necessarily customer service reps so I don’t think the expectation is that he serves customers. Just employees at the workplace.

                3. Gaia*

                  Except, in this job, it is the same person. If he doesn’t like it he should address it with his manager. If that goes nowhere, he should look for other employment He should not treat his coworkers this way.

                4. Hrovitnir*

                  neverjaunty – “Basic courtesy is not a technical skill or certification that is reserved for CSRs” is amazing. It’s so frustrating how many people think they shouldn’t have to be polite, let alone pleasant, unless it’s a specific requirement in their job description. >_>

          6. Chinook*

            “But computers are used everywhere all the time now. It’s a tool. People need to know how to use their tools for the day to day job.”

            Does that mean I get to be equally condescending to the IT Professional who doesn’t know how to use Styles in Word when creating a User Manual or Pivot Tables in Excel when figuring out his budget? Of course not. They have their areas of specialization and I have mine.

            As for OP’s issue, has your company considered tapping an admin assistant or someone else lower on the food chain who has practical experience with these user issues as an unofficial Helpdesk? I am doing this now for my company even though we have two very good IT professionals but they don’t deal with user issues, just technical ones. They don’t use the programs and know their idiosyncrasies but, because I do (and I am good at explaining) word has spread to call me (to the point that I get calls from employees I have never heard of that start “so I heard you might be able to help me…”

            If you pitch this as a possible position, I would emphasize the difference between technical issues (copier broken beyond no paper in it or computer won’t turn on) and user issues (how to do X on program Y) which it would not be reasonable for a typical IT professional but would be the forte of a super user.

            1. The Strand*

              I think this was referring to the type of person who insists on remaining helpless. I say this with great respect for a couple of people I’ve helped with technology, who are truly struggling, but who are trying hard – keeping notes, putting the time in to learn how to do a technical part of their job.

              Other people are unwilling to take one minute to search for explanations on the web, whether it’s a five minute how-to video on the product they’re using, or a step by step explanation. (And yes, I understand the web isn’t accessible to everyone, but it is at my workplace.) These professional victims feel that becoming conversant in technology is entirely someone else’s job, and because they didn’t take that one minute, some other technical person has to step in, then google the information they need. They may also complain at you about the fact that they need to know the technology in the first place, and how much they hate it. Some of that loathing can transfer to you as the person who is helping them – even if you’re doing it out of kindness, and not because it’s your formal job description or area.

              These folks, along with others who are clueless or just plain rude, is why some Help Desk and other IT folks are so damn rude.

            2. Kapikui*

              “Does that mean I get to be equally condescending to the IT Professional who doesn’t know how to use Styles in Word when creating a User Manual or Pivot Tables in Excel when figuring out his budget? Of course not. They have their areas of specialization and I have mine.”

              Yes if it is something he should be able to do to get his job done.

              He may not do so as efficiently, however speaking as an IT Guy, if he might have to support it, he better have at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to help someone set it up.

              If you’re working in an office environment, there is no excuse not to know how to handle some basic computer maintenance and troubleshooting.

        2. Observer*

          If you have never had a medical professional be condescending or rude to you, count yourself lucky. Especially when you use non-medical terms because you don’t know them.

        3. Mike*

          Your dentist is also treated as a professional by you. You probably don’t debate dental treatment with your dentist beyond “I read X, what do you think?” Try getting argumentative with your dentist about his profession or even better, walk into his operating room and demand his attention without an appointment and see if his demeanor doesn’t radically change to something pretty damn close to the “mean IT guy.”

          1. Roscoe*

            It seems like these people have a level of respect for doctors and dentists that they don’t have for System Admins. Their comparison’s are to that of servers, whose job it is to serve. They aren’t looking at them people whose job it is to keep the systems running. I think that is a big issue

            1. AnnoyedITGuy*

              IT is a customer service job. Good admins help people use technology. They don’t close their doors and leave that for Lesser Minds to handle.

              Just like in any job at any level, if you have a small team, you take care of everything that team needs to do. If you’re in a big company with a big team, then specialization makes perfect sense, but IT people massively inflate the difficulty of their work (especially on windows networks), and the snottyness from my fellow admins on this is tiring. We wouldn’t HAVE a job if users didn’t need computers and networks. Pure and simple.

          2. Matt*

            This! The point is, even when you walk in with a swollen cheek in severe pain, and the dentist takes you on as an emergency patient, it’s generally accepted that you’re in for some time in the waiting room. In IT, on the other hand, everything is VERY URGENT and has to be handled RIGHT NOW, and you who ignore a phone call because maybe you’re working concentrated on something else, are in for some serious trouble. IT should give appointments like doctors, then we would have more time to explain everything and be friendly ;)

            1. blondeiq*

              Think like a boss. If a person has an IT issue, no matter how trivial or easily fixed, that employee is in Down Time until the problem is addressed. As as boss, I can’t have my team noodling around on Face Book while we wait for the IT professional to “get around” to helping. There’s only so much filing and desk-cleaning you can do while waiting for service. AND, that person’s diminished output can cascade down to others, who might be waiting on something from her. Since we’re using medical analogies, ideally, a company needs a triage/ER doctor, and a team of surgeons.

        4. Somelier*

          Your dentist would make fun of you if you ask him “where’s my mouth?” twice a week.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Are people actually coming to your department and saying “I can’t find my desktop computer”?

              1. blondeiq*

                Everyone knows the “have you tried turning it off and on again” rule. Everyone. They may not like it, but it often fixes the problem. Sometimes I feel like a referee when a team member comes to me and says, “my computer won’t do X.” I kick them back into play. If the off/on solution doesn’t work, then you Google. Or tap the IT guy, depending on your level of initiative.

            1. Violet Fox*

              Pretty much, or they called the monitor a computer, and we use midi-towers. Also “my internet is not working” meaning they could not access third party webmail under firefox. Expecting parts for home computers for free… Thinking “I want it!” is valid reason to change fairly set policy in a workplace of close to 250 people..

            2. paul*

              I have had coworkers not know how to open a browser. Or what a browser is. And more than one of them can’t seem to keep different software applications (no, your “Microsoft” isn’t broken just because Chrome is lagging, no the fact that our CISCO telephony software keeps lagging out has nothing to do with your monitor).

          2. Anna*

            Not to your face and that doesn’t change the fact that SHE WOULD BE ACTING LIKE A JERK.

          3. Marisol*

            No she wouldn’t. She’d tell me where my mouth was, take my co-pay, and happily wave goodbye as her staff billed my insurance.

    3. Violet Fox*

      Speaking as a sysadmin, when I get annoyed it is often not because people ask questions, but because they come into my office forceful, all guns blazing, so to speak, because they assume (possibly from wherever they last worked), that I am going to give them a hard time.

      I am very happy to work with people to sort out their problems and make sure they get the resources they need (where I work this involves access to large scale computational resources), but at the same time people need to be willing to work with me, and understand that I don’t have an infinite budget, I cannot always drop what I am in the middle of, and that there are just some things that I cannot fix.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I’m with you there (also a sysadmin), but even when I’m frustrated with entitled users, I’m never rude to them or condescending to them. If you are involved in any kind of help desk capacity (even if that’s not your primary role), you are in customer service. You don’t have to bend to every customer’s every whim, but you do have to have some people skills and be the better person in those situations.

    4. Temperance*

      I’m not in IT, but my husband and many friends of mine are. The issue is that many people are resistant to learning, and would rather ask dumb questions or demand help for things they could easily do on their own (or that could EASILY be fixed by rebooting your silly computer) while also acting superior to the lowly “IT Guy”.

      1. Pixel*

        I completely understand the frustration of dealing what can be perceived as learned cluelessness. However, with minimal empathy and people skills there are ways around that as well, like making a FAQ list and distributing it office-wide, or holding a short tutoring session on the most common issues that can be solved by the users.

        1. Liz*

          The reason tech people often get frustrated is because we’ve *done* that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created training documents, emailed people clear instructions with screenshots or walked them through a process/feature step-by-step at their desks (multiple times) only for them to call me and ask me to do it again for them the next time. It’s not learned cluelessness, it’s deliberate ignorance, and it drives me up the wall.

          If I help someone out “just this once” and send them instructions for next time, chances are high that next time they’ll call me to do it again.
          If I say I can’t do it but will help them to do it, I’ve risked getting reamed for being unhelpful or obstructive (usually by their manager). So far all but one manager have been reasonable and understanding when I show them the detailed fishing instructions I created (I call them idiot-resistant directions) but it doesn’t change the initial “Not again” reaction.

          1. Marcela*

            +1 I guess most of us who work with computers try to do the training stuff at some point. Only to be ignored because at least my users, family and friends, think they are entitled to get my “help” without having to use one single neuron. I have been told “no no no, do not explain it to me, I don’t like computers”. Then do not use them. I don’t particularly like cars, but when I need mine, I had to learn basic stuff such as how to put gas. So they expect me to fix anything without being involved in any way. But hell comes if I do it in a different way or if I restrict their permission or remove anything or want them to be responsible and not open anything they see in internet.

            I do not like users and I refuse to work with them anymore. I paid for all of that years ago.

            1. AnnoyedITGuy*

              Like any point of conflict at a job, this is easy to address. Show them how one time, then send them a training document the second time… and keep sending it. If they ask you to do it anyway, tell them that you’ll look over their shoulder while they follow your document. “Show me where my written instructions get confusing so I can improve them”. Make it clear that the document is going to be their last stop, and never EVER do their job for them.

              I’ve only ever had to edit a training document for one person, and I’ve been working IT for 10 years.

              If you get called out for being unhelpful, show the training doc to the person who’s calling you out, and inform them that you can’t spend ALL of your time repeating yourself. I hardly ever have to do this, but the documentation shuts down the complaint pretty fast.

          2. DoDah*

            I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been the power-user who ended up with low-level tech support duties + my actual job and I’ve been a client of IT. Regardless of the role, all IT ‘professionals’ need to see ‘users’ as ‘clients’ NOT ‘idiots’ or frustration abounds on both sides. I’m trying not to be inflamatory but name calling (idiots) doesn’t make me wonder why you are labelled ‘unhelpful’.

            I’ve seen the ‘idiot resistant’ directions written by IT folks I’ve worked with and frankly at least 50% of the time–they skip steps, assume user permissions and rights that the user doesn’t have, don’t take into VPN versus direct network access into account….etc.

      2. Natalie*

        thing they could easily do on their own

        Eh, I’m not sure I agree with this criticism at all. In a modern economy people specialize, it’s what makes us overall more productive. When I was the receptionist I didn’t complain about people expecting me to answer the phone or manage their calendar or troubleshoot the printer because “they could do that on their own”. It was *my job* to do those things.

        1. Temperance*

          I don’t agree with this. Everyone needs a certain level of basic skills. Receptionists are expected and required to do the things you outline.

          1. Natalie*

            Is the IT help desk not similarly expected and required to troubleshoot and repair users’ IT problems? The fact that the user could potentially do it themselves doesn’t make it not the help desk person’s job.

            1. Roscoe*

              But the point is that a “help desk” person and a “system admin” are very different. You are looking at it as the same thing.

              1. Natalie*

                The threading can make it a little unclear – my comment wasn’t about the letter specifically, it was a reply to a specific statement Temperance made about people wanting IT to do “things they could do themselves”.

                But to your point, it’s still not on for the sysadmin in the letter to take his frustrations out on his co-workers who’ve been told he is the help desk. He is aiming the wrong way.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                In the OP’s case, it IS the same job. One person has both those roles, whether they like it or not.

      3. sam*

        Solutions ‘rebooting your computer’ may fix the short-term problem, but may still need to be logged as issues, because the underlying problem may recur/be a sign of something larger.

        I’m a fairly savvy computer user and can troubleshoot some things myself, but I ALWAYS send a note to my ‘IT guy’* even when that happens, for a variety of reasons:
        – we have a complex network infrastructure, so I don’t want to monkey around with my computer as if it’s a personal machine – I don’t know what I may “fix” that is actually more destructive to the overall system
        – our systems (like many large offices these days) are set up so that the general users don’t have administrator rights – I can’t actually do much more than reboot/restart without IT support/intervention.
        – On more than one occasion, a relatively ‘minor’ issue that was ‘solved’ by rebooting turned out to be the beginning sign of a much larger issue – at least once I’ve had to have the entire memory chip on my computer swapped out because the original was actually corrupt and causing random crashes.

        Even recently, I had a minor issue with one of my monitors, which I totally fixed myself – I still sent a simple “FYI” note to my IT guy just to let him know it happened, in case it happened again or with more frequency. If nothing else, the monitors are still under warranty so if it was more than just a fluke, we’d want everything documented so that we could get it replaced properly.

        *I’m very lucky – I work in a large organization where most people have to go through a third-party IT support/ticketing system, but I’m part of a group that qualifies for “executive” IT support, so we have a dedicated guy in our office who we can just call or email and he deals with all of our stuff. All of that being said, his team is ENTIRELY separate from the group in IT that does large-scale projects (who I also work with on a few initiatives – as the only tech savvy person in the legal department, I get the lucky job of working on any tech initiatives in our group so I also work with that team periodically).

        1. Polabear*

          I can tell you right now that those little notes you are sending your it person? He’s not documenting them, and might even be driving then slightly batty. It’s like Sheldon’s haircut records- they don’t exist. It’s easier to nod politely and say yes, of course, and then move on. Unless you have a support case management system where you starting cases yourself. And even then, they’ll rarely be looked at again.

          I’ve done support work for 20 years at this point, although now I’m in a more senior role. I’ve been told I have supernatural levels of patience with users. However, that’s because it was my primary job, and I liked doing it. A sys admin who has many projects and deadlines, who has to also be the company help desk person will not be a happy camper. And even saints can get tired and frustrated.

          1. Gaia*

            That’s funny because I can tell you right now that in my company they are documented. How do I know? Because I’ve had our IT folks come back to me weeks and months later to follow up because now person X is having a similar issue that I emailed about

        2. Violet Fox*

          Another sysadmin here — those notes would seriously drive me batty, and you would end up on my mental “problem user” list rather quickly doing that.

          1. sam*

            sure, but again, this is not a sysadmin. this is our dedicated executive IT support person, whose entire job is to provide support to a small group of users in our office. I sent a note literally just as an FYI, that there was no need to do anything, but he still came by my office to specifically thank me for sending it and to let him know if it happened again because the monitor was still under warranty.

            I also go out of my way (unless it’s completely unavoidable) not to bother him on nights/weekends, unlike many other folks. If it’s something I can just document for Monday morning, I do that. I am aware of several people here who will not only call him for work related non-urgent items on the weekend, but will actually ask him to help with personal tech stuff, which I think is completely inappropriate (I mean, a basic question while you’re killing time waiting for a computer to reboot, maybe? but actually bringing in personal laptops and such?).

            I’m sure everyone in my group is annoying in their own special way – because I do know how to troubleshoot basic stuff, the stuff I do end up calling him about usually ends up being twice as complicated and hard to figure out as the ‘normal’ restart-your-computer issues he deals with. We’ve had issues with my computer that have literally taken weeks/months to resolve completely (I’m extra special that way).

            Side note – I’ve also built up some personal cache with the IT support team here – due to a project I was working on, I managed to get the entire office’s (woefully inadequate) broadband upgraded fairly significantly – something the IT group had been trying and failing to do for several years – every time they asked, it got chalked up to ‘asking for goodies’. Our project (a network-based document management system for the department) kept failing because people couldn’t access documents half the time because the system would get so slow. I raised a bit of a fuss and literally within 24 hours of my complaint, we were notified that the office had been scheduled for a massive upgrade.

          2. Collarbone High*

            So what’s the solution, then? You don’t want the user calling you about these things, but I imagine you also don’t want people monkeying around with settings they don’t understand. And if the monitors did turn out to need replacing after the warranty expired and Sam said “Oh, I’ve known that for months and didn’t tell anyone,” you’d probably be annoyed. What exactly do you want her to do?

          3. dontworryaboutit*

            Actually, what I’d probably do (after the second such email) is set a rule in Outlook to automatically put all those emails from that user into a specific folder I’ve created for them to be stored…and then never look at them again.

            ……but that’s just me.

        3. Avangelis*

          Yes, those notes would drive me crazy. If you have an issue create a ticket. You fixed your own problem thus a ticket or note is not needed

          1. sam*

            again – I get executive IT support. I don’t create tickets for anything (unlike most people at my company). For any issue, I email or call the individual who is providing on-site executive IT support and he shows up in my office ASAP.

            I know it’s unusual. But I’m simply explaining how my support system works, and your responses are assuming a lot of things based on systems that are not our system.

            1. LJL*

              Having worked a a sysadmin and in user support, I greatly valued those notes as they often were an insight into an issue that affected more people than just the original reporter.

      4. pescadero*


        When I did IT – I didn’t mind telling you that your computer would work a lot better if you just turned it on… once or twice.

        When I had to do it twice a week, every week? I’m going to get a little condescending.

        1. Anna*

          There’s never a reason to be condescending unless you’re an ass and want to make someone feel bad, which says more about you than you may realize.

          1. Marcela*

            No? Let me tell you the tale of the very specialized computer connected to a very delicated scientific machine analyzing chemical samples. They were kept in a cool room because of the very delicated nature of the job (we had to use jackets in the middle of the summer: the room was kept below 10 Celsius degrees). One of my users decided he wanted to play the Fifa 98 video game. And he tried to install it in our very specialized computer. It was impossible not to be condescending when explaining to him and the full lab that things like that were not allowed, because sometimes the installation didn’t work and we had to send the computer to the seller and ask them to repair the control software. We had to pay 2k, in 1999, in a poor 3rd world university where that money could have been used to hire a new student researcher.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Still no reason to be condescending. Severe, yes, but condescending? Nope.

        2. Leatherwings*

          Yeah, I think this calls for more of a big picture conversation than condescension. Like after the fourth time I would say “Hey, I’ve actually fixed this issue more than a few times. I need you to check X before you call me from now on.”
          If it keeps happening, loop in the persons manager and ask that the manager address it and come up with a system to help the person.

          Condescension only makes people defensive, and doesn’t teach anyone anything.

          1. neverjaunty*

            So much this. Being a condescending ass is not a prize you get if someone annoys you at work X number of times.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, our “IT guys” have just had to have a direct conversation with people about what they (the IT guys) can and will do for employees and what employees are expected to do for themselves. I’ve heard them say, “I can show you this one more time, and I’m going to let you do it while I talk you through it, because I won’t be able to help while we’re working on [big installation].” Some people just think that anything related to computers that they don’t want to do themselves is automatically the IT guy’s job to do. Up to and including changing the paper in the copy machine, if the IT person doesn’t put his/her foot down, and I am not even kidding.

            1. Aurion*

              I cringe when I think about this, but at my first job at a large company, I was specifically told by other coworkers to get IT to change the toner. That place was dysfunctional in a number of ways, but the “refusing to help yourself” attitude should’ve been a big clue. I’m pretty sure it was also a place where they combined help desk with low-level computer support.

              The sysadmin (I don’t know what his official title was, but definitely something IT/systems related), a very nice, long-suffering, overworked man, did give me the eyebrow raise when I grabbed him from his office to…find more toner. I think he cut me some slack because I was the clueless newbie straight out of school (and I was told to find him). He showed me where to find the paper and toner and I never bothered him again.

              My other requests were a bit more legit; they were probably still beneath a sysadmin, but at least “can you check my user settings because all my documents are printing to Edmonton” is a better request than “change the toner please”.

              1. Chinook*

                IT changing the toner – upsets me that I am required to send a facility ticket which is then forwarded to the HelpDesk in order to change toner (which they will only do when it is empty but not when you get the warning, even if you had to shake the toner to get a document to print). This is an issue where I work but no one can get them to change it no matter how many projects this has ground to a halt in our drafting department (where every single drafter would be happy to do it if the toner wasn’t stored in an undisclosed location). Grrr…it isn’t always the user’s fault.

                1. Aurion*

                  Well, you have bureaucracy as a reason; I had no excuse whatsoever other than being young and dumb. :)

                  I think I at least said “sorry for the trouble” or something to soften my idiocy a little. I’m pretty sure I also made a self-deprecating joke about this some months later when he walked by and I was adding printer paper, so at least I learned…

            2. sjclynn*

              When I started in the business, the computers were in large rooms behind locked doors and pretty much if it was not related to what went on in the room, it wasn’t my responsibility. Over the years, the computers got smaller and started to look like other things. My responsibility included the labs, desktops, laptops and finally handhelds. About 10 years ago I figured out what triggered IT responsibility. It was screws. If whatever it was had screws they would call us.

            3. Wendy Darling*

              I was the tech-savviest person on my last team so they decided the best way to do things was to delegate any and all technical problems to me. Once a coworker asked me to “help” her fix something and, as soon as I arrived to assist, went to lunch. The next time she asked me for help I told her to look at the documentation and try it herself first and ask me if she ran into trouble, and she went to our boss and said I’d refused to help her.

              OP’s IT guy is probably being a jerk, but he’s a jerk I empathize with. Especially since IT at my current employer was told they would be systems administrators and then after they took the job it was like, oh yeah, also you’re helpdesk!

          3. pescadero*

            In my situation:

            1) The user was the company owner – so no manager to talk with.
            2) I said “Hey, I’ve actually fixed this issue more than a few times. I need you to check X before you call me from now on.”… and the answer was “I’m not going to do that”.

      5. A Non E. Mouse*

        most common issues that can be solved by the users

        I’m sorry, I just….does this actually work at other companies? I ask because I can make step-by-step instructions, with pictures and red circles and arrows and the whole deal, put links to the documents right next to the one they have to open a ticket with, and even send them out via email….and no one bothers to use them.

        I’ve created a separate phone number to rings every single phone in my department, so that they get the fastest service; they still pick a random team members phone and inevitably call and leave a message when that person is at lunch, then complain it took an hour for “us” to get back with them.

        If it works elsewhere, I’ll keep up the good fight. But honestly I feel like maybe “users solving their own issues with easy-to-use tools” is like spotting a unicorn with a mullet in the wild.

        1. A Non*

          IME it really depends on the management culture. If the IT manager has your back, and the rest of the company’s management will support them, you can train end users to use the damn ticketing system and pay attention to the instructions you send them. If management doesn’t see the value in this, it’s never going to happen. (Of course, this assumes that you have a good ticketing system and the IT department runs well. If IT is a hot mess, the users will resort to any means necessary to get the help they need.)

          Even if your management is great, you’ll still have a few difficult end users. At which point, you roll your eyes where they can’t see you, and then put on a smile and go deal with them. It’s part of the territory. But they should be the exception rather than the rule.

        2. Marcela*

          You know, after working more than 20 years with computers, I am of the opinion that most users can’t and shouldn’t fix most issues with their machines. I’ve become convinced that every organization needs a support and admin guy. Nobody would dream of people without experience or knowledge fixing cars, washing machines or plumbing, so why do we expect people to do it with computers? Part of the problem is that Windows created this illusion that you can, too, admin your machine. But their open approach, where you can authorize anything without truly understanding what you are doing, allows for so many problems well beyond most users capabilities to fix. However, this is a battle I’m fighting alone: only my husband agrees with me.

    5. Not an IT Guy*

      Reminds me of my time working in my IT department…the other two people in the department were very condescending towards the rest of the company. They actually yelled at me for being too nice to people and told others not to come to me for any issues (even if I was directly involved). I just refused to compromise my values. Maybe that’s partly why the manager decided to kick me out of IT.

    6. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      They aren’t all like that. My husband isn’t. At least with me. Of course he knows full well that I’ve been known to give a tongue lashing to IT boys who think they know everything. My brother can be like this, but he’s gotten better. Luckily he doesn’t work in support.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever come across rude IT people in my professional working life. Incompetent ones? Yes. But never rude.

        1. MT*

          One “soft benefit” LW’s IT person is lacking is team morale.

          Yes, some people can be unreasonable (sometimes even abusively so!) but it would never even occur to me to be rude to them. That simply isn’t something a professional does. But I can come back to our office and share the story with my coworkers and we can have a laugh about it, and that relief of tension is no small thing.

          1. dontworryaboutit*

            Where I work, I’m not even allowed to do that. I hate this environment. It’s horrible. If you laugh or joke about anything like that, you’re labeled as “uncooperative” or “mean” or some other such horse ****.

            I literally cannot WAIT until I have another job in a department that doesn’t treat its employees like garbage.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Then you are lucky. Most of the IT personnel I’ve worked with have been fine, and some were flat-out wonderful to work with, but I’ve worked with two who insufferable.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My first few jobs, I thought the stereotypical, condescending, eye-rolling and harrumphing “IT guy” was how they all were, because I never saw any of them behave any other way. They all acted like everyone else was an idiot because they had this special IT knowledge that everyone needed and no one else had.

          At my current job, the IT department is exemplary: they use a ticketing system instead of the putting-out-fires method; they are very responsive to requests through the ticketing system; the manager backs them up on what is and is not their job in the support and admin roles; and they are all very pleasant and professional when they’re helping us. They don’t roll their eyes or act like they think anyone is stupid, even if we don’t understand something that is very simple to them.

          1. dontworryaboutit*

            …just so you know, they probably really are thinking that about your questions, but the REALLY GOOD IT support professionals will never let you see that. But…don’t think they’re not thinking it. :)

    7. Aurion*

      I am not an IT person and perhaps it’s different in the professional sphere, but as the de-facto IT person of my family, what really grinds my gears is a combination of two factors:

      1) A complete inability to describe the problem. “Thing went wrong when I was on Youtube! What happened? Fix it!” “What were you doing on Youtube?” “Watching videos.” “You didn’t go off-site?” “No, I was watching videos on Youtube!” *looks in history to see sketchy sites in history “Okay, clicking links on Youtube that go off-site is not the same as Youtube, you probably got infected with sketchy stuff.” “But I was just on Youtube!” Extrapolate that to closing dialogue boxes without writing down the errors (“this warning came up. Can you fix it?” “what did it say?” “I don’t know, I closed it.”) and other similar situations makes troubleshooting very difficult.

      2) Randomly trying out stuff in the hopes that it will help. My father is brilliant with non-computer hardware; he’s a self-taught mechanic. Software is a completely foreign universe. The last time I was troubleshooting a router/software issue, after testing the hardware to make sure the hardware itself hadn’t died, he was hovering over my shoulder going “maybe you should click this” or “try that” for 30 minutes when they have absolutely nothing to do with the matter. He’s trying to learn, but he has zero foundation to learn the stuff from (and I am in no way qualified to teach him), and sometimes in an attempt to “try to fix things” he ends up doing stuff that makes it far, far worse. I remember once he had some computer issue years ago, asked my sibling to take a look, when my sibling didn’t do it the same night he asked me to take a look (without telling me he asked my sibling), both sibling and I try different things to troubleshoot, and in the middle of that my father somehow tried to uninstall the RAM and reinstall it flipped over (180 degrees rotated). (Obviously when X was fine when tested, we don’t go back and retest X in the middle of the process, so everything was super confusing.) Sibling blew up at my father big time and while I don’t agree with how the pushback was phrased (it was very harsh), I must say I understood the sentiment.

      To be clear, this particular IT guy owes his colleagues basic courtesy and he should absolutely be called out on his behaviour by colleagues and management. Specialization means that no one could know everything, so he cannot be eye-rolling at people when helping them is his job. But there are definitely ways that the end-user can make this much more difficult/exasperating for the IT person, especially when previously-taught lessons don’t stick/get willfully ignored (despite notes, FAQs, etc.)

      I’m glad I don’t work in support, I don’t have the temperament for it. I’ve been short about it plenty of times, though I’m trying to get better…

      1. Althea*

        See, even between y’all, you can’t agree. A lot of people have no idea what is the difference between “randomly trying out stuff in the hopes that it will help” and doing “things they could easily do on their own.”

        1. Aurion*

          Well, “things they can easily do on their own” will generally be a prescribed list of safe things to do, such as power cycling the device.

          Failing that, if you (general you) do decide on “randomly trying out stuff in the hopes that it will help”, I expect you do actually write down or know what you tried.

          My father called me over twice going “My adblock extension is gone! I just used CCleaner” (I told him he can only use CCleaner for temp files only) and I spent 40 minutes trying to figure out if his computer got infected by something because CCleaner doesn’t do anything to browser extensions. Turns out he forgot–twice!–that he used Firefox Refresh that reset the browser back to a fresh copy without all extensions and add-ons because he thought it’d improve his internet speed. This is despite notes, FAQs, etc.

          I think most IT people have a prescribed list of “things you should/are allowed to try; please try these before calling for help.”

          I don’t agree with this sysadmin’s attitude, but I can certainly understand his frustration.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’m sure that’s common in some places, but nowhere I’ve ever worked has such a list, even when people were expected to try to fix simple things themselves.

    8. LQ*

      I am sort of an ITish person at my job now and was the IT person at the job prior to this. I don’t condescend unless someone is either acting like or trying to tell me how to do my job. You come to me with a question no matter how stupid and I’m going to help and smile. And if it is a one keystroke solution (F11!) I’m going to tell you that you made my day because I finally got to feel smart or help someone. I’ll be perfectly pleasant.

      But if someone launches at me about how I should “just do x” when X is impossible and the person doesn’t even know the tool and X is a horrible idea to boot plus the solution of Y is told to them when they start and is something you stumble on by waving your cursor around? Nope. I try very hard to not condescend but sometimes snark will slip out. And if they double down at that point I’ll totally feed you just enough to deeply embarrass yourself in front of whoever you are trying to embarrass me in front of or show off to. Be nice.

    9. Temporary Null*

      I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to this attitude.

      1) When an IT professional helps you with an issue, they almost never get recognition to their management or the higher ups.

      2) People consistently underestimate how long IT work takes, so IT people have to say, “no” and report delays a lot.

      3) Everyone comes to the IT person directly, with no awareness that other people do the same. You wonder why the IT person can’t fix hat SQL query, but that it item 32 on the impromptu todo list that their manager doesn’t know about.

      4) Computer vocabulary is hard, so people’s descriptions of computer problems are often useless.

      5) People assume you don’t need soft skills to be in IT. You regularly need to tolerate interruptions by upset and frustrated people who can’t articulate what’s wrong and are scared that they can’t do their job.

      Here’s what I do as an IT person to deal with this.
      1) I go to people in person, and ask them to show me the issue. I let them walk me through it and vent, even if I know immediately what’s wrong because people need to feel heard.

      2) When someone asks me to do something, I write it down, give it an estimate and send it to my manager with a list of the things I’m working on + my recommendations. Then I get back to the person with an estimate and explanation. This takes tons of time.

      The time this takes is huge, and I have done poorly in performance review season against my more curt peers because my projects take longer.

      Here’s how I deal with stressed out IT people with limited time.
      1) I try to figure out my problem for 1 hour before asking for help.

      2) When I need to ask for help I include a summary at top of my issue, and then include everything I’ve tried in detail, any errors I’ve gotten and screenshots if I don’t know what to call something.

      3) I thank them for helping me with the issue, or even trying. Then I tell my manager how they helped me.

      4) When a project gets done, I make sure the IT person is mentioned. They helped too.

      I’ve found that doing the above gets me quick, helpful and timely responses. I’ve even gotten help on issues after they have left the company.

      1. Marcela*

        One of the problems I’ve had in my career is that when I am doing my job properly, nobody notices, _because_ nothing is giving anybody any grief. Or even worse, they think I am not doing anything. So sometimes I ended outside of projects where I have provided the computational foundations, because nobody thinks that I did anything. Sometimes I dream of the day the system I created fail catastrophically and somebody remember all the time I spent in front of the server.

        1. Temporary Null*

          This is ridiculously common in IT, and it’s terrible! Managing IT is hard because you have to educate your superiors on what your reports do to make them understand the magnitude of what’s getting done, and often managers don’t have the time or desire for that.

          So many IT departments never get recognition for their work other than an insincere attaboy, and then people wonder why IT people are annoyed when they have to play 5-10 surprise rounds of 20 questions a day, the reward for which is more work. It doesn’t help that we don’t hire IT people for their patience and de escalation skills, and ask them to work 50+ hrs/week.

          In general, if you see a class of people that exhibit bad behavior, it’s because those people are under stress or that they are inappropriately selected for what they are asked to do, not because they are inherently flawed.

      2. Not Myself Today*

        On dealing with IT people, I also give praise and thanks when due, and I’m generally pretty polite.

        One exception was when I called to ask for a password reset for an internal system (I couldn’t do this in any automated way, you had to call). I started to explain that I was on the internal site and was unable to access the X system because of a password issue.

        I got to “unable to access the X system” and was interrupted with a demand to reboot my computer.

        Excuse me?

        I rather icily asked if I could finish my sentence and got dead silence.

        After I finished my original problem statement without a second interruption, I told him I didn’t see how rebooting the system would be effective in resetting my password.

        That’s probably as difficult as I’ve been to deal with, but I don’t regret that one at all.

        Honestly, I think the first step for any support issue is ALWAYS “Have the end user reboot the system” regardless of whether it would make any logical sense. I expect to hear that demand whether I’m reporting a cracked monitor, broken DVD drive, password problem, or actual system issue.

        1. roisindubh211*

          It’s become a bit of a meme, but there’s a show called The IT Crowd where the characters have set up a recording to answer their phone with “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” on a loop.

        2. pescadero*

          Thing is – rebooting the system probably fixes 75% of IT issues… even when it seems completely unrelated.

    10. Sifo*

      What’s with non-tech people expecting the tech people to be at their every beckon call? This situation sounds like most shops I’ve seen where there is simply not enough support staff to provide the high-touch service that non-tech wants, but is unwilling to pay for.

      1. Roscoe*

        Thats exactly it. They think it is they have nothing better to do than wait on their issues.

        1. Not Myself Today*

          Was this sarcastic? Because that’s actually what ours are paid for.

          We finally got on-site walk-in tech support back after a long spell of non-english-speaking call center hell.

          They literally did nothing but type information into the ticket (only after you promised you had already rebooted and it failed to solve the problem). I once tried to explain to someone that I had an error message related to a damaged dll file, and the person taking the ticket didn’t understand D-L-L (or the word “library”) despite several repetitions and mangled the ticket notes horribly.

          I spent something like half an hour trying to spell things for him to type and explaining the issue in very simple words, and the result would have told an actual tech support person absolutely nothing useful except possibly my name.

          Having on site support back is fantastic.

          1. The Strand*

            Those people who come in person are often starting out. They may not be able to answer the question for you, or they may have just been rotated into a new area where they’re learning the ropes, after working intensively with a different kind of client.

    11. Yam44*

      This is true, and are also not born with good interpersonal skills. Sad but true: there was a time when I was working and had not learned the tricky (for me) combination of being polite and assertive. Not saying it is ok to be rude or a jerk, just that some of it can be a skill thing just like computer skills.

    12. Not IT but can relate*

      RG I think the condescending part happens when people don’t even bother to try and/or just want you to do it for them. As in, they didn’t even bother checking the MSOffice or Word help menus first.

      My case-in-point: mail merges (form letters/mail merge/labels), a very common business task.
      The instructions are all there in the Word help, step-by-step. But almost no one looks it up and instead asks IT or others in the “tech” areas to help them do it.

      It’s off-topic from OP’s case, but yes, there seem to be people in most every office that end up getting others to basically do their work for them under the guise of “I’m not good with computer tech.”

      After a while, this gets frustrating. It also sucks up a lot of time if it happens often and it’s not technically your job to offer help desk support. Especially if the people involved are supposed to be professional workers and you expect they might have this level of basic computer knowledge (not volunteers or non-office-personnel which is a different case entirely). It’s no reason be be a total jerk… but sometimes you do have to shut people down with a “I’m sorry but you’ll have to look this up in the Microsoft help menu” type of response. But then often these people will still say you’re a jerk because you didn’t help them print their labels.

  2. 12345678910112 do do do*

    I’m not sure which is worse, this guy’s methods or the more usual complete lack of response. It should be in someone’s stand-up routine – “And what’s the deal with ‘IT professionals,’ amirite? You put in a ticket and (snap) five months later you have a working mouse.”

  3. Leatherwings*

    This guy is a douche bucket. It’s probably frustrating for him to be troubleshooting computer issues and it’s even likely that it wasn’t explained to him that that was part of the deal when he took the job. None of that excuses his douche bucket behavior, and I hope his manager is able to get this under control or just fire him.

    1. ZSD*

      Sorry to bring this up, but could people please refrain from using “douche” to insult people?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Honestly, I think it’s a great insult. To me, it doesn’t insult women, but insults an awful product that is bad for women. But YMMV.

      2. Leatherwings*

        I (as a reasonably well-informed feminist) don’t have a problem with it and it makes me laugh. If Alison would prefer for me not to use it here, of course I’ll respect that.

        1. KTM*

          I’m curious why the request? I’m a pretty big fan of the ever variable douche-(insert word here) compound word insult. (if it makes a difference, I’m female and a feminist one at that)

          1. Student*

            Mainly it’s pretty gross and doesn’t add much. When I’m here, I try not to throw personal insults generally (and fail sometimes) because the spirit of the site is to try to help people rather than mock them.

          2. fposte*

            Its history is that it’s an insult because it’s involved with women’s genitals, so I’m not thrilled with that source. But it’s so fun to say that I tend to overlook that.

            1. Myrin*

              Oh my, I had no idea! My language has the here-used-as-a-prefix word “Dusch-” (pronunced pretty much exactly like “douche”) meaning “shower-” (so, things like “shower curtain” or “shower gel” all start with “Dusch”) and although I know it’s not actually the same I immediately think shower-related thoughts whenver that word comes up anywhere. Fascinating to know where it comes from, though.

              1. LBK*

                I’d guess English is the one that’s backwards in this case – the word “douche” is literally French for “shower,” so I think it’s most likely that we’re the ones who co-opted it for the name of the hygiene item.

              2. MoinMoin*

                On that note, I snickered the first time told me where the shower was when I was in Germany. :-)

            2. LBK*

              A former colleague of mine used to sub it out for “juice box,” which was mostly because it’s less profane to overhear in the background while working in a call center, but it does check many of the same mouth-pleasing phonetics.

    2. Violet Fox*

      It honestly sounds like he is overloaded with work, feels under valued and is taking it out on his users. While not an excuse, it is up to his management to either hire the help he needs, give him the feeling that the work he does is actually valued (IT infrastructure often isn’t — until it doesn’t work), or work on managing his work-load so that he can do user support too, which is very often actually part of being a sysadmin.

      Question for the OP, if the IT-staff (well of one) is not on site frequently, then where is he?

      1. Avangelis*

        When I was the sole IT person for a company this included doing everything. They needed toner. I had to go out and buy toner or equipment. Boss was cheap and didn’t want to pay shipping fees. In addition to the internal people. I also had to provide support for the remote employees, meaning meeting them far far away from the office to help them.

      2. Artemesia*

        Maybe he is over burdened with work; quite possible. BUT I have worked in several organizations where the IT people avoided work and had all sorts of hobby activities going on or surfing going on and avoided doing their job unless the requests were from very important people. Some people are adept at always ‘working on this big project’ while just using it as an excuse not to do their primary job. I’d want at very least to push for a review of this guy’s workload because the company might need to hire additional support or find a new IT guy because he is shirking. It isn’t always easy to know, but it is easy to know that this guy is being useless to computer users throughout the company.

      3. LBK*

        Yes, this was my immediate thought. This sounds like someone who’s burned out and being pulled in every direction, and while I understand that part of being in a client-facing role (even if the “clients” are internal) means putting on a happy face even while you’re frustrated and tired, there’s only so much a person can take.

        I also don’t see the big deal about wanting to be called by his correct title. We’ve discussed the dismissive undertone of being called “the payroll lady” or similar terms often, and while the gendered piece of it obviously doesn’t exist for a man, it is still kind of condescending to someone who’s clearly esteemed enough to be running the company’s entire IT while also doing other technology-related projects. I suspect that’s further compounded by my first point about being burned out – it’s got to be annoying to be pulled off interesting, high-visibility work to reset a password or change a printer cartridge, so I suspect he feels the need to grab whatever modicum of respect he can find, which may just be at least being called by his correct title.

        I know that in the day-to-day it’s probably annoying to have to work with him, but honestly, reading this letter I mostly just felt bad for the guy.

        1. LBK*

          I see that elsewhere people have commented about the title thing not being so much about him correcting people but about doing it via a “severe rebuke”. To me, that whole line kind of reads like a verbal eyeroll from the OP, not a genuine description of his reaction, like “And god forbid you call him by the wrong name!” (read sarcastically). Maybe that’s why I don’t see it as being such a big deal? But maybe I’m also alone in that interpretation of the OP’s phrasing.

          1. Not IT but can relate*

            I’d wondered about that too. To some people a speech correction is heard as a “severe rebuke.” And this is already a highly-charged situation, at least from this POV.

            That and the comment about the “boss goes nuclear” smells to me like a highly dysfunctional workplace.
            Why should a manager “go nuclear” to hear about the IT person and office needs? This should be a fairly easy task for a decent manager to assess and make corrections/changes as needed.
            Sadly though, I know it’s often otherwise the case.

  4. Tacocat*

    Regarding problem #1: there is a chance that this role has never been defined and it’s never been clear whether or not the help desk function is clearly his responsibility, especially from his perspective. This should help inform your response, because to him, this might be why he gets so frustrated. I’m a technical person who very occasionally builds tools for other people’s use and it can get really, really frustrating when people think that mean you are the go to person with any technical question (especially when you have dedicated help desk resources, but I digress). So I wouldn’t even frame it as problem #2 (that he is a jerk), because that may not be the most helpful mindset to address the problem. It may more be a problem that this small organization never defined roles or staffed themselves adequately (or at least may be more helpful to think of it that way).

    1. Kyrielle*

      But he’s still being a jerk, if so. If he is sure his role should not include support, he should take a deep breath and advise them of that, and that he’s been told to focus on projects. If he’s not clear on that, he should go to his manager and get clear on it (certainly he can try to steer the conversation toward the result he wants).

      But rolling your eyes and being unsupportive and rude really has no place in the workplace.

      That said, framing it _to him_ as he’s a jerk is going to be completely counter-productive. On the other hand, being aware of it in your own head – that he is acting in a way inappropriate to a workplace – can help the original letter-writer remember that, yes, they are justified in feeling this is inappropriate behavior. (And in noting that it’s not about them or their people, but about this IT … guy. I’m sorry. I know he doesn’t like guy, but given his behavior, I’m finding ‘professional’ a little hard to tolerate. Systems admin, then.)

      1. sunny-dee*

        I’m not condoning rudeness, but he may be thinking exactly the same thing about everyone else. If he was hired to do sys admin work, that really isn’t the same thing as handling regular user IT stuff. It could be that someone (his boss, a different manager, whatever) just said, “go to Joe, he knows how to do it.” And as far as Joe is concerned, he has a constant stream of colleagues badgering him to fix minor issues that aren’t his job.

        I’m not saying that rudeness is okay, but if user support wasn’t part of his job, he may be at a pretty high frustration level. (And it could also be why no one is calling him on it.)

        1. A Girl is No One*

          Yeah, an analogy might be you were hired as an Executive Assistant, and the IT guy needs you to type an envelope and put a stamp on something for him. It’s sort of your job, but not really…our EA would definitely give an eye roll and attitude if I asked her for that. I wouldn’t think her rude, I just think, well maybe she doesn’t feel that is within her scope and I’d figure out the mail room thing for myself.

        2. Natalie*

          If that is the case, it would probably be best for him to start using his words (“that’s actually not part of my role”) rather than silently seething.

    2. Joseph*

      Excellent point regarding the role. I’ll bet that he sees his role as “I’m getting judged based on the quality of my work on these high-level, time-intensive projects” – so asking him for help installing software or whatever comes off as ridiculous. After all, you don’t ask the Senior Office Manager to come sweep your office or ask the Executive VP to print documents for you.

      I mean, he may not be handling it right, but if the primary focus of his role is “high-pressure involved projects that affect the entire company”…well, it’s entirely justifiable to be irritated about being bothered for low-level IT requests that wreck his focus.

      1. neverjaunty*

        There’s no “but”. If, as people are extrapolating, the guy is burned out or has job duties he didn’t sign up for, he needs to address that. Eye-rolling and similar nonsense has no place in this, period.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think this is true, that there’s something systemically wrong.

      And that might be how I take it to the manager.

      “Bob’s brusqueness and attitude are indicators of something wrong. He’s got two very different responsibilities–and maybe the help-desk type stuff isn’t even his job. How can we fix this? Because losing time on this computer stuff costs the company productivity, plus it’s just bad for morale to have your machines not work.
      “But it’s bad for morale to deal with a clearly frustrated tech-support person. And it’s got to be bad for Bob’s morale for him to get nickle-and-dimed. Plus, it’s not an efficient use of the money we pay him–my impression is this stuff is way below his paycheck.
      “Now, if that’s not the case–if the help-desk stuff is supposed to be the core of his job, then this isn’t clear, and it’s not being effective, because he’s so dismissive of other people.
      “But it seems to me we’d be better served by finding a different way to deal w/ help-desk type problem.”

    4. we actually do have an IT department, but they do hardware, not software*

      +1 on this. I am basically user support now for my entire office. 90% of the time, never an issue. But that 10%… when you have to show the same person how to do the same thing for the 11th time… well, there’s a reason I document all my requests and include them in my accomplishments and stuff during performance reviews. Because it’s not a part of my job, but I spend on average 4 hours a week troubleshooting for people, and my boss needs to know.

      Should the guy be a jerk? Of course not, and that is not okay. But if this was not meant to be part of his job, if he was hired to be a technical person on a project, and then got this added on because he was the only one who knew how to do things, having to constantly be pulled away for “help, this broken” is unpleasant. If this needs to be part of the same job, yeah, he’ll need “help desk hours” that are carved out for this stuff.

      (I really really appreciate my coworkers who say “I tried this and this and it’s still broken.” And I make it clear to everyone that my strategy is usually “click buttons and see if they work, if they don’t, ask a search engine of choice”. I’d print out the xkcd tech support flowmap, but the ones who’d take it personally are never the ones who are the problems)

      1. Sparrow*

        That flowchart is kind of amazing, and I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before. I’m so tempted to pass it along to my tech-illiterate coworkers (in their defense, they call me or someone else who isn’t afraid to click on things before they go to IT, but it just means I’m the one annoyed with them instead of the IT staff!)

      2. Manders*

        I actually kinda feel for this guy, as another person who sometimes gets treated like a help desk when that’s not really my job. I work on the website, so the teapot designers think I’m “tech savvy” enough to fix computer problems.

        The tricky part is that sometimes I really can help someone, but sometimes I don’t have admin access to the system or I haven’t been given the right training or I won’t touch something without higher-level permission because screwing it up would be a catastrophe, and I worry that my coworkers believe I’m being deliberately unhelpful when that happens.

        He’s still being rude, and that’s not excusable, but it really does sound like he has a whole job to do that isn’t compatible with being the always-available help desk. Maybe it’s time to train someone else in the office in basic IT support.

        1. paul*

          Ugh, I hear that. I used to light weight IT stuff at my current job because I made the mistake of having computer parts shipped to the office for a build I was doing at home (didn’t want a CPU and PSU sitting on my porch all day!). Except that they didn’t give me any admin rights so what the hell was I supposed to do?!

      3. Joseph*

        “But if this was not meant to be part of his job, if he was hired to be a technical person on a project, and then got this added on because he was the only one who knew how to do things, having to constantly be pulled away for “help, this broken” is unpleasant. ”
        This result is exactly the reason that there’s common advice along the lines of “Never learn to fix the printer”. Because the first time you fix the printer (even if it’s something as simple as “open it and pull out the piece of paper”), suddenly you’re the expert and people always interrupt you you’re always getting interrupted any time there’s a paper jam.

        1. JayemGriffin*

          I am an IT data analyst. One of the systems I support is an HR/payroll system. I’ve learned to avoid answering questions that aren’t explicitly included in my role, even when the answers are a quick google search away, because some of my users have decided that I can do everything from verifying employment to determining whether a given job should be exempt or non-exempt to providing legal advice.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I was thinking Roy Trenneman, but you’re right; Roy can be nice occasionally. :D

  5. Camellia*

    Not everyone is suited to function as a ‘help desk’ kind of person, just like not everyone can actually teach. I work in IT and see this all the time. He can and should be told not to be rude, but I hope they can afford to hire someone to handle the day-to-day support questions and issues and who can do a bit of teaching while he is doing the fixing.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I work in IT, and I’ve found the friendly IT folks to be the exception rather than the rule, and I think it’s because most people who go into IT don’t envision themselves supporting users—they’re interested more in the technology itself than the people using it.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I think I need a new job, I work in IT support / Development and used to be really well motivated and helpful, but to much poor management and to many annoying /rude users have beat it out of me.

      1. LBK*

        I’d argue that almost all people doing help desk support are just paying their dues before going into more technical work, since that’s generally where you have to start (and help desk support itself doesn’t really have a career end-game unless it’s your dream to reset passwords all day).

      2. Allison*

        Can confirm, tech people in general aren’t really the ultra-friendly, super outgoing customer service type, they’re probably trying to pay their dues in a helpdesk role in the hopes of moving up into a more secluded, backend type role. Can’t say I blame them. But any time you’re working with humans, regardless of the specialized tech skills involved in your job, you need to be somewhat approachable and polite. No one wants to be afraid to ask you a question, or come away from an interaction with you feeling like garbage.

      3. Polabear*

        I posted above, but I’ve done it user support for 20 years. My degree? Political science. I now do more projects and implementations, and the folks who like and are good at user support generally either have a softer it degree, or a social sciences degree.

  6. Anna No Mouse*

    There’s a misconception, especially among people in the tech field, that they don’t have to try to be good with people. Even my husband, who is a developer, often opines that if he is good at his job, why does he need to “make nice” with the people he works with. There are many reasons for this, I suspect, including a high correlation among tech workers of ADHD and Asperger’s. Of course, in the real world, you don’t get to just be rude to people you work with without consequences. I agree that you should speak to him directly about it. You might even find that he doesn’t think he’s being rude. He might just honestly not be aware that his reactions to being asked simple questions are coming across so harshly. If you remain calm, matter-of-fact, and understanding, it might make a difference in how he behaves.

    Or he might truly be an absolute blowhard who will take offense at the slightest implication that he’s doing something wrong, in which case, I’d go right to his supervisor.

    Either way, that behavior is not ok.

    1. alter_ego*

      Yeah, I’m a decent, but not necessarily rockstar (ugh) engineer, and I’ve been hired to more than one job over someone who has technically more qualifications because of my people skills. No one wants to work with someone they hate, and I can be trained in stuff I may not have experience in. It’s really hard to train people not to be a dick.

    2. Shannon*

      Because having – at a bare minimum – professional working relationships with your coworkers is part of your job. You’re on a team, whether you like it or not or whether it is openly acknowledged or not.

      I had to have this conversation with my husband every few months for about five or six years until finally got it.

    3. robot*

      Please don’t confuse technology as a field not valuing interpersonal skills as an effect of tech workers having ADHD or Asperger’s. That’s offensive to people who have ADHD or Asperger’s and also untrue.

      1. Vendrus*

        I think the Anna No Mouse has it a bit backwards! The field not valuing interpersonal skills makes it easier for those who don’t have them – whether for diagnosable reasons or simply being an ass – to find work. Of course, this does reinforce the issue and reduce the pressure to build those skills as part of working life.

    4. N.J.*

      I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that IT professionals have a higher incidence or Asperger’s Syndrome or ADD/ADHD. That is playing into the stereotype that tech professionals are “geeks” and that they must be that way, with the subsequent assumptions about their social skills and emotional intelligence, because of some perceived developmental disorder or because they are not neurotypical. It also doesn’t relieve the IT professional of his or her responsibility to treat coworkers with respect and courtesy. At the most, it would possibly make coworkers about more understanding in seeing a contributing factor to rude behavior or give the IT professional who does fall within one of these diagnoses a framework from which to reference treatment options or other tools. But I think it’s a slippery slope to assume that an IT professional is more likely than anyone else in the working world to have Aslerger’s syndrome or ADHD. It’s a stereotype and stereotypes are unhelpful.

    5. C Average*

      As someone on the spectrum (nonverbal learning disorder), I resemble this remark. :)

      I think for someone with a very structured, transactional sort of mind, it’s easy to completely fail to recognize soft skills as a thing until someone points them out. And people are hesitant to point out lack of soft skills because such things can be really difficult to articulate, and the conversations tend to be clumsy and uncomfortable. I am so, so grateful to advice columns for making me aware of my lack of soft skills, because the people in my life either didn’t try to do so, or were way too subtle and polite to be successful. I often read this blog and its comments and have a light bulb go on: “Oh, wow. People notice that! And they don’t like it. I should stop doing that.”

      If you’re smart and have a good work ethic, it’s pretty easy to coast through life without addressing lack of soft skills. Your report cards in school contain mostly As and a few Bs; your teacher comments, “C tends to keep to herself” or “C needs to work on social skills”; your parents shrug and say, “C is a good student, and she’s bookish and a little shy. Nothing much to see here.” Your first few jobs are mostly menial, with structured and well-defined tasks, which you perform capably and cheerfully. Your manager likes you because you take orders well and always do your work. Your colleagues think well of you because you aren’t a slacker. All is well.

      And then you get a job where playing well with others DOES count, but you have to suss out that expectation on your own. Which is precisely what you’re not good at doing. And also, if you have skills that the company considers indispensable (as IT people often do), you get away with a lot, and people who complain about you mostly do it behind your back. Then, once a year at review time, your manager tells you that you need to be more of a team player, and you think, “What does that even MEAN?”

      Basically, what I’m saying is that IT guys and girls everywhere should read AAM, because the commenters frequently elucidate what their colleagues would really like to tell them.

      1. LQ*

        I would go ahead and say employees and employers and those who would someday like to become employees or employers everywhere should read AAM ;)

    6. neverjaunty*

      Yes. I don’t know that it’s a misconception, though, so much as an excuse to be an ass. That whole ‘why do I have to make nice when I’m good at my job’ is hardly limited to tech – and it’s a willful misunderstanding of what being good at one’s job is. You can see this immediately in the way those folks react when someone is rude to them.

  7. Brett*

    He’s also probably not being called out on it because the company has a dual purpose “IT professional” for a fraction of what he should cost.

    I’ve seen some absolutely horrible co-workers in IT in underpaying organizations. These were basically people whose soft skills were so disastrous that they could not maintain work in an organization with more IT resources or better pay for IT, so they end up in a less resourced organization where their skill set is a big enough bargain to offset their jerkiness.

    1. midhart90*

      Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. Every now and then I’ll see a company try and cheap out on support and one of two things invariably happen: either the company is stuck with substandard talent that can’t find anything better, or you end up with folks who intended their stay to be temporary from the start and will jump ship the second something better opens up. It typically ends up costing the company more in the long run than if they just paid competitively so that you’ll attract good employees who will want to stick around.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think that’s an excuse for being rude. I’ve been that overworked and stretched-thin IT person in an organization (and stretched way more than this guy, based on the OP’s letter), but I was never rude to users. I was stressed out, sure. Not rude, though.

      1. midhart90*

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that it justifies being rude either. But when you have people who aren’t happy to be there, it has a tendency to show at one point or another, even if it’s not their intention.

    3. A Non*

      Yep, this happens a lot. Organizations somehow fail to realize that they get what they pay for in IT workers. And they really, really fail to realize that under spending on their computer systems will cost them ten times as much in lost worker time.

    4. ali*

      This. So much this.

      The worst job I ever had was where I was expected to do large amounts of really high-concentration programming, be the sysad, and be the IT help desk. And I took at $20k pay cut to move across the country to do this job (it was 2010 and I had to move and there just weren’t good jobs anywhere then). I was also in a dank, dusty basement office that was consistently way too cold. I used to sit next to the servers just because they were warm.

      I was miserable and couldn’t see anything changing, so yeah, I was probably rude, it happens. I have people skills, and great customer service skills, but very little could make me muster those up in that job.

    5. hbc*

      I’m thinking he might be paid just fine for the high level work but think that the support stuff is beneath him. It’s a problem you run into at small companies–you need roughly 0.8 FTE for [high level] work and 0.2 FTE for [low level] work. It’s going to be pretty hard to find two part-timers who can do that, so you just pay a highly skilled person to spend most of their time doing highly skilled work and about one day a week scrubbing toilets or hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del or setting up folding chairs.

      There are certainly people who would be willing to do this, maybe even glad for the variety, but it’s not for everyone. Those people will resent having to schlep boxes, even if they’re being paid six figures to do it.

    6. Lisa*

      Yup. I was thinking this too. If I was IT guy I would find a new job but maybe there are reasons he can’t.

      I’m a software developer (not help desk/customer service) and we are brisk even to our software development peers when we get asked “dumb questions”. The ability to figure things out is a must in our profession and possibly why we got into IT in the first place, and we as a culture think negatively of those who don’t even try to self solve. He may even be rude on purpose so people stop asking him self solvable questions.

      So duh, don’t put people like that in a customer service role… it’s like asking a fish to climb a tree.

  8. Cyberspace Dreamer*

    At OLD JOB one of my IT comrades was a self proclaimed “A-hole” take it or leave it, his words, not mine. This is how he handled his business. I had no problems working with him but I knew what to expect and how far I was going to go. His “desk-side” manner did not endear him to other departments or some of our staff. I had managers tell me this face to face. But overall he was not a bad dude, but was often very intense and unapologetic when it came to how he dealt with others especially when dealing with technical issues.

    Old job has leadership issues anyhow and that IT department has run through four department heads in less than 5 years and over two dozen people in total. During this time he has received at least two promotions and made his way into a management position. Not sure what to say about that.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Uuuuuuugh, I hate the “take it or leave it!” type people, especially when you’re in a position where you can’t “leave it” thanks to having to work together. At least in your personal life you can usually just say “okay then” and walk away…

    2. BRR*

      I find it really interesting when people self-label as a negative thing. I work in an open office and at my orientation one director said her group was the “loud group.” If I could identify somethign like that I would want to remedy it since it’s distracting to the entire office. But it’s hard to find a reason why if there are no ramifications like with your IT person.

      1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

        He was good at his job, had leverage since despite his gruffness he was either in good graces with the brass or became somewhat indispensable when the turnover started. The road for him was wide open when entire management staff turned over in less than 6 months (80+ years of service to the company . . . .poof!!).

        A lot of good people have left that company as a result. I guess they deserve each other at this point since many of their managers have zero business leading people.

    3. Anna*

      Well, I’m going to demand you treat me courteously and professionally. Take it or leave it! And if you leave it I’ll probably have a conversation with your manager. *BIGSMILE*

    4. C Average*

      I feel like I recommend this book to someone at least once a week, but “The No-Asshole Rule” is my favorite business book because it specifically and explicitly takes on people like this and what’s wrong with their behavior and how to deal with it when you encounter it.

      1. Bolistoli*

        Thank you for this. While I don’t have anyone in my workplace currently who qualifies, I know I could learn to deal better with assholes in general. Looking forward to reading it.

        1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

          The OP’s letter reminded me of the guy. The funny thing is I don’t dislike him personally and I don’t believe he is a bad guy. I am aware of too many situations where behavior is influenced by unrevealed factors. I also know that some people use aggression to protect their limitations. At the same time, I am a strong proponent of treating people with dignity and this was not something he was known for within the company. One manager had a negative view of the entire IT department based on interactions with him. But hey, he has parlayed this behavior into a cushy management role with great pay.

          1. C Average*

            I think what I like about this book is that it doesn’t really go into motivation for being a jerk; it just tells you how to deal with the jerks you encounter. I feel like all my life I’ve been subjected to dissertations about how bullies had troubled childhoods, or are secretly insecure, or are fighting their own battles and deserve compassion. While all of this is undoubtedly true under at least some circumstances, I’ve found that at times trying to develop empathy for your tormentor just makes you more vulnerable to his or her manipulation and head games. I loved that Sutton (the author) limits himself to teaching you to recognize an asshole, distance yourself from the asshole if possible, and if necessary defend yourself from the asshole.

            1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

              Ten foot pole is definitely in order. Sympathy from a distance. Great point.

  9. IT CIO*

    It should also be noted by referring to him as the “IT guy.” , your also disrespecting him. It might help to build more productive relationships if you were to respect his title. Many IT professionals take this very personally, as they feel they are as much a part of the business as everyone else, and referring to them as the “IT guy.” makes them feel like they are simply the digital plumber. It still does not excuse his attitude, but in my experience many organizations still have not made the culture shift required to make IT work for everyone.

    1. Temperance*

      Especially because this man is not just a support tech, but responsible for critical IT tasks. It’s demeaning.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        The worst part to me about calling him “the IT guy” is that he’s apparently the whole IT department. Putting aside the dysfunction of not having more staff, that should make him a mid- to high-level manager…except that he doesn’t have any staff to manage, which I’m guessing is not his choice.

    2. Violet Fox*

      To my ears, it also has the implication of someone who can maybe install Windows on a good day, but does not really know what they are doing.

    3. Dan*

      Yeah, I worked at an org of 150 people, and our it support people had names, and everybody knew them.

      I don’t have a problem with “IT Guy” per se, but I would if it creates a distance between them and the rest of the org.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Agree, especially if the guy is working

        OP might be able to make a little effort go a long way with the systems admin just by using a proper title. Doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it might make him feel a little less like the help.

    4. Bekx*

      Yeah, I don’t like when people call me the “marketing girl” so I personally would be irritated if I were called the “IT guy”.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, especially if he’s been there for a while, it would be better to say “Have you called John in/from IT?” rather than “the IT guy”. And when referring to him with outsiders, saying “I’ll talk to our IT department” or “I’ll have the head of our IT department call you back”

        1. KR*

          +1 This is what I was thinking. I’m not some magical fairy who you call when you can’t remember how to put an icon on your desktop that shuts off with the lights, I’m a person who works in a support role who you’re asking for help from. Learn my name.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        People are really jumping all over others in the comments on this post. Can we assume good will of others here, please, and give them the benefit of the doubt? Thank you.

      2. Daisy Steiner*

        Yes but they’re usually brought in from outside to fix something – they’re not part of the team but are rather being contracted to provide a support service (also nothing wrong with that, just that it might be different from how this guy would like to be perceive)

    5. Jaguar*

      Yeah, that part made me wonder if the adversarial relationship isn’t strictly one-way.

      There is a distinct “othering” that often happens in IT departments. I’ve never worked in an office that looks down on the IT department, but I know of it happening. I think it has to do with the feeling that IT is strictly a support role that helps you do your job, so not getting help immediately means they’re a villain preventing you from working correctly.

      That said, this guy sounds like a textbook IT asshole, so I can’t say I have any sympathy if he winds up in the numerous adversarial relationships IT people can find themselves in.

      1. Jaguar*

        Oh, one other thing I’ll point out, since the issue of fixing printers was mentioned in another comment:

        A lot of IT issues really are fixable by yourself. I’ve never been in an IT support role (or a hardware role at all), and I’ve never understood printer error messages, and I’ve always been able to figure the problem out myself. They really aren’t difficult. But many other people would take a now-it’s-not-my-problem-not-my-job approach to stuff like that, and I can see where it would be incredibly frustrating to IT support: they’re just troubleshooting it until it works, the same thing anyone could have done.

        1. Natalie*

          How is that different from anyone else’s job, though? I put expense reports together – all I’m doing is data entry, the same thing anyone could do, but it’s specifically my job to do that data entry. And someone who’s job isn’t IT a) doesn’t necessarily know how long this troubleshooting is going to take or b) have time available in their day to do it because they have some kind of different job they are supposed to be focusing on.

          Sure, summoning IT to put paper in the printer is a step to far, but I don’t think it’s fair to get mad at people for not doing their own hardware repairs.

          1. Jaguar*

            Well, say you have an admin person that is responsible for the formatting and proofreading of all company documents. If you made a typo in an e-mail, would you pass it off to admin to fix it?

            There is a point at which it’s reasonable to expect people to be self-reliant. Where that point exists is a matter of debate (and one I don’t have a strong opinion on). I think a lot of the friction people feel from IT results from a perceived lack of respect, and much of it, I think, is because, when it comes to IT issues, “not my problem” kicks in really fast for some people.

            1. Natalie*

              Of course, I mentioned that myself. But I was thinking specifically of you saying that IT just troubleshoots it until it works, which is something anyone could do. I’m saying yes, it may be something anyone is capable of doing, but it is in fact the IT help desk person’s job to do that, and they don’t get to get salty with their co-workers for not doing it.

              That said, it sounds like this guy has much bigger problems in that his office wants a help desk person and a sysadmin in one, which is bananas, and he isn’t handling it terribly well.

              1. Jaguar*

                Yeah, what I meant by that is that many people think IT is this distasteful thing and have zero interest in learning about it. So anything that falls under the umbrella of IT, it immediately goes to the IT department. IT stuff is an unpleasant nuisance so let’s get the unpleasant nuisance person, or “IT guy,” to make the problem go away, and then that person needs to immediately go away so everything can be back to normal.

                Most people aren’t like that, of course. But most retail customers aren’t jerks, either. It’s the bad cases that set the tone.

        2. Observer*

          they’re just troubleshooting it until it works, the same thing anyone could have done.

          That’s actually not the case. In many cases, someone who actually knows their stuff won’t have to go through the troubleshooting routine – they’ve seen it before, the error message actually means something to them, etc. Also, very often there is a lot of troubleshooting that people don’t know how to do or don’t even know they could do unless they are somewhat savvy or, in many cases, have some training or professional knowledge.

          It’s one thing when people can’t be bothered to check an error message. Complaining that they don’t know how to do the troubleshooting is another, and less justifiable, thing.

      2. J.B.*

        The most adversarial relationship I’ve seen occurred when the network was mega unstable, there wasn’t enough IT staff to maintain it, and the system admin was normally impossible to find. There were a lot of things – some of them organizational problems and some possibly to do with the individual (with that person basically unsupervised). People complained and the complaints fed the negativity, etc.

      1. Amy*

        I agree, we were all over the “Compliance Lady” thing (which I totally get) but for some reason we’re less concerned about “computer guy” and “IT guy” and dismissive of his complaints about not using his correct title

  10. Roscoe*

    I will say I have sympathy for the guy. If someone can’t be bothered to google the issue (which often people don’t) and he is in charge of doing the important high level stuff, it can be annoying. Having 5 people throughout the day interrupt you to ask what PC load letter means will grate on you. I know the OP says they try to handle it themselves, but often I’ve seen that just mean they ask other people who don’t know the answer.

    Now I’m not saying being rude is the answer, but also, as someone who works in technology, it can be a pain when people don’t know how to ask what they want. So even if he sighs and stuff, if he fixes it for you, I say just let it go.

    As far as making people feel stupid, some people just feel that way automatically when they see how easy a fix is. Now he may not make them feel better about themselves, but he probably isn’t saying things like “you are an idiot” either. Its not his job to coddle adults and make them feel better about themselves.

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I’m a pretty tech savvy millennial myself, but the reason there is an IT department is so that I don’t have to google and troubleshoot for myself. I don’t want our IT department googling “motion to dismiss,” you know?

      In this case the problem seems to be lack of clarification of roles. Either they are trying to squeeze two roles into one person or he isn’t really supposed to be inundated with help requests. I feel for him though if his performance is tied to other projects that these requests just get in the way.

      1. BRR*

        As another tech-savvy person do you think we should at least try to google some things first? And I mean that as a genuine question, not in an argumentative way. I do this partially because I get bothered with small requests all the time that are urgent and partially because I don’t want to have to wait for them (and I try not to grab them as they walk by).

        Also it’s possible that they’re not trying to get the most of one person but that it’s all they can afford. I have a role doing both high and low-level duties because my employer can only afford one person. Not that it justifies this person’s behavior but it just seems like a lot of people are ignoring that possibility.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          It really depends on the issue and the system. A poster up thread points out that company-wide IT systems can be complex and what I’m comfortable messing with on my personal computer, might not be good for me to play around with at work. I’m on a county-wide system so there are a lot of moving parts.

          I certainly have no problem reloading the printer or yanking out the obvious printer jam, but anything that I don’t already know how to do is probably not worth my time to research, nor is it likely to be a good idea for me to tackle. I also have my admin format, print, and mail client letters that I compose in an email to her and have investigators do all my court filing. I do try to do my own paper filing in the filing cabinet, but that’s more of a safeguard measure to make sure that I know what papers have come in for me (less chance of a missed letter or something else crucial).

          In other words, there are a lot of things that I could do with relative ease, but I have other coworkers who do those things by job description. The problem in the OP’s case is whether this is actually his job at all, or should be.

        2. themmases*

          I don’t think that is being ignored, Alison answered it in the post. If this company can truly only afford one person to handle anything computer-related, and they are expected to do help desk type tasks, then they need to carve out time for him to do that and ask for fewer big projects. Just because they want the functions of a full help desk and a sys admin doesn’t mean they get it and a free puppy if they can’t pay for it.

          And it’s still a waste of the time, skills, and probably the salary of someone who is qualified to do the bigger projects.

        3. Anonymous Educator*

          I think it really depends on the situation. I certainly don’t want users always diagnosing their own problems and coming up with all their own potential fixes, because sometimes those fixes are the wrong fixes and are even damaging to their operating systems or computers. But in certain situations, showing that you even tried something basic will earn you a lot of good will with your IT department.

          I actually, frankly, don’t care if users have Googled a solution to a problem or not. If they come in and have a problem, I will help them fix it. Here are things users do that do annoy me, though:

          1. If you tell me you experience a problem, and I tell you a solution, don’t ignore my solution and then complain that you’re still experiencing the problem.

          2. If you ask me how to do something, and I show you how to do it twice, don’t ask me a third, fourth, and fifth time to remind you how to do it.

          3. Don’t make last-minute requests for things you could have requested way in advance. Yes, sometimes emergencies come up. Emergencies always come up. But don’t try to make something an “emergency” for me just because you couldn’t get yourself together to present it to me a month ago when you already knew about it.

          1. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

            Basically don’t treat the IT person like they are your personal servant, lackey, or on a good day, secretary. They are an equal and deserve the same level of courtesy and respect. Courtesy as a frustrated user can simply be ‘Help, i’ve tried x y and z and are completely stuck in the Wakeen Teapot database again, do you have time to assist?’. That gets a different response from me than ‘My report is due at 2:00pm, will you have it done for me by then because i need it then’.

            1. HisNameIsWoofles*

              The response that always withers my soul:
              “Excuse me, I thought I called the HELP DESK!”
              Nope. You called Integrated Technology Services. Recreating your pivot tables for you because you failed to back up your reports and didn’t realize your AC adapter was not plugged into the wall is not my responsibility. But I can transfer you to [Affiliate] in Mexico City! Please hold.

      2. Sparrow*

        I’m also a fairly tech savvy millennial, but even if I weren’t, I don’t think I would agree with that. I agree that they’re there to fix problems and make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to, but I think the 3 minutes it takes to google an issue is worth the good will it garners with IT. It’s like the copy machine running out of paper. Sure, I could tell the admin and she’d do it, or I could just do it myself since I’m there and know where to find the paper. Not surprisingly, both the IT department and admins like me because I don’t waste their time on little things. So when I do have something big, they are much more eager to resolve it quickly than they are for some of my co-workers. (I will agree that if I were troubleshooting issues frequently, I would be less willing to do it, but I can give up a few minutes every few months.)

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I agree with Sparrow – I think everyone should consider taking a minute or two to “google it” before reaching out to IT. I’m in marketing at a software company, but I will fill in for support staff during vacations, busy days, etc.

          We have a lot of non-tech users, so I regularly get support calls that aren’t related to the software – internet issues, hardware issues, network connection between computers, etc. – and I, as the support tech, will Google it. And it probably takes three times as long for them, since they had to wait for the phone to get answered, explain the issue, and wait for me to Google it before taking action.

          (And I do tell people “this is actually an unsupported issue because of XYZ, but I Googled it and found information ABC.”)

          1. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

            I work for the government (not The Government). And if I google a problem and the solution involves installing, updating or uninstalling software, or many other things, and I do it, my employment will be terminated. Surely other large employers have similar issues with incompatible hardware & software versions and legacy proprietary software and databases. Thankfully my “IT Guy” is both a genius AND a wonderful human being.

            1. themmases*

              OK, but that really doesn’t prove that you shouldn’t bother to spend time Googling your own problems. Most people working on a well-maintained network won’t be able to change or install software on their machine.

              There are still tons of things we can fix ourselves. And “I have problem X, I believe I need update Y, but it requires privileges I don’t have to install” is still valuable information that belongs in the help request, if you’re being considerate. It’s faster for the person helping you to verify that than to go find out themselves, and whatever you found out Googling will probably help you describe the problem better.

        2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          Like I said above, reloading paper into the printer… It almost feels childish to not do that. But googling and troubleshooting on my own besides anything I already know to do, that seems like it could both cause more problems than it solves (I’m tech savvy but know nothing about sys administration!) and be a waste of my time.

          It is a judgment call though. I personally have a lot of crucial tasks that don’t require a computer at all, so I usually can wait while ticket is addressed PLUS I work on a system administered by an entire county and have at least four different people on a dedicated help desk to talk to (in our case you always want to talk to the two women, they seem to know what’s going on and I think they keep notes of trending problems or something at their desks. Or they are psychic.) if I can’t wait or I didn’t have four people to turn to, I might do a bit more troubleshooting, but only if it is preventing me from doing any of my actual job tasks.

        3. the_scientist*

          I’m quite happy to fix printer jams, refill copy papers, attach my own computer to the right printer and work around minor issues (the trackpad on my work laptop only works 80% of the time, so I have to carry a mouse around with me). However, our IT department is responsible for the devices of over 1100 employees and we deal with personal health information…..as a result, I can’t even install a Microsoft Silverlight plugin on my computer without admin privileges, which I do not have. So truthfully, I really can’t do much more than turning the computer off and back on again. Fortunately, my company is willing to pay for a fleet of support staff in addition to systems administrators etc so our department is pretty responsive. But it may be the case that this company has made it so that end users can’t really do their own troubleshooting, in which case they need to be paying for timely support.

          I also suspect that the company is not paying this guy what he’s truly worth, while expecting him to fulfill the responsibilities of two distinct roles. IME it’s pretty common for people to assume that if you have an IT background, you can do anything, when that’s not the reality. Not that either of these potential issues excuse overt hostility.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I’m actually boggling a little bit at the idea of all these workplaces where people have access to their back-end systems, and their IT support people actively want them to google and try random things… If it was even possible, surely that’s against terms of use in most workplaces – in the last few places I’ve worked, the admin privileges have been super tightly controlled, and there have been really clear flowcharts of what to do if you have an error, that have “report it to IT support” very early in the processes.

            1. A Definite Beta Guy*

              A lot of issues are easily solvable and are not back-end. A good example is my coworker who got a desktop for his laptop and could not figure out how to extend his screen.
              This after a coworker and I spent 20 minutes showing him how to do it at work the day before.
              So he called me. From home.
              Then he called IT and asked IT how to fix the issue.
              Then he called IT because he was zoomed out on the page and could not figure how to zoom back in.

              “LMGTFY” is a mighty tempting response.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                OK…. but surely you can’t extrapolate that to “all users are doing this”, in the same way that fairly-technical-me can’t extrapolate something I’ve dealt with to “everything’s a major system fault”?

                (And maybe your user didn’t realise that the problem was he’d zooomed out and couldn’t zoom back in – if so, how would he google that in a way that gave him the answer, if he didn’t know what the problem is? I get it’s frustrating for IT helpdesk staff, to deal with very basic things, but *all* customer service jobs include incredibly frustrating jobs – IT support staff aren’t by any means unique here, and need to have the same patience and politeness as any other customer-facing roles)

        4. neverjaunty*

          And then you end up with the person making things worse, because the thing they Googled gave an incorrect answer, or it was the right answer but didn’t take a bunch of things into account that screwed everything up even further.

          Putting Out Fires, Esq. is right; you don’t want people trying to fix things they truly have no idea how to fix. Are there simple steps that you want users to take before talking to IT? Then make a damn FAQ and distribute it.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I’d rather google first than bother our IT, because they are busy. I usually only call them for hardware stuff–that’s the kind of thing I have little to no experience with. For common software stuff, it’s internet first. I can almost always find a forum or support page where someone asked the same question. Unless the answers are in really dense geekspeak, I can figure it out on my own unless the solution requires access I don’t have.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      he probably isn’t saying things like “you are an idiot” either. Its not his job to coddle adults and make them feel better about themselves.

      But it is his job to show others reasonable courtesy. Sighing heavily and rolling his eyes every time someone makes a request of him is failing in that ‘reasonable courtesy’ area.

      1. Roscoe*

        Is it though? I guess to me, it isn’t clear if his job is actually that of a help desk, or if people are just asking him for help because he is the only IT person there. My company doesn’t have IT, we have developers. The head of development is the “go to” for tech issues. Because we all know how busy he is, we try to limit how much we ask of him. But if it wasn’t his job, and I was asking him anyway, he’d be justified in being annoyed.

        1. Oryx*

          He’s allowed to be annoyed but being courteous to your colleagues is pretty much the unwritten rule of every job description.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          It’s not the users’ fault there is no help desk. If he doesn’t want to do help desk stuff, he should talk to his boss about hiring someone to help out.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Truly, it isn’t clear to you that sighing and rolling your eyes is an inappropriate response to a co-worker’s request?

    3. WellRed*

      I can google all I want, but honestly, technical stuff isn’t something I easily comprehend. Fortunately, our IT department (one guy) is cheerful and helpful.

      1. Anna*

        I’d also add that you can google until the cows come home, but if you don’t have the permissions to do some of the stuff you will still need to call in the person whose job description includes user support. I recently had an issue with my printer. Rather than bug our one person on center who is in charge of all computers and everything else related, I tried to figure it out on my own. I thought I had come up with a solution, but alas. Our systems are so locked down I couldn’t do anything and ended up having to ask anyway.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          This. At my company, we have very few permissions on our computers because of all the confidential information we handle and the various systems the 40ish divisions use. If we try to troubleshoot computer problems without getting IT involved, we leave ourselves vulnerable to a data breach, which could lead to us being sued for billions (we’re a multi-billion dollar company so we wouldn’t become insolvent, but still).

    4. Observer*

      The OP says that he does things like roll his eyes. That’s not people just feeling stupid on their own.

      And, if someone already asked a colleague who is somewhat more savvy than they are, it’s really all the IT staff can expect.

      I say this as someone in much the same position, although I’m fortunate that some time ago we actually did start to outsource most helpdesk stuff. I still get requests, and there are still some routine issues that I have to handle. If I can’t help, I don’t. But eye-rolls and the like are strictly off limits.

      1. Miss Nomer*

        I think it’s important to look at the intentions, too. If the person asked for help from someone else, they’re not just being helpless. Regardless, no eye rolling, but it’s helpful to take intent into account.

  11. jm*

    Suggestion: If the company can’t afford to hire a dedicated IT helpdesk employee, can the Systems Administrator/IT Professional make his next intensive project to be training a current employee in basic computer troubleshooting? Maybe someone like a tech-savvy exec assistant who has some extra time or flexibility? The manager could identify a suitable trainee.

    This would benefit the employees, but it would also mean that simple tasks can be diverted, so the IT Professional is only called for difficult fixes, saving him time.

    We have a huge company with multiple IT folks, but they are constantly swamped, so I, and a few others, help out as we can — we can’t always solve the problem, but we are able to help out with simple stuff and only call the IT folks when absolutely necessary (which saves them a lot of time).

    1. Temperance*

      This is a really great idea. I would look for a younger assistant/secretary who is fresh out of college. She’s probably itching for some responsibility, opportunity to build skills, and something that uses her brain. I loved doing tech support at my first “real” job, because it was so much less dull and brain-numbing than secretarial and reception work was for me. (I know many people who love it, but I felt stupid and devalued every day in that job.)

      1. Red Wheel*

        I don’t mean to criticize your post specifically but I find the assumptions in this thread the IT “guy”( or department) handling the tech stuff is male and the younger assistant/secretary is a female, to be bothersome.
        It really is not my intent to criticize your post but this is a great example of sexism that is built into everyday language and assumptions.

        1. Temperance*

          Fair enough – I happily accept criticism. I was actually trying to *not* be sexist, by offering additional ideas that could bring interesting and potentially valuable skills to women! Sadly, as much as I hate it, most assistants tend to be female and most techs I’ve met are male. (I’m a woman, and I liked tech support much more than secretarial drudgery!)

      2. non-profit manager*

        We have an internal distribution list for employees to use when they have tech problems. Not one single person had any prior experience or were identified as particularly tech savvy. It just fit nicely with other job responsibilities. Four of the five are ladies older than 50. All four of these older ladies have learned so much simply by being willing to help others and to try various trouble-shooting experiments.

    2. Aurion*

      This is a really awesome idea. And I bet the sysadmin/IT pro would be thrilled that someone is taking this stuff off of his plate.

  12. Temperance*

    So he shouldn’t be acting like a jerk, for sure, but I see a few issues in your letter that might make working with him easier for *both* of you (in addition to everything Alison has said).

    He’s working in his office with the door closed because the high-level, critical IT tasks he’s handling require serious focus and concentration. It would be Very Bad to disrupt work on critical, system-wide work because someone doesn’t know how to power cycle their printer.

    Rather than going to his office to ask for help, it might make sense to email him for tech help. Calls and visits are disruptive to detail-oriented work like that, *especially* if it’s for something less urgent. This is by far the preferred method of communication for any IT professional that I’ve worked with.

    It’s also not hard not to call him the IT Guy, especially knowing that he’s salty and hates the term. “IT Guy” infers a low-level tech support jockey, not a Systems Administrator responsible for high-level IT tasks.

    1. Roscoe*

      Great points. Maybe a compromise is that he could have one hour of open office hours to deal with low level tech issues. So if he knows that every day at 2 he may have to help someone power cycle their printer, he may be a bit easier to deal with since he will likely not be in the middle of something important.

    2. Mononymous*

      +1, this company needs a request queue/ticketing system instead of having people show up at the sysadmin’s office door at all hours. There are a ton of out-of-the-box software options for request tracking, and bonus, using a tool like this will help document the volume of requests and possibly help justify adding a tech support person to the team if truly needed.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        And it can be hard for an end user to understand the volume of requests that come in. They are thinking about their need, but they don’t know that 6 other people walked into the IT department with requests in the last hour.
        We have an organization of about 100 people and we average 130 helpdesk tickets a month, and that’s not including the things that don’t get put into tickets. I’m not justifying this guy being a jerk, but I can sure understand the frustration.

        1. Mononymous*

          Absolutely, and it can also be hard for management to see the volume unless they’re told or shown metrics, so they may not realize how much time that work really takes up. The sysadmin needs to quit being a jerk, for sure, but it sounds like the company also needs to reevaluate his role and/or their general IT help policy.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          We have a ticket queue where we can see the number of open/active tickets, which helps us have a realistic idea of how long it might take.

          But we also have internal help documentation that is helpful and easy to navigate – which really cuts down on tickets (even if I can’t find a document or I don’t understand the document, 9 times out of 10 someone sitting near me can help me out).

  13. themmases*

    This guy sounds like his living the Catch-22 of being the only person in your role in a smaller company. There can be amazing autonomy, variety, and opportunity to work on projects you would need years of seniority to touch at a larger company. But there is also plenty of intern-level crap work and stuff that is no one’s official job, but it fits closest to whatever it is people think you do. Been there! It is so frustrating and after a while, it can feel like the only silver lining is the big projects that will help you get out.

    But it doesn’t make it OK to be rude to people. Work is about multidisciplinary teams… There is nothing stupid about someone who doesn’t know your job or can’t immediately articulate what they need from you. If they knew, they would just do it themselves.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this so much, and I can appreciate the frustration on both sides of this situation. It sounds like the organization needs someone to do IT projects and a user-support position (the latter of which can be contracted on an as-needed basis externally if a FTE is too expensive, this is how my organization handles after-hours/weekend/holiday support). I can deeply sympathize with the current SysAdmin, but I also feel pretty strongly that being rude to people is never professional and the frustrations need to be handled more productively.

      First, working the Help Desk sucks. No one ever calls the Help Desk to say, “Hey, thanks for all the good support you’ve provided!” or “I’m so glad my computer is working well today!”. Every single call is a complaint or a request for help, often urgent, often from people who don’t have time and/or vocabulary to explain what exactly is wrong. But they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW. And, if you don’t know everything about every piece of technology ever invented, you’re a moron. (My team gets overflow calls from our Help Desk because they have a reputation for being helpful, and people have been mad at MY TEAM, who is not even supposed to be doing user support, for not knowing, for instance, why a client’s proprietary application is not working. But we can’t call the client for help because we’d “look stupid” for not knowing.)

      Second, having done even informal user support, there are people who have to have things explained to them five times, who expect us to do their work for them, who refuse to use written documentation, who refuse to read error messages to us or tell us what they were doing when the error occurred or allow direct troubleshooting. This makes it really hard to troubleshoot. I know firsthand how frustrating it is to have to take the time to help resolve the issue, but, without some user assistance, we’re shooting in the dark and are going to take more time to figure it out than we would if you’d work with us for 15 minutes. Also, ask me about the person who called me to walk her through a five-step task 30 days in a row in an attempt to frustrate me to the point I’d just do it for her — didn’t work, though I did politely suggest on Day 5 that we spend a few minutes extra together for her to take notes on the process.

      Finally, as noted by calling this man the “IT guy”, there is really very little respect for the time and skills that a lot of IT professionals have. They’re often stuck in the basement or less desirable office space. They’re on call outside of regular business hours in a lot of positions (and hopefully, bonused or otherwise compensated for that time, but not always), they’re up in the middle of the night doing system upgrades, and they are nearly always the butt of office jokes/complaints. I was in the IT department for about 12 years of my career, and I was absolutely treated differently (and with significantly less respect) when I was there than when my team got moved to another department.

  14. Sofie*

    Aside: do not EVER call him the “IT guy.” You will be severely rebuked. He is the “IT professional” or the “Systems Administrator.”

    He is a tool, is what he is.

    1. IT CIO*

      Im sorry you see IT professionals as “tools”, its really important to respect peoples titles, and they really do much more than simply just fix your printer.

      1. Leatherwings*

        I doubt Sofie sees IT Professsionals as tools OR that Sofie doesn’t respect people’s titles.
        I think the insult here was directed at “severely rebuked”

        There’s a difference between nicely saying “I’m actually the systems administrator” and “severely” going off on someone because they called you a common colloquialism for your position. It’s the attitude and tone, not the action that are drawing ire here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, that’s my read of it. We had a recently letter from someone who didn’t want to be called “the compliance lady,” and none of the ensuing discussion about how to handle it included severely rebuking people.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              You disagree that it’s inappropriate to “severely rebuke” your coworkers?

              1. IT CIO*

                No, how he treats is coworkers is completely wrong, however this is a two way street, and if there is not a mutual respect, he will not feel motivated to go the extra mile, so yes the title issue is just as big part of this IT problem as his response, additionally this is a typical old-school IT culture problem, where the IT holds the power and none of the respect, and the business just sees IT as those guys who fix the printers.

                1. Leatherwings*

                  So if it’s wrong for him to treat people this way, why is it wrong for commenters to call him a tool? Yo, he doesn’t get to talk to people this way and still garner a ton of respect. Should OP use his correct title? Totally! It would probably go a long way towards help the entire situation.

                  That doesn’t mean we need to fall all over ourselves defending his right to use a correct title. He’s demonstrated he’s not professional. Saying stuff like “I’m sorry you see IT professionals as tools” when commenters are CLEARLY criticizing his tone is… disingenuous.

                2. IT CIO*

                  Also, will add using labels like “he’s a tool” only make the situation worse, and in-fact de-humanize the issue, I’m not being disingenuous, i am not excusing his un-professional behavior, however… by using labels like “He’s a tool” also places you in the same pool of un-professional behavior. IMO

                3. Leatherwings*

                  Well OP didn’t use the label “he’s a tool” – a commenter did so I think we can safely assume nobody has called this guy a tool and OP is smart enough not to take it into the workplace.

              2. AD*

                Are we sure it’s “severely rebuke”, or is that just a term OP included without giving too much thought to it? I always like to give OPs the benefit of the doubt, but this sounded to me more like a standard embellishment people use in everyday speech.

                1. Leatherwings*

                  I responded to a similar comment down below, but I see no reason we shouldn’t believe the LW, and I think that this information in addition to other descriptions of the SysAdmin’s behavior (eye-rolling, really?) point to the conclusion that this guy is not particularly polite.

                  So no, we aren’t sure because it’s impossible to be positive, but I don’t think it’s useful or kind to nitpick OPs language either.

                2. AD*

                  Fair enough, but eye-rolling and severely rebuking are two very different things.

                  As I said, I always take at face value what OPs write….but sometimes it feels like in the comments we can sometimes over-interpret what they’ve reported of someone else’s behavior.

                3. Leatherwings*

                  But… they’re not two different things. OP says that SysAdmin guy does both (in addition to other bad behavior). I’m taking all these descriptions of bad behavior into account together, which I think is the opposite of over-interpreting.

          1. Daniel*

            It’s hard to tell in this case, but if his job is truly not supposed to entail low-level tech support, he may feel frustrated that people don’t understand that, and calling him the “IT guy” just reinforces that misunderstanding. It’s not just a lack of respect, it’s a title that implies a catch-all type of role.

            Ultimately it’s up to him to address this with his superiors, but I can at least understand his frustration.

            1. Leatherwings*

              I disagree so strongly. I get frustrated about things at work too, but I don’t speak to people in the way that this guy speaks to people.

              Regardless of the situation he’s in it’s just Not Okay to be this rude at work. There are better ways to handle it.

              1. Daniel*

                I agree that based on the letter, this guy seems like he falls more on the side of jerk than just frustrated (the eye-rolling/sighing/making people feel stupid is uncalled for). But in and of itself I think being curt about one’s title and role, especially if it is continually misunderstood, is understandable. Maybe it’s just me underestimating what constitutes a “severe rebuke”.

    2. Trig*

      Ehh. Sysadmin is a serious step up in tasks/responsibilities from Helpdesk IT Guy. If I had the training and responsibility, I’d probably be annoyed too. (I would try not to be high-handed about it, but it sounds like this guy doesn’t have great social skills anyway.)

    3. Dan*

      We had a post not to long ago where someone was objecting to the term “compliance lady.” I wrote something similar to what you did, and was told that a person gets to pick what they are called.

    4. Temperance*

      Eh, I hated when people would call me the “desk girl” when I did reception, so I get it.

    5. Roscoe*

      Why does that make him a tool? He has a title that he prefers people use. If you referred to someone’s assistant as the office secretary, would you have a similar issue? IF he was a doctor and asked to be called such, would you have an issue?

      1. Leatherwings*

        I don’t entirely understand why this is coming up.

        He’s a tool because he severely rebukes people – he speaks overly harshly rather than addressing it in a straightforward and professional way. This simply isn’t the way you behave at work.

        Nobody is saying he’s a tool because he wants people to use the correct title. He’s a tool because of the way he speaks to people about issues that could be addressed much more kindly.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Because he’s “severely rebuking” people over it rather than just politely asking them not to call him that.

        This is pretty fascinating — there were a bunch of men in the “compliance lady” discussion who didn’t see why the letter-writer there should make a big deal about being called that, but here the reverse seems to be happening, even though the person in question here is being rude on top of it.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I’ll have to go back and take a look at that letter. Very interesting (and perhaps telling?)

        2. Roscoe*

          I never saw that one. But in general, I’m all about respecting the titles that people have. However, what I got from this letter is that this wasn’t a one time thing. How many times do people have to ignore his request of what to be called before “severely rebuking” is ok?

          1. Leatherwings*

            IDK 100 million? Severely rebuking people at work is never professional imho.

            If it keeps happening after he mentions it several times, it calls for a sit-down conversation where he says “I’ve asked you several times to call me a systems administrator. You’re still not doing it, and it’s coming across like you don’t respect me. It’s causing X and Y problems for me. What can we do to make sure this stops?”

            Also, let’s not take this statement in a vacuum. He not only severely rebukes people, he rolls his eyes and gets impatient when helping people. This is not an overly professional and polite guy, and I think it’s interesting that folks here are so eager to give him a pass on rudeness.

            1. BRR*

              “Severely rebuking people at work is never professional” I totally agree with this. If a coworker is rude it’s not an excuse to be rude back. It’s not going to help in any way and why would people want to mimic a behavior they don’t like? And very good point about not taking this statement in a vacuum.

            2. sam*

              Also, does this person not have a name? I referred to my IT Guy as IT Guy here in my earlier comment because, well, it’s a comments section on a website, but in real life, I just call him Wakeen*. Is there some reason people are using his (wrong) title all the time instead of just calling him by his name? How do other people address each other in this company where the entire IT department consists of one person?

              *Not his actual first name.

              1. Leatherwings*

                Yeah, actually this makes me think that people at OPs office might not be regularly calling Systems Administrator “IT Guy” all of the time – it might be more like “This is Joe, our IT Guy” or “Can you shoot me an extension for Joe, I need some IT Guy help”
                in which case it’s less of a persistent disrespect thing that Joe has to hear everyday, but an occasional annoyance that he’s not handling well.

                Hard to know for sure, of course, but worth considering.

                1. Anna*

                  It feels like something someone does that they think is funny, but is insulting. First, don’t do that. Second, the guy is being a jerk about it and should probably figure out why it’s bugging him so much. If it’s because it’s showing a certain lack of respect all the way around, that is definitely something that needs to be addressed. Calmly. And professionally.

                2. Christopher Tracy*

                  Or, because he’s rude to people when they come to him with help desk issues (what with the heavy sighing and eye rolls), they decide to be rude back by referring to him by a title they know he hates, thus making him more upset and the vicious cycle continues.

              2. EddieSherbert*

                I was thinking this too! I just call the people on my support team by their names. The only time I’d refer to someone as “an IT guy” would be like…. if I was telling my SO a work story and wanted to give them a reference for “who is who.”

            3. pescadero*

              ” Severely rebuking people at work is never professional imho.”

              I absolutely disagree.

              There is nothing inherently rude in a severe rebuke.

              In fact – this site REGULARLY tell managers they should engage in severely rebuking people.

              rebuke: express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.
              synonyms: reprimand, criticize, castigate

              1. Leatherwings*

                No, Alison never suggests that people criticize or castigate someone. She typically recommends having a direct conversation with someone. Direct doesn’t not equal rebuke. Managers may reprimand someone, but in a constructive and (again) direct way.

                And expressing sharp disapproval to a /coworker/ instead of using a neutral tone to be direct about the issue isn’t appropriate.

                1. LBK*

                  Huh. I guess I don’t read “severely rebuke” as harshly as everyone else is reading it, but maybe that’s because the letter seems a bit riddled with hyperbole to me? I seriously doubt the guy is actually chewing people out beyond just a terse correction – maybe the OP can be a little more specific? Even the most misanthropic among us doesn’t usually go off on a rant over a title correction.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  Well I have a few thoughts on this
                  1) I think we should take OP at their word. You’re saying most of us don’t go off on a rant over a title correction. OP is saying this guy does. Not sure why we wouldn’t believe OP

                  2) “Severely rebuke,” especially in combination with things like the eye rolling and impatience that OP describes absolutely does read as harsh.

                  3) I actually think OP was pretty specific – they provided examples of the System Admins rudeness and described his general attitude towards people in the office and provided context for that attitude. I don’t know how much more detail we need to require of letter writers.

                3. LBK*

                  I guess we’ll agree to disagree. I said this above but that line about the severe rebuke reads like sarcasm to me, even in the context of the rest of the letter – which comes off to me more like a vent than a matter-of-fact description to me, and those tend to be prone to hyperbole. I know we try to take people at their word here, but I’m struggling to do that with this letter, so I think I have to just leave it and move on.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t agree that I regularly tell managers to castigate people! We might have very different definitions of “castigate.” Certainly there are times when a manager needs to express disapproval; rarely should it be sharp, though. Generally speaking, managers should take a collaborative tone with the people they manage. If they need to escalate the seriousness of the tone, it should sound more concerned than castigating.

                1. BRR*

                  You definitely don’t tell managers to castigate people (what is going on with this post’s comments?). I think you have a rule of being polite to coworkers all the time. Giving feedback doesn’t mean it’s castigating. Example, the post yesterday about the dress code. You’ve answered multiple letters on how to soften (while still being direct) what could be awkward feedback.

                2. pescadero*

                  You never tell a manager to “express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions”?

                  Seems to me it happens pretty regularly.

                  __ We might have very different definitions of “castigate.” ___

                  Castigate: reprimand (someone) severely.

              3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Managers have some leeway to do this when their direct reports do something appalling.

                There is no standing to do so to a colleague who is not your employee-who-has-just-screwed-up-big-time.

        3. BRR*

          This comment thread is rather fascinating in general.

          And I agree that if he said “please call me X” that’s one thing but severely rebuking is not an appropriate response and isn’t likely to remedy the situation anyways.

        4. neverjaunty*

          Because you have a lot of techie people here who are instinctively and emotionally aligning with Eye-Rolling Guy.

          1. Leatherwings*

            Agreed. Maybe all the self-righteous people who think other people are idiots identify themselves in this guy and it’s uncomfortable to criticize.

            To be clear, I’m self-righteous all the time (you should hear my internal monologue navigating public transit. Everyone who moves slower than me is an idiot and I roll my eyes at pole-leaners and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MOVE TO THE RIGHT) but I’ve mostly worked out that it’s not acceptable to show it or say it.

            1. LBK*

              I am never more self-righteous than when I’m using public transportation. MOVE INTO THE GODDAMN CENTER OF THE TRAIN. I don’t care if you’re only going one stop, I don’t get to go any stops if you’re blocking the door so I can’t get on! I don’t care if you don’t need to sit, stop wasting space with that empty seat in front of you!

              1. sam*

                Just this morning, all the subways were extra crowded due to an “earlier incident” (I love vague “earlier incidents”), and this guy was literally trying to lean against the pole that three of us were already holding on to. I have a technique that involves digging my knuckles deeply into the most uncomfortable spot in someone’s back when they do this, while putting the most benign, blank stare on my face. I also wear giant headphones so that I can pretend not to hear what anyone actually says to me. When the guy actually turned around to give me a dirty look, I very briefly changed my face from benign to basically a death stare right back at him. Despite the crowded train, he shrunk as far away from me as possible. I am the evil subway etiquette enforcer.

            2. Jaguar*

              Maybe I’m misreading your post, but it’s really obnoxious to speculate on the emotional reasons people express the opinions they do. It does nothing for civil discourse and tends to make people react even more emotionally.

              1. Leatherwings*

                I don’t think it’s a problem at all to speculate as to why there are a billion commenters jumping the defense of someone that a letter writer said was rude and explicitly gave examples of his rudeness. I think the urge of A LOT of people to brush off his rudeness as justified OR say “yeah he’s rude BUT” is coming from somewhere and it’s interesting.

                Also: nobody really got defensive at the self-righteous thing (especially because it’s a thing pretty much everyone does) so I don’t see your point. I actually find it really obnoxious that people constantly jump in and nitpick my language but welcome to the internet?

                1. Jaguar*

                  So the amount of comments matter? There’s a threshold which, after that point, it’s acceptable to second-guess people’s motives and talk about them like they can’t read what you’re saying? I can’t agree with you on that.

                  I don’t know the self-righteous thing is you’re referring to is, so I apologise for not addressing that.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  Holy god. I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about. You replied to my comment about how people get self-righteous (and I included myself in that) and maybe it’s hard to interrogate that in other people when they have the same tendency themselves.

                  I’m not second guessing anybody but I am speculating as to why so many people need to defend the actions of the jerk and/or wonder if really he’s not really a jerk at all and OP was just exaggerating or something.

                  I guess if speculating on a huge and unwieldy thread how it got so huge and unwieldy is obnoxious, then color me guilty.

                3. Jaguar*

                  Again, maybe I’m misreading what you posted. I’m referring specifically to this, which is a bit ambiguous: “Maybe all the self-righteous people who think other people are idiots identify themselves in this guy and it’s uncomfortable to criticize.”

                  That sounds to me like you might be suggesting that anyone “taking the co-worker’s side” might be doing so not because of their stated reasons but because they identify with them and are uncomfortable with criticism. To take the other people in the community you are participating in not at their word and then suggest some other, emotionally charged reason is instead at play really rubs me the wrong way, and I see it happen a lot in the comments. Again, I’m not 100% what you meant with that and I might be reading it wrong.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There is an unusual amount of criticizing/correcting/policing other commenters going on in the comments on this post. I’m hereby asking people to stop that. If I see a problem in any future comments on this post, I will step in — but please let me do any needed moderating. Thank you.

                5. themmases*

                  The OP’s own description of the problem makes them sound like part of the problem. It reminds me a lot of the posts from last week that blew up in that regard.

                  They describe normal behavior (working with the door shut) and doing his job (being away on projects that affect the entire company) as part of a problem with their sys admin’s behavior. They object to rudeness on his part, but then admit that they call him by a condescending title that they know he doesn’t like. They describe their own team in condescending and sexist terms. And if “printer problems” and “computer freeze-ups” are real examples of things they let their team call him about, then their expectations of their team appear to be quite low.

                  I didn’t actually see anyone say it was OK for this guy to be rude just because his job is frustrating. Most of us actually said his job sounds frustrating *but* that doesn’t his behavior OK– pretty much the opposite of what you’re claiming. On the other hand I see plenty of people in this thread who are defending being rude *to* technical staff by mis-titling them, refusing to Google their own problems first, and generally showing lack of respect for others’ time and expertise.

                  I wonder what assumptions we could make about that group? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

                6. sam*

                  well, “printer problems” in my office could be anything from the printer being out of paper or toner, which anyone should be able to figure out themselves and definitely do not require the help of IT services, to “the printer has decided, yet again, to completely stop communicating with everyone’s computers, even after we completely reboot it”. Or my personal favorite, “despite the fact that it ‘claims’ the printer has been installed on your computer (and every other printer at this company across the entire country works fine when installed this way), the new printer in the legal department will print 1000 pages of random html code without warning instead of your document unless IT has manually installed a special driver from an external hard drive on your computer, so everyone please warn any visitors to the office ahead of time and CALL IT immediately!” – you wouldn’t believe how many trees we destroyed on that first day before we sorted out just what was going on. Just reams and reams of html code, and a dozen lawyers all running around trying to figure out how to get their documents for their meetings.

          2. AD*

            That’s harsh, and not in the spirit of what Alison’s commenting guidelines are. Can we all please go easier on one another? Alison said as much upthread.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m not sure why you saw that as harsh? People are explicitly saying that they ‘feel for the guy’ and are seeing things from his point of view because they’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt from ThinkGeek. Some people are even doubting the OP or suggesting that she is not accurately stating what happened.

              1. AD*

                “they’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt from ThinkGeek”

                Not sure what this means, but generalizing comments about IT workers (I am not one, mind you) are not really cool.

                1. Leatherwings*

                  They literally mean other people here are speaking up (a lot) and have been in the situation the SystemAdmin from the original letter – managing high level projects and being expected to be the catch-all for tech people. I’m not sure why that would be considered harsh and I don’t think it counts as “not cool.”

                2. Kelly L.*

                  “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” is a common expression for something you’ve experienced before; it’s a metaphor for going to a place or an event and getting a souvenir t-shirt while you’re there. I think “…from ThinkGeek” was just meant to add a little nerd levity to the phrase.

            2. LBK*

              I didn’t read that as harsh at all? Unless maybe you read it sarcastically or as an indictment of those people? I thought it was a pretty good assessment of why people are letting this slide vs the other situation Alison mentioned.

    6. kay*

      Or he wants to be called by his proper title. I’m a receptionist not ‘phone girl’

  15. CC*

    A few years ago, a bunch of circumstances came together and resulted in me being the only technical person in a company, which resulted in performing a lot of high end and more day to day tasks, and balancing both is super difficult, and it is very, very hard to not get frustrated when your train of thought on a high end project is derailed for something that seems (to you) as far less important. His job performance may largely be measured by the high end projects, and he likely views them as a priority. The guy may be a jerk, but sometimes people are jerks by circumstance and not nature.

    If you can talk to him at least sometimes, you might earn a lot of goodwill if you ask him if he has a better way of contacting him for non urgent issues. Phonecalls and office visits are the enemies of concentration, and if waiting a bit of time is acceptable for the problem, an email might be a better way of contacting him.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      an email might be a better way of contacting him.

      While I fully agree with this assessment, it also sounds as if this guy is also not being extremely helpful. If I were in his shoes (and I have been—just not rude to my users), I would send an email letting people know I’m swamped, email is the best way to contact me, and I will try to get to everything within 24 hours, but certain emergencies may take precedence over other requests. And then, most importantly, actually do that.

      If you tell people to email you with requests, but the emailed requests never get answered but the in-person ones do (even with an eye-roll), people will still most likely approach you in person, because lots of conversations like this will be happening:

      “Oh, this printer is broken again. I’m going to send IT Professional email, even though he never answers those.”
      “Oh, yeah, he totally doesn’t answer those. If you really want to get something done, you just have bug him in his office.”
      “But the door is closed, and he rolls his eyes at me.”
      “Yeah, but it’s the only way he ever gets to things. He doesn’t check email.”

      1. CC*

        Sure, and thats another issue. It sounds from the letter that phone calls are the first round of contact.

        This may not solve the problem entirely, but it may ameliorate issues, and since it seems like the issue revolves pretty heavily around him being a grump, that could make things a bit smoother.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, I really would go with the Pavlovian approach on this. Even if phones are the official first mode of contact, if you are the only IT person, and you never answer the phone, but you do answer emails, people will email you.

      2. paul*

        Of course sometimes “never answers” means “didn’t answer in 10 minutes, the horror the horror!”

  16. Student*

    Are you even sure he’s supposed to help your team with their tech issues? Have you ever tried talking to him directly about it?

    Sysadmins do not normally provide help-desk support. To give some perspective to non-IT folks, sysadmin is a ~$90k per year position (varies dramatically by exact responsibilities, both higher and lower, but a low-paid entry level sysadmin is still a ~$60k job). An IT help-desk position is often minimum wage to ~$40k for a supervisor of a IT help-desk (again, varies if there are additional responsibilities). So, company cost-benefit wise, it might be much better for your team to spend more time trying to troubleshoot their own problems longer and more often instead of quickly bringing him their issues, depending on their own positions – you mention mostly part-timers who are junior staff, which kind of backs up the point that they may be better off spinning their own wheels some before asking him for help.

    Talk with the IT person. Maybe he could train one of your more tech-savvy employees to do some basic troubleshooting on particularly common issues, like fixing the printers, providing basic troubleshooting info on common programs (maybe you already have such a problem). Maybe he will tell you that one or two of your employees is significantly misusing computing resources and getting blow-back and neglect from him for that (complaining that Netflix doesn’t work, installing non-work stuff and getting viruses over and over, asking for illegal copies of company-funded software, complaining about things that are genuinely out of his hands but IT-related are very common hot-button issues).

    Also, I am sure you don’t mean it the way it comes out, but don’t let employees off the hook to learn necessary job tech skills because they are “moms” or “part-timers” or whatever is in your head on this. Soft bigotry of low expectations doesn’t do anyone any favors. They can learn the basic job functions and they will never develop basic tech skills unless someone gives them opportunity to do so.

    1. Dan*

      Yeah, nonwithstanding that “help desk” support by definition is very people oriented, and you need to hire with that in mind.

      AAM was right with her advice as far as it went – it’s not just different roles with different needs, but you typically wouldn’t hire a person suited for one role to do another. The sys admin guy might be a jerk, but if he thought he was hired to do back end work and not deal with people, that pretty much makes the point.

    2. themmases*

      Yes, all of this. Sys admins typically do not provide help desk support… That is a way higher position and yes, it is insulting to constantly call him the IT guy. For a typical person with a sys admin title, the big projects are an appropriate use of his time and the help desk stuff is what is inappropriate.

      That doesn’t make it inappropriate necessarily for individuals to come to him if there is no one else to ask. But it’s very inappropriate, wasteful staffing on the company’s part and it will drive people in this role away who feel they have any option to leave. Asking your sys admin to fix your copier would be like asking your manager to do your copying.

      And +1 to the part-time moms thing. There is nothing about either of those things that would make someone unable to understand office technology. If they’re going to him for help early and often because they’re too new to understand his role or how to fix the printer, maybe those things need to be worked into their orientation.

      1. WasAPartTimerAndMom*

        Agreed. I’m a mother and in my previous 9 year job worked part-time, hours gradually increasing as my children grew, and I was also the most tech-savvy person there the entire time, becoming the go-to person for the company whenever things went wrong on the system. I could fix a wide range of issues as a first port of call, and if I couldn’t, it was escalated to the actual IT contractor.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think that makes sense, though, for an organization that has a “sysadmin” who is the entire tech department. Yes, if you have a sys admin, a network admin, a site reliability engineer, a security engineer, a few technical support staff, and a CTO, a sys admin is a position that will almost never (and possibly completely never) be bothered with day-to-day help desk issues. But this is an organization that has decided its “sysadmin” is the only IT staff, so who is supposed to handle the help desk?

      1. Ursula*

        My husband has exactly this problem at his current job. I come at this from hearing about this every day from exactly the opposite side of the coin to this letter writer. My husband is a one-man department head for general sysadmin, multi-site networking and security concerns, and also plays help-desk to about 40 on-site employees of varying skill levels (a minority of the total pool of actual people who he’s responsible for tech issues, most are off site). He’s designing a multi-site network, training people on highly technical sysadmin issues, overseeing computing security for a multi-site, couple-hundred person org with a boatload of tech, and also fixing the plotter, asking people not to install WoW on company hardware, handing out replacement mice and keyboards, and ordering laptops for incoming employees, and fixing the overhead projector.

        It happens in small places, or places that grow and do a bad job managing the growth. It is a 100% stupid arrangement. My husband has been fighting it for a couple of years, arguing why this needs to change, and getting push-back for it. His management’s recommendation is specifically to ignore more of the help desk stuff in favor of the higher-level stuff. Their earlier position before he started fighting this was that it’s preferable for him to get paid very highly to spend 80% of his time on help-desk stuff that they could pay a quarter of his salary on and 20% of his time on the high-end stuff that he is really employed for. Many of the non-tech people he works with only engage him as “the IT guy” help-desk and have no idea what he actually does, and sometimes they are profoundly startled to hear about his major responsibilities that are his “real” job, whereas his IT colleagues are putting him up for C-level work.

    4. Hannah*

      Honestly, if he’s being abrasive towards people who are asking him for things that he doesn’t see as part of his job, he might actually consider the fact that people are afraid to approach him to be a good result. If he was hired to do both jobs but he only wants to do one, his behavior is really unacceptable. But if he was hired to be a sysadmin and people are just coming to him with help desk problems because they hear IT and don’t realize he’s supposed to be in a much more skilled position… well, it’s not ever nice to make people feel stupid, but I feel bad for him and can’t really blame him too much for his behavior. If you can’t get to your “real work” because people were bugging you about Adobe updates all day, that is really galling. And it is a respect issue, people like to feel that their time and their experience is being respected.

      1. KR*

        To your last point, a lot of times people ask for things that they imagine are small things. “Oh while you have a chance, can you update this?” “This seems like such a simple task, can you do this?” But multiply that by how many requests a day you get and factor in loading time and the time for nearly every person to chat you up about their iPhone or their PC back home or whatever, and suddenly your whole week is gone while the servers still need to be updated, the budget still needs to be done, and your report to your boss still needs to be completed.

        1. Temperance*

          Plus, even if it is just one or two silly requests, that’s going to throw him off his train of thought about the bigger projects that he needs to do.

      2. Fawnling*

        As someone who works in both Help Desk and Systems Administration it really is quite demeaning to consider those in customer-facing Tech Support to not be as skilled. Help Desk frequently gets looked down on for being the bottom barrel in IT when in reality we have a lot of knowledge and skills about a lot of things.

    5. LQ*

      This strikes me as going well you’re an electrical engineer so you can plug in all the lamps.

      This person might also be under pressure from leadership to get the big projects done which they can’t because they are being constantly interrupted.

      If it were me as that sys admin I’d leave. Not to say that he shouldn’t be more pleasant or at least direct, but I think that keeping these things in mind can help to have that conversation more productively.

  17. De Minimis*

    Our IT guy is good, but we do have a similar situation. In our case, we often have a part-time employee/intern who handles a lot of the day-to-day issues. That might be a good option [we’re a smaller organization too.]

    1. De Minimis*

      Wanted to add, it’s only similar in that we have one person handling all of the IT-related duties, not that he is rude or unpleasant in any way!

  18. LTR*

    “I want to make sure my staff can get the help from you they need. Is there something you need us to do differently so that they’re treated more courteously?”

    I love this line. It puts the onus on him to explain how you need to change your approach because he’s an ass; I’m not sure he’ll be able to deliver.

  19. grasshopper*

    Have you tried turning it off and on again? All I can think of is the IT Crowd.

    There is never any reason to be a jerk, but I can understand the frustration of some IT professionals when staff run to them first without reading directions or checking to see if it could be user error.

      1. grasshopper*

        With all due respect John, I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority that if you type “Google” into Google you can break the Internet. So please, no one try it, even for a joke. It’s not a laughing matter. You can break the Internet.

    1. Trig*

      I LITERALLY overheard a “Thanks, it’s working now, we turned it off and on again” conversation the other day. I laughed at my desk.

      And I swear it ALWAYS happens that as soon as I file a support SR, my problem goes away. Story: I was having trouble getting my dang recently-reimaged laptop to boot properly. I did all I could with basic knowledge (tried safe mode, tried startup commands, Googled the error I was getting on my phone). I finally get someone to file an SR for me, our onsite support tech comes down from upstairs, presses the on-button… and it works just fine, never had a problem again. I don’t think he believed me that it didn’t work and I’d put in a best effort, but he was perfectly polite about it anyway.

      So, yeah, I can appreciate IT workers getting frustrated with having to give this kind of support. But its’ also a major part of the job.

      1. Kait*

        I’m in IT, and trust me, we believe you when you say “It only works now that you do it”! I like to cheerfuly tell my end users that occasionally the easiest way to fix something is to tell IT it’s broken. (I also add that they are not bothering me, that’s what I’m here for, it’s no problem, and I’m happy it’s working now.) Not sure why it happens, but every now and then issues truly do resolve themselves like magic when you file an SR. I’m not being sarcastic, and I hope I’ve made that clear! :)

  20. Not IT but A funky tech*

    Your company needs another IT staffer or to redefine his role. A systems admin should NOT being doubling as your desktop support guy. If I were in his shoes I’d probably be frustrated too. Non tech people don’t always get it–they see you work in IT so, hey you must be the person to call when the printer is broke or I downloaded a virus. Not cool unles that really is a part of his job and he is AWARE that is part of his job.
    Maybe something OP can do is confirm this is part of his job with management, if not WORK TOGETHER with your sys admin and use your examples to advocate for help desk staff (maybe even part time or contract based). Often management and functional staff don’t understand why this is critical so bringing him into the conversation will help get the job done and it might also help break down this barrier about his ‘rudeness.’ If they shoot you down, maybe work on an informal help desk ticketing system (could just be via email or google group) to submit your problems and rank priority so you aren’t interrupting him but he can keep track of the ongoing requests. This could also help later to go back to management and say, look –we submit X number of tickets a month, Xnumber are no t resolved and it generally takes X hours to get a resolution on the rest which mean SYS Admin can’t get his other work done and it is slowing us down.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      “Non tech people don’t always get it–they see you work in IT so, hey you must be the person to call when the printer is broke”
      Ygh, I work with numbers and I can’t tell you how many times people hand me their phone/laptop and ask me to fix it. I’m an analyst and I work with reports, therefor I must know why your iphone isn’t saving pictures. sigh

    2. V*

      Yes, this. Work together with him.

      Having been in a similar position (I’m non-profit ops. My job description is usually translated by others as “anything no one else is doing or wants to do”), this would be my first suggestion. If he’s really not supposed to be doing tech support, you’ll find that out. If he is but he’s overworked and frustrated, you’ll both improve his mood and either fix the problem or create a case that both of you can use to advocate together for a different system.

      So many people are assuming this guy is a jerk. I mean, maybe he is, but it’s also possible he’s just in such a bad situation that he’s run out of energy to be pleasant about it.

  21. Nitpick*

    I don’t understand why ‘moms with kids’ can’t troubleshoot computer issues, or should evoke more ire than any other staff member. If they are junior staff members, or part-time, that’s a useful qualifier.

    Alison has it completely right–it’s impossible to be the front line help desk and do any intensive critical work at the same time. I have similar dueling demands, and have the support of my manger to turn off the phone, ignore the help-desk, and get the important stuff done. I’m also not the only one who can do the different aspects of my job, so these things are still being addressed.

    1. KR*

      This was a sticky point for me too. I know many moms with kids who are excellent with computers, my aunt for example.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Hell, I’m pretty sure some posters here are moms who work in IT.

        Expecting women with children to be technically clueless, or allowing them to get away with it, is really pretty sexist.

        1. blackcat*

          I don’t have kids, but I HAAAAATE it when IT folks (always dudes) assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. I always get the sense that it’s because I’m a woman. Male coworkers have confirmed that they do not get the 10,000 questions that I always get when submitting a ticket (eg “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” when the original ticket says “A hard reboot did not solve the problem.”)

          It has happened to me a lot, and I’m really technically competent. As in, if you give me admin privileges, I can easily fix 99% of shit on my own. As in, when I was told it would take SIX WEEKS before anyone would install software on my laptop, I went through the back door built into the Mac OS, created a new admin account, and installed the damn software myself. I know how to google and am highly comfortable doing command line stuff in any unix system. But I’m young, look much younger, and am female.

          I totally get that I have coworkers who are not at all competent with computers that shape the attitudes of the IT folks. But assuming I’m incompetent because I’m female will always, always make my cranky. I am just as good as any entry-level help desk IT person. But lacking admin privileges means I often can’t do much beyond rebooting a system.

          Right now, I’m dealing with a variety of issues with some classroom desk tops (at a university). Someone on high keeps pushing updates that are breaking things. I now refer to the support person who keeps coming to fix it as “My man John.” John’s got my back. John likes the support tickets I send, “I’m seeing X and Y error messages (see attached screenshots). I believe the root cause is Z, because when I look in these settings I see Q. Should be a matter of adjusting P preferences, but, alas, I lack the power.” He replies with “Ok, how about this time?” rather than the usual, “Z is unlikely. Are you sure you are typing your password correctly?” Even when the problem isn’t Z*, John is awesome. John treats me like a fellow smart professional… and often complains about the lack of communication within our IT services that would prevent these problems from happening in the first place.

          *Currently, a computer is having mystery problem WTF?!?! John does not want to wipe the machine and start fresh b/c there’s specialized software that’s a pain to reinstall. But John did not blame me at all when my ticket was all, “This seems to be Z. Should be a quick fix.” After all, when he first looked at it, he said, “Oh, yeah, this is Z. I should be done in 5…. wait, what? Huh. That’s weird.”

  22. AndersonDarling*

    It sounds like the organization needs a helpdesk ticket system. That could go a long way with helping the IT Professional deal with the projects vs constant interruptions.
    Or is there a ticket system and no one is using it? That would really burn my biscuits.

  23. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Would it be possible for him to write up a basic trouble-shooting guide so that everyone has a reference for the first basic steps to take? That might lessen the number of interruptions and empower your junior employees to know it’s okay to try and google the answer. I’ve been the only “tech-savvy” person who spends their day googling things for people because at the first sign of an issue, they throw their hands up and go “oh… technology!” It’ll drive you bonkers and be a serious impediment on productivity.

  24. Gene*

    then they need to look at other solutions — … telling staff members they’re on their own for day-to-day tech support,

    ¿Que? How is a staff member supposed to do that? Call their neighborhood 14-year old kid who helps them at home? “My MacBook is acting up, I’m headed to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store, see you in a few hours!” Take it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy?

    It’s a company resource, the company is responsible for keeping it in operating condition.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yes, the company is totally responsible for keeping up on IT stuff, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this guy needs to be available to fix things 40 hours a week. Management making it clear to people that it isn’t his job to fix the jammed printer might be entirely reasonable. There might need to be a checklist of things people try before calling him (checking with lower level X person, googling it, or calling a microsoft help line or something could be options they could try).
      This is also just one possible solution. It could also mean setting up a ticket system, hiring a part time person, or setting up a secondary person who can fix some more basic issues.

      Bottom line is obviously whatever is currently happening isn’t working for a variety of reasons.

    2. Pwyll*

      I think this depends on the business. In a very small business with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) culture, where people use their own laptops and phones and such and just connect to a shared network and printers, it CAN be reasonable to tell people their own IT needs are up to them. It’s a resources game, and that’s just a reality in smaller businesses, the same as many of them not having HR staff.

      Certainly not ideal, or a best practice, but not inherently unreasonable.

  25. Avangelis*

    Yeah he is rude and a jerk

    But I can kind of understand where he’s coming from. These small companies hire one IT person to do everything and its just too much. I used to be the sole IT person for a doctors office. I’d get calls on my time of about billing software, personal phones not working, the floor needs to be vacuumed, the coffee machine is clogged.

    It got to the point where if the staff didn’t know about the subject whether it was IT related or not it became my problem because I must be the all knowing IT person. Hence, being called the IT guy would kind of annoy me too. I call people by their name or title. I didn’t call the nurses “Nurse Ladies”

    Yes he needs to fix his attitude but I wonder if he is being compensated fairly for the tasks he does and the infringement on his personal time. I sense a burn out

    1. Lily in NYC*

      It’s still no excuse to be a dick. I have an extremely frustrating job and deal with clueless people who can’t follow simple compliance instructions. However, I NEVER take my frustrations out on these people. It’s unprofessional. He should quit if he’s not happy. Oh, and everyone calls me “the compliance lady” and I never complain about it or reprimand people. I just don’t care and I am the compliance person, so it seems silly to take it personally.

      1. Avangelis*

        Now he is a dick lol?

        I agree that he’s rude but I wanted to comment on the side that the letter writer is missing.

        Yes he needs to be polite and professional but also other things play in factor, it seems like the letter writer doesn’t seem know overloaded he is with both titles and thus in addition to him being rude thinks he is unresponsive.

        There’s work to be done on both sides here.

    2. Menacia*

      While I don’t agree with his attitude toward people asking him for help (it must be part his job if people are going to him?), I also agree that some smaller companies do go the cheap route and place unrealistic expectations on people. I’m sure this guy is overwhelmed, but instead of making a concerted effort to figure out how to fit in day t0 day support and his projects (with his manager, of course), he’s just taking his frustrations out on the end users. I also work on a helpdesk providing day to day support as well as working on projects, but here are 5 of us in a company of about 350 users. If we were ever found to be condescending or rude to our end users, we would be in serious trouble because the customer is our first priority, and everything else comes second, which is how it should be. What is going to happen is that people will stop going to him due to his attitude, and issues will fall though the cracks, or get worse which will lead to productivity and other issues.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        He needs to grow a spine and talk to his manager about his responsibilities, and maybe about getting someone else in to help with this. Unless he already has, and they have no intention of getting him any help, in which case it might be time for him to start looking.

      2. TechPro*

        Oh the tasks I do for others because they bring them to me, expecting me to do them when they habve nothing to do with my job description!

  26. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    I would not be surprised if upper management knows full well that he can’t do both jobs well and still demand that he do them. They can’t afford another IT professional, but they also can’t afford to outsource help desk duties. Eventually he’ll burn out and one day you’ll come in and he’ll be gone. Probably on a day when you really need an IT Professional to fix something.

    1. Leatherwings*

      True. This is the case for the poor developers at my workplace too. They eventually spoke up (to their boss, in a polite way) and said they had to cut down on IT help they’re performing. There was pushback initially from others in the org, but the new manager in that department stuck up for them. It’s been a strain now that we don’t have anyone in that role, and sometimes I have to go to Kinkos to print something because it takes a few days to resolve things but *shrug.*

      Management definitely needs to fix the current situation.

    2. Avangelis*

      This is true. I just stopped showing up. The job got so bad if I didnt quit on the spot I was gonna have a mental break down.

      1. AD*

        Can you please stop with the rude comments about IT workers. They’re overgeneralizations, and not really in the spirit of AAM commenting guidelines.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I literally don’t understand how you read that from neverjaunty’s post. Neverjaunty didn’t generalize IT people, I believe they were implying that the IT professional from the original letter doesn’t have basic social skills as illustrated by his rude behavior towards coworkers.

  27. jw*

    Help desk/desktop support is not an IT position. It’s customer service. The System Administrator is an IT/tech position. The company is asking a professional to do a job that barely requires a high school diploma. It’s a pretty crappy thing to do to someone. People that aren’t tech just see it as their needs not getting met which is pretty short sighted.

    The company should train the masses in how to use their computers. Computers are ubiquitous now people should know how to use the tools for their job. If they can’t use the tools required they should either get training or the company should hire someone that can use the tools. If you go to a job site you don’t see someone providing support on how to use the tools. So basically the company is wasting money by creating a position to do pieces of other people’s job for them. The solution is for people to know their tools.

    The IT pro probably might not have realized he would be expected to do support, or he was told it would be a very minuscule part of his job. Then the company hires an IT person and then others see it as a way to off load knowledge to someone else. Then when he gets testy that he’s not even suppose to be doing those pieces people accuse him of not being a team player.

    I feel sorry for this guy.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I have no sympathy for people who can’t be civil at their jobs. There are plenty of people with frustrating positions who manage not to be jerks.

      1. Pwyll*

        I would generally agree, but I’m also not entirely sure we have the whole story here. Sure, people should generally be civil in their jobs, but I also don’t think it’s entirely his fault, either, unless he hasn’t attempted to address this problem with his own boss.

        For example, I think it’d be understandable for someone hired as a Heart Surgeon to be annoyed to be asked to, say, suture an elbow cut up because there weren’t any Residents on call at the time. And I’d expect the surgeon to be civil about it and pitch in when needed.

        But if the company is NEVER putting residents on call, and now Surgeon is being stopped by nurses and administrators to do all sorts of resident-level tasks instead of, you know, heart surgery, I’m not so sure that the manifestation of that frustration is unreasonable.

        Ultimately, I think the problem here is the company’s management, not the IT Guy. They either need to communicate to him that this is part of his job, in which case he needs to act with more courtesy, or they need to make it clear it’s NOT his job, and provide alternative guidance to the staff. And if that’s what they do, and the troubleshooting interruptions stop, I bet his attitude would magically turn around.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          If you are so unhappy at your job that you can’t manage to be civil, then it’s time to leave. There is no excuse for taking your frustrations out on your coworkers (I mean the Understood You, not you personally).

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            This seems to justify treating IT professionals any old way. As an IT professional, if you’re civil to me, I’m civil to you. If you talk to me as if I’m beneath your contempt as the hired help because the piece of equipment giving you trouble plugs into the wall……. then you’ll get the same attitude from me. If that becomes an issue, you can always meet me in the dojang and we can settle it there.

            And I mean the generic you, not you personally.

      2. Ursula*

        I disagree because I have heard some of the absolutely appalling things my husband’s been asked to do in exactly the position described by the OP. If anything, he holds his temper and goes along with people until it’s far past where someone ought to be suffering consequences for bad behavior. They are always horrified when he drops their issue to deal with more important stuff, or starts ignoring them when lesser remedies fail. Moreso than with other office jobs, people try to push limits with IT workers in inappropriate ways.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, I agree. I still think it’s not grounds for being rude to your coworkers, but could see where he’s coming from.

      If hiring another person isn’t an option, it might be nice to have troubleshooting documents, help sites, or references for general computer (and printer) issues at the OP’s company. My company has really nice internal help documentation, which really cuts back on our IT tickets.

      Even if I can’t figure something out (or don’t understand the help document), most of the time someone sitting in my area can (and I don’t need to involve our very busy IT team).

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      But this isn’t use, it’s repair, essentially. If a CNC machine goes down, usually the users can do a few simple steps towards fixing it (the equivalent of a reboot), but lots of places need to call a guy to fix it after that. My old company repaired stuff like it all the time. There’s a difference between using something very well and being familiar with its inner workings.

    4. Adlib*

      Computers may be ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean people know how to use them at more than a basic level even if they’ve done so for years. I have met plenty of people in my organization that don’t have the skills that I consider basic just because they aren’t technologically inclined like some of us. Either way, it requires patience to explain and/or help them. I deal with users on an almost daily basis remotely. Also, a lot of people who work in fields outside of an office environment also don’t have time or the inclination to spend time learning about computers when they could be generating revenue for the company.

      1. jw*

        >Either way, it requires patience to explain and/or help them. I deal with users on an almost daily basis remotely.

        Exactly why I said IT support is not a tech position but a customer service position. The guy is working outside his industry by doing support.

    5. neverjaunty*

      As a tech-savvy person, I am really, really sick of this idea that it’s OK to be condescending and think people are idiots if they don’t know how to fix most of their computer problems “because everybody uses computers”.

  28. IT_Guy*

    I too am a sysadmin type of IT person, and I’ve done help desk / desk top support and they are two different mindsets and skill sets. If I was in the OP’s shoes, I would try to guestimate the total cost of having a person being down/unproductive because their widget wouldn’t boot/load/print/calculate to find the net cost of NOT having a desktop person. I would then bring that to her boss and try to nudge them to take it up the chain because the sysadmin person is busy doing sysadmin stuff that is most likely mission critical and while desktop support may not be as much fun it is very critical to the company as well.

    If you can quantify the cost of being ‘down’ that would allow you to hopefully get some budget money for an outside vendor to do full time or temporary contract desktop support.

    When you put it in $$$$ then senior management tends to take notice.

  29. Lily in NYC*

    Wow, this guy sounds unpleasant to work with. I feel so lucky right now because our computer department is full of helpful people who rock at their jobs and manage to be pleasant at the same time. I think I’ll go buy them some Munchkins.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      The dba I work with doesn’t drink coffee of eat doughnuts, I think he might be a fraud.

      1. A Non*

        DBAs are a species unto themselves.

        (For the non-tech people reading this: DBA = database administrator. They do really heavy duty abstract data manipulation, and scare other IT people. Most IT people are humans who can think in computer. DBAs might actually be computers who look like humans. )

  30. Sharkey*

    I don’t think it’s okay for the IT professional to roll his eyes or be a jerk when someone has a request.

    However, this setup is the equivalent of asking an executive to also field the phone lines. If a company wouldn’t do that, why is it fine to cut those corners when it comes to IT? The roles don’t require the same types of skills and, generally speaking, you wouldn’t hire the same people for each role (and you’d likely suffer in one area if you tried.) The tasks performed by each role isn’t even really compatible. High level IT work will require periods of uninterrupted concentration whereas general support requests typically require a quick response. I’d probably be frustrated about it too, although I would certainly hope that I’d be better at hiding my frustrations and I’d certainly not take it out on others who are innocent bystanders.

  31. LAP*

    I feel like the responses to this issue are probably split between people who are good at customer service and those who aren’t. The former can’t understand why everyone can’t be a good customer service professional and the latter know it’s not their strength, never will be, and can identify with this guy.

    Bottom line: this guy probably knows he shouldn’t be doing the help desk role and the issue will probably become moot if his job doesn’t change because he’ll leave.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I disagree. There is a huge difference between not being good at customer service and being a condescending jerk. A curt response, sure. Heavy sighs and eye-rolling? You don’t need special people skills to know that’s not cool.

    2. Ursula*

      There’s a huge cost-benefit cut, too. I’m firmly of the “this is a waste of a sysadmin’s time, period, to do any significant help-desk support for anyone who isn’t C-level”. I think a lot of people have no idea what a sysadmin is and thus really don’t understand this is equivalent to asking a highly paid legal adviser to also clean up the kitchen each Friday and cover reception every day while the receptionist is at lunch.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      I think you’ll find a lot of people on the “good at customer service” side are more “people who have been expected to be good at customer service”. It’s a *skill* and just because it’s natural to some people doesn’t mean everyone who’s good at it is a natural.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      You can be good at customer service and still be frustrated at people who talk down to you because you’re just the “IT Guy”. The people talking about no excuse for this guy being rude are largely silent about how people treat him…. and that’s just as important.

      As an IT professional, if you (generic) are civil to me, I’m civil to you. If you speak to me as if I’m something you scraped off the bottom of your shoes, I’m going to give you the same attitude. If that becomes an issue, we can always settle it later in the dojang.

  32. Adlib*

    OP might bring up with the manager that some of these issues prevent them from effectively doing their job, and if the IT guy is slow and/or not responsive to their requests, it affects daily operations.

  33. C Average*

    I’m gonna throw in a semi-related PSA here: If you have a GOOD IT person and/or sys admin, throw ’em some love.

    I used to be part of a team that worked closely with the sys admins in our department, and we came to really appreciate their speed, competence, and friendliness. They were awesome. They were everything the stereotypical IT department is not. I can’t remember them once being rude, dismissive, or condescending, even though I’m sure we made many requests that seemed ridiculous to them.

    We went out of our way to periodically bring them treats and include them in invites for post-work drinks, and we made sure to email their management to call out how great they were. They told us often that no one else did this; they tended to only get complaints on the rare occasions when they couldn’t solve something or were perceived as dismissive.

    1. Aurion*

      Wasn’t it Jamie who happily encouraged to always be nice to your IT staff and bribe them with cupcakes?

      Appreciation goes such a long way.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Mountain Dew and Cookies have always worked for bribes with my IT people.

      2. LBK*

        Aw man, where’s Jamie when you need her? I’d love to hear her perspective on this post.

        1. Jamie*

          Awwww….I totally saw the batsignal! (hellokitty signal?) :)

          I’m going to go ahead and declare myself a subject matter expert on this – yes, he’s acting like a jerk from what’s being described. And yes, he (like all of us) are responsible for his own attitude and demeanor and I’m willing to concede he could just be a raging jackass of a human being and would be unpleasant regardless.

          That said…he’s tired. He’s frustrated. And he’s angry. Not at the users – trust me – he’s angry that the structure of his job is such that he’s expected to continually switch between very different skill sets in his head.

          Want what we can call the help desk app? Well, pull it up and let it load properly and all of the executeables that manage pleasantness, tone, targeting message to the technical level of the audience, and whatever tech mojo is required start humming along.

          You want the move the ball down the field on strategic projects app which will always be orders of magnitude more technically complex than helpdesk? Fine…drop in hyperfocus, strategic thinking, advanced problem solving, and kick critical thinking skills to 11 because vetting new information, research, recognizing patterns in data as your executables.

          He could be great at both of those things – many people have multiple competencies.

          Now switch those apps back and forth. A lot. Faster. But no…you don’t switch them have someone else switch them randomly. Some days a little, some days constantly. You can’t leave them running in the background – not how it works. Log off one, onto the other, back, and back again. Not knowing how long you’ll have to be in strategic mode before someone shuts down your mind app on you. Minutes? Hours? All day? Never all day.

          So he has two choices: stay late as a matter of course to do at night on what should be his own time the work he couldn’t get done during the day while doing other work.

          Or he can try to juggle and the long term stuff takes a eleventy times longer and the desktop stuff is eleventy times more frustrating than it needs to be.

          If I’m right and he’s not inherently a jerk, he’s not choosing between being rude and asking you about your weekend while seamlessly dispensing knowledge in lay terms. He’s choosing between being rude and completely losing his shit because he’s frustrated and tired and feels like a failure because no matter what he’s doing there is something he’s not doing that someone else is pissed about.

          The terseness you get may very well be the best he can do at that moment.

          That’s not to say every end user is always the innocent victims of super mean IT people. No, you are not expected to know technical terms but do you know how many requests for help are along the lines of “I don’t know how to open this file” (no mention of what file, the name, the type, or even a forward of said file) or “my password is broken.” Or “my computer isn’t working right.”

          You don’t have to be technical to know they will need more information.

          Also…a non-zero segment of the user public, which is more significant than it should be, will call IT because “nothing is working” without looking to see that they kicked the cable out of the socket. Or because their mouse isn’t working …if you need IT to tell you to replace the batteries in your cordless mouse you’re part of the problem (general you – not LBK who – Hi, LBK!!)

          My advice would be for his bosses to work out a better structure for the position and/or hire some low level tech support, and for people to stop expecting IT to be all sunshine and rainbow kisses from a kitten ridding a unicorn in an Up with People parade when they’re working through interruptions that would bring most people to their knees.

          But here’s a protip. Even on the worst days there are some users who will always be less annoying than others and some days we welcome their support calls because we know they are going to do what they can to help us help them. They are the ones who have common sense and treat us like people and not the help who is there to submit and serve.

          I can’t wait to get home and read the other comments – I scrolled by a couple that infuriated me in the best way…I’ve missed it here!

            1. Jamie*

              See! No matter what IT does it’s never enough…always something else we should have done, too.

              The persecution…


          1. C Average*

            Jaaaaaamiiiiie! Welcome back. I can’t wait to see you weigh in on some of the other comments on this thread.

            1. Jamie*

              Overall – holy crap people are polarized by this topic!

              I agree with those who say the eye rolling and sighs totally uncalled for no matter what, hope my post didn’t seem like I would give a pass to overt rudeness because no.

              And those who think IT thinks we’re better than everyone else? Every field has jerks. I think we have the coolest job, but that’s not better or worse. I hope everyone thinks their job is the coolest. When I have users who feel ashamed that I have to help them out with something basic I always point out they have professional skills I don’t have – this is just my wheelhouse and if I had to fix something in theirs I’d be lost.

              One of the best compliments I received in my career was from a user who was crying after I showed her something (which not gonna lie, freaked me out a little because I thought I was being perfectly nice) and said she was crying because she was so grateful that I don’t make her feel stupid. She was always afraid to talk to the person to whom she went before but when I showed her stuff she felt she’ll be able to learn it eventually. So I’m not an advocate for treating users badly nor are the vast majority of ITs I know.

              I disagree with those above to said the woman shouldn’t be sending notes to her IT of what she fixed herself and that the IT was probably annoyed. Those notes aren’t something I’d ask for but I would absolutely appreciate that she respected my time enough to want to give me a heads up that something might be weird. Contrast that to the users who tell you after their hard drive failed that it had been making a weird clicking noise for weeks and never mentioned it.

              The people declaring that X number of users makes an IT horrible at their job if this would bother them…it’s a real show of lack of understanding of how vastly different networks are. You can have 200 users all on well maintained windows machines and it’s a piece of cake …or 50 users with hundreds of networked specialty production machines with highly temperamental software in some. The strategic stuff could be managerial or it could be writing the code for reports you’re designing to show x efficiency, or production opportunity costs, or a million other things.

              Anyone who feels they can state someone is shitty at their job because of variables as basic as number of users is naive at best.

              The comment about being an advanced user because of being proficient at Excel or something? If you say that to your IT they will smile…because what you do with Excel has nothing to do with what kind of user we think you are. Of course no thinking IT expects non-technical users to be familiar with the backend of things…it’s ridiculous as it’s not like we’re going to give you rights to edit the registry and solve your own problems….but ITs official interest in your excel is installation and licence management.

              Don’t get me wrong – love Excel and in other parts of my job I want to buy diamond ponies for people with advanced Excel skills…but not IT.

              Oh and the person who said they don’t know technical stuff so they shouldn’t be expected to know the names of the cables on the back of her computer or something? You don’t have to be technical to know which goes to the power outlet, monitors, printer, or network jack. That’s the kind of stuff that makes us roll our eyes – although when we’re alone so feelings aren’t hurt – but come on.

              Protip – sometimes when explaining if we don’t know the knowledge level of the person we may guess wrong and use terms you don’t understand. Or we may just forget to translate. Asking for an explanation is wonderful because we WANT you to understand what we’re saying – unless it’s your job to know whatever I would never judge on that. Conversely if I’m being too basic and ask you to tell me what color the LED lights are on the blue cable and you say, ‘oh, the cat5’ I know I can ratchet it up a little.

              And those who seem to have a chip on their shoulder for IT….don’t accept unprofessional behavior but even the jerks have favorite users and pragmatically it can be useful being on that list.

              1. LBK*

                Ha, I think I freaked out a customer service rep once by crying on the phone. I’d been dealing with this medical bill for 6 months, going back and forth between the insurance company, the doctor’s office and the lab and every time they pointed me back to one of the other parties. Finally, I got a woman on the phone at the lab who looked at the bill and said “Oh, you shouldn’t have to pay this. Just tell me what the last bill you got said for the amount due and I’ll clear it out for you.” I burst into tears because it had been going on for SO LONG and to finally find the one person who could help me without making it someone else’s problem was such a relief.

          2. LBK*

            Hi Jamie!!! I’m so glad the Hello Kitty signal worked because as expected, you explained what I was trying to say elsewhere so well. I relate SO MUCH to that app switching metaphor – I don’t do IT, but I’m the go-to person in a department full of newbies so I’m constantly being interrupted with questions while in the midst of deep concentration on other projects and problems, and I know I’m not as nice and friendly as I should be to them.

            I hate it because I can hear myself being grouchy (not necessarily mean, but definitely not friendly and my facial expressions probably have too much “NOW what do you want???” coming across). But you described it perfectly – it takes time to load up pleasant, polite, ready-to-explain-stuff LBK when I don’t already have that mindset on, so when I’m pulled out of a (most likely frustrating) project or issue, customer service LBK isn’t ready to talk to people. Instead they get annoyed, problem-solver LBK who really isn’t mad at you, he’s mad at his spreadsheets and forgot to stick on a smile before he turned his chair around.

            And that LBK is also the one who doesn’t have quite as much patience when you haven’t done everything you could to help yourself first, or when you can’t seem to explain you question (I have definitely responded to a lot of questions lately with a puzzled expression and “Wait, back up, what? Context?”). I think that’s perfectly analogous to users coming to IT with extremely vague “my computer isn’t working” problems or who haven’t even tried rebooting.

            Yes, part of your job is to deal with that kind of crap, but I think anyone who’s ever done customer service could tell you that you put on a front when you’re doing CS so that you can stay patient and professional while dealing with stupid crap, and you have to turn it on before you start work and you definitely turn it off when you leave (for some people it even comes with a fake voice! I used to laugh every time one of my coworkers would finish up with a customer and she would go from her cutesy, bubbly CS voice back to her actual sassy, sarcastic drone). Having to flip back and forth all day would be exhausting.

            I think that’s the reason I feel sympathy for the sysadmin here more than disdain, because I identify so much with being in that situation and really, really not being mad at the people you’re working with, but just being too exhausted to not let your emotions bleed over.

          3. BeenThere*

            LOUD CLAPPING! Thank you Jaime!

            I held off commenting because I couldn’t type without getting seriously angry and this statement made me feel better “for people to stop expecting IT to be all sunshine and rainbow kisses from a kitten ridding a unicorn in an Up with People parade when they’re working through interruptions that would bring most people to their knees”

            This is the other side that people don’t understand, if you force a dev, sys admin to do help desk it harms their professional growth. That is why this “IT Guy” ( I really object to this term) is so blunt and rude. He is probably trying not to get boxed in and have to take a demotion to leave.

            I’m another Software Engineer here who has left many jobs over attempts to be shoe horned into support roles. The only way I was able to protect my professional development in many cases was to be completely unfriendly, otherwise people would never leave me alone. There are plenty of reasonable coworkers who I would chat with when it came up about how I was hired to do X and I love X and now they want me to do Y and we agreed when I was hired I would not do Y. Then they fired the guy who did Y and think they are going to get two for the price of one because I demonstrated some skill at talking to people. These people are great, they recognize I am as busy as they are possibly busier because sometimes I have to wait until 5pm to get the quiet I need to work. They generally became self service and start pushing upper management for the additional resources that are actually needed.

            Then there are the special snowflakes, keep in mind I wasn’t even being pushed for Helpdesk just application specific support. One lunchtime (I worked through lunch because it was quiet) this research analyst comes up while I am knee deep in complex code ( it takes about an hour to get into this state) with a really urgent look on his face, so I play nice, after all the sky could be falling. Deep breath, I remove headphones.

            Me: “Hi what’s up?”
            Chicken Little:”Did you have a screwdriver for a Samsung phone”
            Me:”No” (though train: we only get Blackberries and if you are lucky enough one of the iPhones WTF)
            Chicken Little:”Do you know where Helpdesk Person keeps them”
            Me:”No, why would I?”
            Chicken Little:”Oh because you’re IT”
            Me:”I’m not that kind of IT”
            Chicken Little:”But I thought you would have them anyway” Puts on best learned helplessness face.
            Me: Shakes head. Puts headphones back on. Make mental note to check with Helpdesk people about this particular person.

            When I checked in with my best friends at work Helpdesk sure enough Chicken Little was well known. This is the other thing, everyone under the IT banner talks to each other even if they have very different roles are particularly when they are treated as second class citizens.

            If was nice to every lazy fool that walked up to my desk I would never get any code written and would have nothing to show when I tried to get my next role, which happens rapidly when I’m bait and switched. I have excellent communication skills, which is part of the reason I’m always getting pushed into support and also means I have very fun conversations with HR when I leave and with my manager during trying to get them to actually manage.

            I believe at my last job my manager was fired a month after I left.

            Please be very kind to everyone, not just IT. You have not walked in their shoes and you do know know their story.

    2. A Non*

      There’s a truism in IT that if things go wrong, people assume you’re crap at your job, and if things go well, people assume you don’t do a damn thing. It’s the nature of the job that we see more anger than appreciation, so it means a lot when people are aware of that fact and go out of their way to be appreciative. I assume other support roles are like this as well and try to do the same for them.

      (Also, I have yet to meet an IT person who couldn’t be bribed with food. Just make sure to find out what they like and can actually eat.)

  34. Mike*

    This could be easily fixed with a ticket system. Easily. All it would take is a senior manager to order one built by the guy using $200 worth of old hardware and some open source packages and tell everyone “unless there is an impending crisis, do not bug the IT Department without filing a ticket and waiting a reasonable period.”

    Because guess what. The printer not working is not necessarily his priority. You put a ticket in the system, there is a metric that can be bounced to his boss and triaged. The reality is that office workers often hate ticket systems because it makes them feel less important.

    1. Pwyll*

      But that assumes that the daily troubleshooting actually is the IT pro’s official responsibility, and not just a creature of being the only person around with tech knowledge. There’s still the issue where someone will have to read the tickets and actually troubleshoot and fix the problem.

      It doesn’t so much sound like an “overwhelmed with tech issues” problem so much as a “there’s no one here whose official job is maintenance.” A ticket system isn’t going to do anything other than document the issue.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Never mind that you also have to police people to actually use the ticketing system. I guarantee you if the “IT guy” doesn’t want a ticketing system and doesn’t actually answer tickets ever, no user is ever going to create a ticket.

        1. Simba*

          Anyone who works in IT who doesn’t want to use a ticketing system should be immediately replaced for not knowing how to do their job.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I agree with you in theory, but I’ve worked for some amazing people who are ticketing system–resistant. Of course, I like documenting things…

        2. Mike*

          If he doesn’t want one and they won’t use it, it sounds like they deserve each other.

      2. Simba*

        Fixing printers is the IT departments responsibility, usually. It’s certainly not the responsibility of the sales department.

    2. Chinook*

      “The printer not working is not necessarily his priority. You put a ticket in the system, there is a metric that can be bounced to his boss and triaged.”

      As long as the person triaging understands that a non-functioning printer is a high priority to some people because it can literally bring a project to a halt. I spent one morning literally running around our office trying to find a functioning colour printer for a director who needed a document for a last minute meeting with an auditor. Most of the printers were out of toner and I was ready to break into the locked supply closet to get a replacement that we requested the previous morning. Facilities’ response when they came in at 8 (I was doing this at 7:15) was that it was still printing last night, so it didn’t need to be replaced. Well, that would explain why it halted 1 . Into printing the director’s document, eh?

  35. Cat Boss Meme*

    I will never understand why so many people are so reluctant to learn how to do more of their own computer/IT issues. My desktop is my lifeline. If it’s not working, then I’m not working. If my computer freezes up or won’t turn on then I have no way to do my work. Am I just supposed to sit there and read magazines or play with my phone while I’m on the clock for a few hours until Jeremy from IT has some free time to come upstairs and turn my power strip on and off? There are a lot of simple things that people can do themselves, but more often than not, I hear co-workers say, “Hey, I’m not paid to fix this thing.”

    If you were a chef, and your herb grinder came apart, wouldn’t you see if you could screw it back on? If you were a farmer or a custodian and something stopped working you’d most likely fix it yourself or at least try a few things, like replacing the batteries, or turning the switch on and off. But when it comes to the office, people are very quick to just throw up their hands and say, “I’m not even going to touch it! Or I’ll only make it worse, ha ha! Or I don’t make the IT bucks let Jeremy fix it.” I have a co-worker who won’t even try the smallest things herself even when we tell her, turn it off for a few minutes, or reboot it, or empty your trash, or delete all these old emails, or get rid of all this on your desktop that you don’t need” but she could care less. So Jeremy comes up every week to jiggle her mouse and tap her space bar a few times – -and no, that doesn’t sound as weird as that implies! I can see him trying to tamp down his frustration every time he says, “Remember how I showed you how to restart this last time?”

    Yet her manager doesn’t seem to think this woman could use a little encouragement about learning a few basic computer operating skills for a tool that is an integral part of her job, or even allowing her co-workers to talk her through a reboot before calling Jeremy.

    1. KR*

      Tips from an IT professional…
      1) If you’re in a large organization, chances are you can’t break it. You don’t have administrative rights over your PC/network and one wrong move is very unlikely to break your PC beyond repair.
      2) READ WHAT THE SCREEN IS TELLING YOU. This exchange happens more times than I can count… Employee: I keep getting a message on my screen when I try to do this thing! Me: What does the message say? Employee: I don’t know I just closed it! Me: Okay, do what you did to try to make the message come up again. I don’t know what’s wrong either until I know what the message is saying.
      Usually it’s something incredibly simple the employee could have done themselves, but please read what the screen says. Your PC has a lot to tell you, listen to it.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Where I work we have actually trained a lot of our users to take pictures of the error on the screen with their phones and email us that.

    2. neverjaunty*

      People are very quick to throw up their hands precisely because computers are integral to their jobs and because poking around with what they don’t know can make things worse. It’s the same reason they don’t pull over on the side of the road and start fooling around with the brakes or the alternator “to see if it makes that squeaking go away”.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I don’t think that’s an apt comparison, though. If you lift up the hood of your car and break something, your car will absolutely be broken and need professional help, and you may even cause some kind of leak that leads to a fire or explosion.

        With most computer solutions you Google for problems, you aren’t opening up the machine and messing with the motherboard or the RAM. It’s things like deleting a preference file or rebooting your computer. Just use common sense—back up your important documents before you try anything (you should be backing up anything). If your documents are backed up, the worst you can do is problem have to have your computer re-imaged. Try “re-imaging” a broken car. Won’t work.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          We must be living in different worlds. I have NEVER worked anywhere that deleting a file (literally other than one I had created myself – like, a Word document) would be considered acceptable. I’ve had 4 different jobs and in all of them, you’re basically forbidden from tinkering in case you make it worse, or in case the issue needs logging for the future. The flipside of that is that IT support has almost always been friendly and willing to help, no matter how small or ‘easy’ the fix.

      2. Daniel*

        Sure, hardware problems (e.g. brakes squeaking) are almost always going to require some outside help. But if one of your dashboard lights comes on, you would mostly likely at least check the manual to see what it means before going to the mechanic, right? And that’s assuming the problem is even that serious. Nobody’s going to Jiffy Lube to figure out how to change their radio presets.

  36. Van Wilder*

    a) What is going on with the comments here today? This is far from the most controversial topic I’ve seen on here but emotions are running high.

    b) Anyone remember that old Jimmy Fallon sketch from SNL?

  37. Master Bean Counter*

    This topic and the comments have been very interesting for me. In my current position my tech support/help desk person is the Director of IT. He’s a great guy who doesn’t seem to mind telling people to plug their mouse in, if it isn’t working. But he was also thrilled to hear that I knew a bit about trouble shooting my own stuff.
    In my last job one of my duties was to being the printer whisperer. I was the only person who understood how the printer worked. That if the scans or copies were coming out with lines on them they glass needed to be cleaned. I also understood that the machine just needed to be rebooted on occasion. Or that if you print an envelope, you need to actually load an envelope… Yeah it could be frustrating, but I took the time to show anybody who was interested what I was doing so they could try it in the future.
    In the job before that I was the IT liaison. The IT department there was filled with guys that had rough edges. I had a department of people that didn’t necessarily speak “tech.” Communications got to be a frustrating point for everybody involved. My position required me to lean on the IT department more than most. I did my best to try to learn how to navigate the routine and basic stuff myself. When they found out I wanted to learn, they happily showed me how things were supposed to work. I ended up being a quasi IT person for the little stuff in my department and would end up filtering requests for the main IT department. Which worked right up until I ran out of time in m day to deal with it. Thankfully there was another person who wanted to step in and learn.
    In the OP’s case I think they need to cultivate somebody who wants to learn more about doing help-desk type stuff, that can help out with what sounds like a very stressful situation.

    1. Jamie*

      The printer whisperer? If I ever work with one of your kind I will shower them with love and buy them diamond ponies.

      Printers are evil and if I ran the world they would not fall under sacred umbrella of protection that is IT.

      1. A Non*

        Yes. Printers are the bastard stepchildren of IT. We hate them. They hate us. It evens out.

  38. Ginger*

    Two important things when asking “the IT gal” for help:

    Step 1) Before you ask, type the question you plan to ask directly into Google word for word. Something like 85% of questions I am asked are the IT equivalent to “how do I put gas in my car?” and can be answered in this way. Respect everyone’s time and at least make some feeble attempt at answering it yourself first. If the answer does not come up on page one of your Google result, go to step two.

    Step 2) Don’t ask the IT gal to “fix the problem”, ask her to teach you how to resolve the problem yourself. This will be appreciated even if the problem is too complicated to resolve yourself. Best case, you learn “how to put gas in your car” and don’t have to ask again. Worst case, she appreciates you trying to learn and fixes it for you with a big smile.

  39. Gabriela*

    I’m a little flabbergasted by how many people think being stressed or being asked to do something that is somehow beneath you are good excuses for being rude. Maybe it’s because I work with a fabulous IT department who have excellent customer service (yes, even the IT director, even when I ask something that I may have been able to figure out on my own), but being courteous in the face of this stress is part of being a professional. There are times when I could figure an IT issue out on my own, but it would take hours away from what I was hired to do. If IT can answer it with a short email (even if it seems obvious to a tech professional), doesn’t it make sense to ask the expert?

    1. Temperance*

      On the flip side, though, these small tasks that you admittedly could do on your own could be derailing the IT professional from doing higher-level tasks that only he could do.

      1. Gabriela*

        True, and clearly a company needs both kinds of IT. I do think it’s on both sides to be courteous, though. Just as I would not throw a fit or roll my eyes if our IT was not immediately responsive to my issue, I expect the same courtesy. Maybe its a culture/organizational thing. I work in a place where most “departments” consist of only one person, so we almost everyone I work with must balance their higher-level functions with assisting others with more menial tasks.

      2. Observer*

        But the solution is NOT rudeness. It IS possible to say no politely and without making people feel stupid.

      3. Lissa*

        Sure, but it’s not the people asking him to do the tasks who created that situation, so his frustration being directed at them won’t help anything — it’s not like there is a helpdesk person they are ignoring in favour of bothering him, right? So they don’t really have other options.

    2. Simba*

      When you have a unique skill that the majority of other people do not have, you can afford to be a little flippant.

      If the employees don’t like how the man talks, they can “fix it themselves”. We both know that isn’t possible, so they have to tolerate his attitude.

      There’s certainly a point where it becomes too much. I’ve worked with a number of people like that. But usually these complaints can be chalked up to personality differences and should be forgiven.

    3. Pwyll*

      I don’t think it’s a good excuse to be rude, I’m saying it’s not an altogether unreasonable symptom of the underlying problem.

      The problem is that we’re talking about two entirely different types of jobs, and two entirely different experience levels. You ask why it wouldn’t make sense to ask an expert when doing so yourself could take hours away from your job: the problem is that when everyone asks the expert for answers, it takes hours away from what HE was hired to do.

      Asking a Sysadmin why your mouse isn’t working might even be considered insulting. It’s like asking a mathematician to do simple math. Sure, she can do it faster in her head, but after awhile of everyone asking lower-level questions, the question becomes whether anyone even understands the skill and education needed to do her actual job. And it’s an entirely human response to be exasperated when you perceive yourself being undervalued. The answer is to address the problem, not necessarily the address the behavior that’s manifesting as a result of the problem.

  40. A Non*

    I’m a sysadmin, and I’ve worked with people like this. I’d give it a 50/50 shot that this guy is legit trying to do the work of three or four people, or that he’s not actually doing much of anything and is just training end users not to talk to him. I’ve seen both. Either way, it’s no excuse for being rude. My most valuable skill – even as a sysadmin! – is being able to talk to non-tech people without making them feel stupid.

    But regardless of what’s going on with the IT guy, your problem is really that management is refusing to recognize the problem and take action. There may not be much you can do about that.

  41. Little Love*

    Our little company went through a series of IT guys–sorry, that’s what I call them–including one who sold the boss on a VERY EXPENSIVE phone system which turned out to be incompatible with all but the system at the head office. The other seven papers were screwed. We are a newspaper chain and not having functioning phone for days at a time is a bit problematic. He is long gone.

    Another guy had fits if we couldn’t work with the really crappy program we had for our on-line edition. He was NASTY to me one time. I pointed out he is the IT guy, I am the reporter. I don’t expect him to write stories but I do expect him to do HIS job without bitching. He is also long gone.

    Our cheap boss only has one IT guy for everything so he is overworked BUT he also avoids answering phone calls or emails and tells us we are not allowed to DO anything ourselves. After having no server for hours one morning, he finally responded when the publisher called to raise hell. He did something at his end and assumed that fixed it. He didn’t bother to verify, just assumed. After more phone calls and more email, he told us to do a cold restart of the server. Which we used to do all the time whenever it froze up but he told us we must never, ever, do that.

    We always try to fix our own problems, even if he doesn’t want us to, because we have to get the paper out every day and can’t wait on him to deign to deal with us.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Contentious, yes. Oddly, no. I suspect TechPro took Little Love’s comment ‘IT Guys – sorry, that’s what I call them’ to mean “I don’t care if you say that’s disrespectful. That’s what I call them and that’s not going to change”. So yeah, it’s not odd to have a contentious reply.

  42. Simba*

    Rude I.T. people exist. If your guy is being a jerk you should warn him and then fire him.

    But before that, you should consider if he’s really being a jerk, or if this is a clash of cultures. I.T. guys often think in different ways than non-technical people. This is probably connected to why we understand computers better than those people. A lot of times non-technical folks think that I.T. people are being rude when they really aren’t, it’s just a difference in communication standards. Some of the best I.T. people are really terrible at talking to people, and you shouldn’t fire a fantastic employee simply because he has no people skills, especially if it’s in a role that is not customer-facing.

    A good solution is to let the I.T. guy communicate via e-mail. This will probably be more comfortable for everyone involved.

  43. gnarlington*

    Hm. It’s never OK to be mean or demean any of your coworkers (or anyone for that matter), but after reading this letter I’m feeling a bit of empathy for this guy. It seems like this guy was never informed of these lower-level duties that he would be in charge of (or maybe he’s not actually in charge of it, but everyone has just gone with it?), and he seems overworked and pulled into different directions. This has happened to me; in my current job, my role is supposed to be dedicated to digital communications but I’m always referenced as “the IT guy” even though that’s not the case. It can be frustrating to be distracted from a high profile (and fulfilling!) project because someone needs the router restarted again or forgot how to access their email on their phone. Like this guy, I’m frequently not in the office, but when I am, everything I had planned for the day usually gets pushed back by the entire office needing help with very minor things on their computers. It’s a real time suck.

    But, yeah, he’s kind of a jerk. And his manager should have noticed or he should have raised this with his manager by now.

    1. Ursula*

      I disagree. I think being mean is an important part of a good help-desk employee’s skill set. People ask IT people to do things that are against rules, policy, or common sense all the time. I would rather the IT professional safeguard the company and turn down reasonable-sounding requests, pissing people off, than to break those policies and be people-pleasers. If nobody is ever mad at the IT person, then chances are he’s wasting his time on stuff that he shouldn’t be doing in order to keep the peace – like troubleshooting people’s personal computers, approving inappropriately expensive or redundant hardware or software, not giving people clear instructions to stop doing things that are security risks. It is mean, and it does involve putting up with a couple people complaining about you for doing your job. It’s like being an internet-cop.

      Demeaning co-workers is wrong. Personal insults should be kept out of the workplace.

      1. gnarlington*

        I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. There’s nothing inherently mean with pushing back and acting in the best interest of the org. You can displease people without begin mean; in fact, in many instances, acting kind can displease people and make them feel uncomfortable. Not being mean does not equal being a pushover. Those are two very different things.

  44. Leatherwings*

    I work in a position where I end up lending a hand to a lot of different teams. Some people seem to think I’m an admin assistant and ask me to do simple things outside my projects (make copies, pull together simple spreadsheets, etc.) and while I could handle the task they ask me to do easily, I don’t like doing it and occasionally find it annoying. I either do it politely and quickly, or I push back on requests like these with my manager by saying “Frank is asking me to put together these spreadsheets every week and it’s really making it difficult to focus on writing reports” and then my manager can step in and back me or rearrange my priorities.

    Or if I know I have the standing I’ll say something directly like “I actually can’t help you put that spreadsheet together today Frank, writing this report is my priority, I’m sorry.” What I don’t do is roll my eyes, tell them it’s just a simple spreadsheet, or snarkily mention that I’m not the assistant.

    There’s no excuse to be this rude to your coworkers, and system administrator needs a wake up call.

    1. Gabriela*

      Yes, agreed. I’m still not understanding why being exasperated is an excuse for being rude. We can understand/sympathize with the overworked IT specialist AND address the rudeness

    2. Temperance*

      If you’re a woman, it’s especially important for you to push back on secretarial tasks if they aren’t part of your job. I have snapped at people in the past who assume I’m a secretary because I’m young-looking and female, and I often don’t feel bad about it. I’ll be nice the first time or if you’re high-ranking.

  45. Observer*

    I know I’m repeating a lot of what other people have said, but I have a few reactions here.

    1. He’s not “the IT guy”. He’s your Systems Admin or your IT professional. You’ll get a lot further if you start thinking of him with a bit more respect.

    2. Your organization has to figure out a better support solution. Helpdesk work is not really compatible with the kind of work that you are describing that he’s doing the rest of the time. Of course he sits with his door closed. I can tell you that I often get more work done in a couple of hours in the evening that I get in the full day at the office, because of the interruptions.

    3. Unless and until your company gets a better solution in place, don’t let your staff let stuff go undone because they were “afraid” to talk to the man. They’ll survive the eye-rolls, sighs, etc.

    4. While your staff needs to deal with it, the rudeness is NOT acceptable or excused by the unrealistic workload. Unless he’s responding to rudeness or truly unreasonable user behavior*, it’s just not acceptable. (And even then, it’s not appropriate.) Call him on it when you see it and hear it or about it. Report it to your manager as needed. That’s not throwing him under the bus. If he’s not responsive because he’s busy with some major project or tight deadline, then you need to report the fact that there is not a tech support option available, rather than about him. But if a reasonable statement of the problem gets a heavy sigh and an eye-roll, that’s something your manager needs to know about, if you’ve already talked to him.

    * Two examples of truly unreasonable behavior:
    1. “I’ve been having this problem for three days. I don’t CARE that you have been busy getting our main revenue generating system back on line! I need this to be working YESTERDAY!”

    2. In response to What exactly is happening? “I don’t know. That’s your job to figure out.” (I don’t care if a person doesn’t have the technical vocabulary – you can still describe it in a non-technical way.)

    1. AD*

      Very true. These are definitely helpful and appropriate comments, and you didn’t denigrate the IT profession (which unfortunately seems to be the subtext of some of the comments here today). There’s no excuse for rudeness in this employee. There’s also no excuse for comments that lump together IT workers as asocial/poor social skilled malcontents.

    2. sjclynn*

      The rudeness is often a response to what is perceived when the user hits the door. Most of them are already a bit over the top with the problem or they wouldn’t be looking for help. They have unrealistic expectations about several things starting with your ability to just looks at the computer (printer, switch, network cable macrame project) and instantly know what is wrong. They also expect that it (the unknown thing) can be fixed in minutes and that they are the only person in the entire company. They are oblivious to the fact that 10 people will be in for training at 8AM tomorrow, there are several hours of setup required to get ready for that and the training manager just dropped a whole new spec on your desk a week late and it is 4PM. When you say that you will get to it in the morning, that is when you hear that this has been a problem for days and they have to get the spreadsheet to their boss before they go home and that your response is unacceptable.

  46. Roger G.*

    I am an IT guy who was in a similar solo role. Here are some of the things I did to help other employees to see I was on was on their side, aiming to help them succeed.

    (1) I started doing rounds, aiming to briefly visit each office twice a week–your mileage may vary–with a “how’s it going?”I fixed some problems, jotted down notes for later followup, and generally–encouraged.
    (2) In new hire orientation, IT was the last stop, finishing about 11:30. After breezing through the IT resources document, passcodes, and so on, I took the newbies to lunch. We were blessed with many good lunch spots within two blocks. I did this on my own dime. After a year or two HR learned of my welcome wagon and insisted on reimbursing me.
    (3) I used a ticket system. When necessary I entered tickets for needs collected in morning rounds, for my own big chunks of system administrator projects, and so on. Some staff entered their own tickets perfectly. Many tickets were vague but tolerably so. For tasks from morning rounds, resolved or not, I entered them as tickets. Tickets didn’t serve as well as I hoped in well-written tickets inspiring better submissions. Ha, the people who had written well degraded, perhaps when they saw with how little they could get by. Overhead of tickets paid off in people sympathizing with my load and in supporting additional IT help.

    Was friendly IT abused? A little, but not significantly. I’d hesitate to recommend the IT sysadmin’s supervisor force such practices. There are probably approaches for other places. A genuine aim to help co-workers succeed in the job aims will find ways.

  47. TechPro*

    1) Being called “the IT Guy” is kinda insulting. People are no longer the secretary, they are the “Admin Assistant”; the CFO is not “the head bean girl”. if he wants to be the IT Professional, you should call him that.

    2) Going through computer code is not something that can be easily interrupted. For example, find the error in these few lines of errors on this very page:
    Failed to load resource: the server responded with a status of 502 (Bad Gateway)
    http://match.rtbidder.net/crossdomain.xml Failed to load resource: net::ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVED
    8694 console messages are not shown.
    ca?pid=tradedesk01&aid=tradedesk01&cid=0511td160x600&c=tradedesk01cont2&w=160&h=600&plc=tr:157 Blocked a frame with origin “http://tpc.googlesyndication.com” from accessing a frame with origin “https://www.askamanager.org”. Protocols, domains, and ports must match.truste.ca.compareOffsets @ ca?pid=tradedesk01&aid=tradedesk01&cid=0511td160x600&c=tradedesk01cont2&w=160&h=600&plc=tr:157(anonymous function) @ ca?pid=tradedesk01&aid=tradedesk01&cid=0511td160x600&c=tradedesk01cont2&w=160&h=600&plc=tr:136
    VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:293 GET http://stats3.adotube.com/crossdomain.xml net::ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVEDr @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:293(anonymous function) @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:138c @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:135findFirst @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:135findFirst @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:138s @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:294(anonymous function) typo here @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:294Wa @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:296yb @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:130__IntegralASConfig.initVideo @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:308(anonymous function) @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:308(anonymous function) @ VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:308
    VM147106 jsvid?videoId=9f49f45…&anId=922579&partner=AOP-Video:293 GET http:/pixel.adreadypixels.com/crossdomain.xml 503

    Keep in mind it could be a text/typo error, a missing (or additional) /, or who knows.
    Now repeat that problem on 150 pages and find it while answering the question “why is the printer not working?”.

    3) Trust me – getting the revenue generating software up & running is waaaaay more important than whatever problem you are having (a problem that is probably going to be fixed when IT figures out the software error they are working on).

    4) SOME IT people have few social skills but are whizzes at understanding your computer. Sometimes we are tossed into the lower bowels of the building and are separated from everyone else and then treated badly by someone seeing our help. Please do not take your frustrations out on us.

    5) Keep in mind too that I can strip your machine down to chips OR decode 1000 lines of code in one of many computer languages but being able to do one does not mean I can do the other! (okay, sometimes I can and I do because playing Frankenstein is fun {what?!?! don’t judge me!})

  48. Kaz*

    I would recommend convincing the company to hire someone else to do help-desk work. You don’t know the whole story and you don’t know under what promises this guy was hired. Maybe the company lied to him, told him he would do only complicated projects and instead they also have him doing help desk work. If this is the case, I can understand his behavior when he is confronted with help desk problems. If he was lied to by his employer, the professional thing for him to do would be to look for another job and quit. However, you know the saying, if you hate your job, you don’t quit, you do it half-assed.

  49. dgsan*

    If your “IT Person’s” job is not desktop support the problem is not on his end. There is a huge difference between someone who is a server administrator, a developer, DBA, or is an otherwise specialized professional, particularly if their primary job does not involve user support for Windows desktops, and a desktop support/help desk type person. There’s no call to be rude, but frequently people who are not broadly efficient with computers do the equivalent of pestering a Neurologist or Cardiologist about their need for a band aid or an ice pack or sprained ankle. If you constantly called your neurologist about scrapes and sprains they’d eventually become quite brusque and frustrated. Most people hopefully don’t do this, but likewise if someone did, it would not be the Neurologist’s job to get that person a primary care doctor or teach them basic first aid.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it would also be on your neurologist to say to you, “hey, this actually isn’t my role” and to talk to whoever was in charge of whatever system was bringing all these calls her way.

      1. sunny-dee*

        It also depends on the skill level of the people asking. The “part-timers, moms with kids” line really jumped out at me, because I immediately have a picture in my head of people who literally cannot turn a computer on without help. I worked in an office once where my coworker was convinced that a program had crashed and wouldn’t come back up …. and she had really iconized it and had no idea what the taskbar was so she couldn’t just pull up the window again. If I were an IT guy trying to focus on a critical project and I was getting interrupted by someone trying to figure out how to open a program, I would be really upset.

        1. Jaguar*

          IT support really is more of a patience thing than it is a technology thing. I think most (or at least a lot) of support people will say it’s not really a technically challenging job. The stress comes from the vast discrepancy in technical literacy (plus, the “fix this now” urgency when you often have no idea what happened). I’ve never worked in support, but I think they tend to hire based on technical literacy alone, which is probably pretty dumb.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Patience is certainly helpful, but if you’re good at IT support, you’re a good problem-solver. I would say the ability to problem-solve is much better than any kind of strict literacy or pool of knowledge.

      2. kay*

        But all we’ve heard from is the OP. We haven’t heard from the ‘IT Guy’. We don’t know if he he’s spoken to someone in charge or not, and whether they responded to his request or not

  50. Roscoe*

    What I’m reading on here comes off very condescending, on the part of some of the commenters. You act like IT is supposed to be on call and drop everything for you, yet you won’t even google what something means. You make every excuse why someone can’t try something on their own. If it was your home computer, would you not try something first? Or would your first instinct be to call Geek Squad? probably you’d try something because you value your money, but for the System Admins, their time is valuable to them. A lot of you seem to not get that.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You make every excuse why someone can’t try something on their own. If it was your home computer, would you not try something first? Or would your first instinct be to call Geek Squad?

      Sad to say, but I know a lot of home users whose first instinct is to waste money on something like the “Geek Squad.”

    2. Colette*

      Well, it’s not about whether their time is valuable to them, it’s about whether it’s valuable to the business. It’s entirely possible that it’s better for the business to have the project take a little longer than for the sales department to be out of commission due to computer problems. If the job includes user support – which it seems to – it doesn’t matter how the IT guy would rather spend his time – he needs to do his job.

  51. A Girl is No One*

    So, IRL I am a web developer. I have major projects and then I do phone, email, and in-person support for web sites and other IT type stuff. I spend so much time doing the support and “other duties as assigned” that I am now officially FIVE YEARS behind on a major project. (just finished a project that was eight years late, but that was an Official BackBurnerSpecial). Sure, it’s upsetting and frustrating for me. Sure, it’s hurt me professionally. Sure, it has negatively impacted my year-end reviews. (I’m glad your printer/network connection/spreadsheet/whatever is working again though.)

    I document what I’ve done every day, and once a month I review what I have/have not accomplished and summarize it for my manager. She’s well aware of the problem. I’m not in favor of hiring someone new though. Why? Because my users love me, I’m always polite and fast (and no eye rolls), and because of that they won’t let me go to do something new and interesting. The *new hire* will get to do the new and interesting work. And I will still be here doing the same thing. But not for much longer because I am plotting my early retirement right now. I’ll start up a work from home business and probably get a contract from my old employer to do…something new and fun. It’s all good good good.

    But in the end this sort of thing hurts the company. They’ll lose someone who knows this place and it’s history, and it’s so unnecessary. So easily avoided.

    /minirant but I am outta here soon so who cares not me

    1. Not IT but can relate*

      Feel for you.
      I also generally like helping people… people who try. But even that gets difficult when you have multiple deadlines and you have to drop fixing the code on a webpage to send someone a logo or make their text look pretty.

      You get buried in low-level work you do well, and can’t move up or on. A sure recipe for burn out and leaving for greener pastures.
      Documenting is good. Executives seldom see what you DID do, only what didn’t get done.
      Sorry to be so pessimistic, but I’ve found this to be the way of the working world.

    2. BeenThere*

      Yes yes yes. I posted above before reading this! The reward for being nice to users is being stuck in entry level desktop support for life. Hardly encouragement. My career moved much faster when I started being blunt about support work. At one job we’d move into a large place then they had cut backs so there were unused empty offices. I would go hide in these regularly with my laptop to get work done. My boss was aware and unofficially supported it.

  52. GiantPanda*

    OP, while your sysadmin sounds less than nice, please also check how you are dealing with him.
    If your problem descriptions are anything like “There was an error message but I deleted it. Fix it NOW!” I’d roll my eyes too. Especially if you’ve been told before to explain what you did and what happened.

    (Yes… this happens. A lot.)

  53. AnnoyedITGuy*

    I’m an “IT Professional” and boy do I have a bone to pick with your “IT Guy”.

    First off, how large is your company? If it’s anything less than 50 employees (and in most cases, less than 100), then 1 full-time IT professional should be able to handle all Helpdesk in addition to server-level and strategic tasks for your company. If he can’t, then frankly, he’s terrible at his job.

    So many IT admins have massive delusions of grandeur. They’re “too important” for Helpdesk tasks. I see this all the time in my profession and it’s tiresome as heck. If you ask me, he needs some customer service training, a time-management application, and a stern talking to.

    He’s being overwhelmed with petty requests? Most of those are actually caused by HIS mismanagement of the network. Constant printer errors mean he hasn’t set the printers up correctly, crashing desktops mean that the desktops aren’t properly maintained. Good admins automate this stuff. The printers should email him when they have a problem, the workstations should be installing software updates on a schedule and reporting if the updates aren’t applied.

    Unless he’s actually writing CODE for your company he’s not actually working on high-concentration tasks that require no interruptions. Even if he really is involved in high-pressure high-priority work (which honestly I doubt) then he should be scheduling regular “Helpdesk hours” to check up on everyone’s desktop problems.

    The closed doors and constant remote work are just as likely excuses to slack off as they are attempts to get things done. Ask senior management what he’s actually DONE in the past 6 months. A dispassionate look at his work-output is going to come up pretty bleak.

    I love my profession, I love fixing computers for people, and I love maintaining networks… but boy does my job attract jerks. I’ve met your “IT Guy” dozens of times in my career. Knowing IT doesn’t give you license to be an ass.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      First off, how large is your company? If it’s anything less than 50 employees (and in most cases, less than 100), then 1 full-time IT professional should be able to handle all Helpdesk in addition to server-level and strategic tasks for your company. If he can’t, then frankly, he’s terrible at his job.

      The size of the organization is pretty key. I used to be the sole IT person for a school, and if I wasn’t also teaching a full class load at the same time, it would have been very easy for me to manage everything (network admin, sys admin, general help desk, webmaster, etc.). Of course, it was a relatively small school. If I was at an organization with 200 employees, particularly high-maintenance ones, who want me to be a database admin and programmer also, I don’t know that I could do that and everything else.

      Plenty of great automation tools out there, though.

      1. AnnoyedITGuy*

        This is exactly my point. DBA? Programmer? Teacher? You don’t ask people to split that with all the tasks of IT. IT is definitely a full-time job, not something you can do “on the side”, but IF it’s your full-time job, a single admin can manage a decently sized network pretty easily.

        1. Observer*

          Assuming that all he is doing is managing the network. But, the OP says he’s doing a lot of OTHER it work?

    2. Ursula*

      I think you’re wrong, and it depends very highly on the actual company function. If the company is that size and focused on something very non-technical, then you may be right. In particular, maybe for a small school, or a business that’s very interpersonal-interactions oriented like a restaurant, or mom&pop style accountant or storefront retail business.

      If there’s a high amount of technical work required, though, that can be absolutely wrong and destructive. Most business now involves a pretty significant amount of commerce that goes through involved electronic media. Do you want the guy who makes sure your entire digital storefront is running smoothly to also be handing out keyboards if that digital storefront is bringing in a significant fraction of your business? Probably not!

      Then there are technical-related jobs, like companies that primarily do software development, data analysis, digital outreach, digital graphics, digital entertainment. Those can be pretty small and need a bunch of specialized IT professionals to run well. The guy writing your primary or supporting software product shouldn’t be troubleshooting legal’s laptop problems. The guy making sure your animations are properly computer-generated on a cluster should not be the guy who is also fixing your printer if you’re an animation shop. Do you want the guy who makes sure all the grocery registers in a major superstore are working correctly, not fraudulently or incorrectly weighing produce, and accounting for money correctly to also teach all the cashiers how to use their stations and come un-freeze the shift managers computer at 3 AM? No!

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        If you have a highly technical software company with only one person who does anything remotely technical, your company is doomed to failure.

        1. AnnoyedITGuy*

          This, right here. The bulk of businesses aren’t set up in the way you’ve described. If your whole business centers on an online storefront, then more than one employee should know how the heck that thing operates.

          If your business is a technical services company, then your front-desk people should know as much as the average Helpdesk IT.

    3. Observer*

      You are flat out wrong.

      I started out with my employer when we were much smaller, so I remember 50 staff. And let me tell you, when you are trying to orchestrate, say, a new phone system, or an upgrade to a major system, interruptions can make things VERY difficult. So much so that my boss (who didn’t quite understand the specifics of what I was doing, but who saw how I operated) put so much value on my time from 5:00 – 7:00 (when I wasn’t interrupted) that he made an exception for me when we had a “you need to in the office during business hours” push, and didn’t give me a hard time about coming late.

      I’m a bit of a generalist, so I have some familiarity with many types of projects, and if you really think that only writing code is high concentration, then I really don’t want to work with projects you have implemented. Really. There is just too much likelihood that you have missed important stuff.

      You are also assuming that the SysAdmin has unlimited budget and discretion in what he does and doesn’t install. That’s far from the case in a place like that. So, people install the stuff they want, there are probably lots of low grade computers in place, because that’s what was on sale rather than the something that the sysadmin evaluated. And paying thousands of dollars for the kind of automation you describe? Are you kidding?! I run IT for a rather bigger organization, and I would kill for a system that would email me all sorts of actionable warnings that I would then be able to act on on my schedule. But, it’s not going to happen. The good system (that actually work, but don’t drown you) are EXPENSIVE, and often not cost effective for smaller organizations. And, even when they are, in a place that tries to cheap out by combining two very different skill sets in one pay line, the PTB are unlikely to pay for it.

      1. A Non*

        +1 on coding not being the only high-concentration task. And yeah, I’ve worked at places that thought they were saving money by buying only cheap stuff, and didn’t realize that it was killing them in terms of wasted time. Reaching a 100:1 user:support ratio requires a really solid and well-funded computing environment. And even then, that ratio usually only counts the direct support IT people and not the sysadmins backing them up.

      2. AnnoyedITGuy*

        … I work for a small nonprofit, and automate using Powershell scripting, batch files, freebee management software that came with the servers, and GPOs. The three expensive management softwares we pay for? Backup, Antivirus, and print management ($500).

        Our computers are all several years old, and we buy new ones only when the budget allows. However, they’re all Windows 7, which means they can all be controlled at the domain level. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be automated.

        Granted, I WISH I could tell the users to stop installing random software. I have the ability to lock that stuff down with GPOs, but Management has told me NO on any number of occasions. It would save me a lot of grief.

        As for a “major phone system”? Any modern upgrade would be to IP phones. I can set up a 50 user IP phone setup in a day, maybe 2, WITH interruptions. I can deploy that setup in maybe 2 weeks, if I’m taking my time.

        OS upgrades are scary? Come in on a Saturday, do a full backup, clone the drive for good measure and easy recovery, then run the upgrade. One day, I’d love to set us up with Virtualized servers so I could just spin up new instances. For now, install, test, deploy. Backups? 2 days to implement, a week to deploy. Antivirus, same.

        I’m sorry, but it’s just not that hard to manage a 50 person network.

        1. Observer*

          So, for starters, your assumption is that if you are in IT, you don’t have a life. If you do, that = incompetence. I disagree.

          If you can set up an IP phone system in two days, you’re not setting up much of a system – or you’re not bothering to deal with what users actually want and need. (I’ve seen the systems that were planned and deployed in “two three days”. Blech.)

          The issue is not whether computers are old, per se, but whether they were decent to start with. Windows 7 *Pro* is controllable on the domain level, home isn’t. There are lots of older Windows 7 home computers out there. And, regardless of the os, if you have flaky or just garbage hardware, it;s going to waste lots of time.

          As for automation, there is only so much you can do with he freebie tools. And, plenty of places won’t even spring for the $500 for printer management. Yes, really.

          But, you clearly don’t do the kinds of projects the OP describes. And apparently, even the ones that could be high value and concentration are done at the minimum level. So, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

        2. Jaguar*

          Okay, so it sounds like not much changes in your organisation. For most IT departments, it’s “we’re implementing SharePoint this year” or “we’re moving to cloud databases” or any number of massive steps forward for which IT is responsible for implementing and then responsible for solving all the problems that come up.

          One IT support for 100 staff might be fine if nothing changes. It’s unrealistic for most companies.

    4. AnonDSLTech*

      Yeah no.

      Nothing like trying to troubleshoot a massive fiber outage when Suzy from Sales calls because her computer is frozen. Yeah, I’m not going to be cheery on the phone about it because it’s not a priority to me (and realistically that fiber cut costs the company far more than Suzy’s lost productivity), though I recognize it’s a priority to her. Luckily my job is 0% internal support so I can tell Suzy to call the right number and get back to work. But I’m sure that doesn’t make Suzy feel good either.

      This company needs to outsource help desk, hire another warm body or maybe train up a few skilled users to deal with the small stuff.* This is wasteful for the sysadmin and the company. If I were the IT guy, I’d do a desk audit for a few weeks and find out how much time I was spending on help desk work and then compare that to money lost in project delays, money cost in OT to catch up on necessary work, etc. against the lost productivity from users because they couldn’t print or their computer locked up.

      *This is how I got my start. So glad I no longer support printers.

  54. Not IT but can relate*

    Wow, oh wow. The comments on this post seem to be about 50/50 from (of course) those in favor of the OP (basically, IT guy is a tool/jerk/ass because he grumbles at being interrupted to help part-times and moms with kids (What is that about anyway? Why can’t these people learn to troubleshoot?) and those who have a more technical background (that can relate and possibly feel sorry for the overworked-overloaded IT person).

    I fall into the latter. At my small company, I am pretty much the lone “graphics person” and all-around web/software/file share/email troubleshooter and even sometimes printer/computer fixer. I’m expected to do this while in the middle of many other important projects (website updates, emails and things like proofreading and posting public-facing communications where ONE mistake or typo can be a get-your-butt-fired type of thing because it embarrasses the company should it go live like that).

    I can’t tell you how many times a day I get pinged and emailed or interrupted for things that are URGENT to the requestors (and there is hell to pay if I don’t respond or ignore the pings-especially if they come from the C-Suite). Example: I recently got into a bit of trouble because I didn’t respond/send someone a logo while I was away on vacation (the executives wanted to order shirts).

    These are “simple” things like sending them logos or files, resizing a graphic, fixing a table, fixing headers and footers, pasting their Word document copy into another Word letterhead, making a PDF, extracting a graphic from a PDF, placing a file on the file share, etc., etc. Most of these things are stored and accessible if they only looked, or could be answered by a Google search or MS Office help, and honestly, shouldn’t you be able to paste your own text into Word?

    Often, it doesn’t matter what you do, or how much you push back or point out how much these “simple little things” suck up your time–you are expected to jump when they want it: like now Now NOW! You are also still likely expected to get all of those other projects done too and no help or additional resources will be forthcoming from the company so that this can be accomplished. [And I see quite a few other commenters in this same boat]

    So, yeah. I do feel for that IT professional guy. Quite A lot.
    Thing is the guy probably is not a jerk, eye rolling aside. Or at least he wasn’t one initially and has reached breaking point. Get the guy some help if he really is doing other projects, or get one of your “junior” staff trained to troubleshoot these computer things already! That is how you can help.

    1. De*

      “The comments on this post seem to be about 50/50 from (of course) those in favor of the OP (basically, IT guy is a tool/jerk/ass because he grumbles at being interrupted to help part-times and moms with kids (What is that about anyway? Why can’t these people learn to troubleshoot?) and those who have a more technical background (that can relate and possibly feel sorry for the overworked-overloaded IT person). ”

      There’s even people here who have a more technical background (I am a software devloper) and fall into the former category.

  55. Anonymous Educator*

    I don’t know. It feels as if a lot of people are projecting. Just because you feel for the guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be being a jerk.

    1. Not IT but can relate*

      True… Never said he wasn’t. But anyone can turn jerky when pushed to a breaking point.
      Heavy sighs and eye rolls, while unprofessional, to me says more that the person is frustrated with the constant interruptions more so than “these people are idiots” or some such. [but we only have one side of the story here of course and not the IT person’s perspective–it would be SO interesting to hear it]

      What is also concerning is and “the boss goes nuclear when he learns that problems are going unaddressed because people are afraid to approach the IT professional”
      What kind of boss “goes nuclear” ? Weird. This should NOT be a huge issue to address if the boss is really being a boss and managing their people. Smells like a dysfunctional workplace.

      Again, this Systems Admin needs to have their workload assessed (and yes also talked to about the attitude when dealing with help tasks if they have to do help tasks). It should be pretty obvious if they are really working on many other high-level, high-pressure projects as indicated and they have output to prove so.
      OP also notes the Systems Admin is out of office a lot working off site. So regardless, they probably DO need someone to help with the daily in-office troubleshooting if that’s the case.

      But I’ve also been there when management says “tough.” Every project is a priority and one person must do it all and you’re not getting any help so just figure it out.

  56. Elodie*

    I’m conflicted with my answer because up until my current job, the IT guys at my jobs were super sweet and professional. They were just really great guys. The guys at my current job are like the one that the OP describes with the eye rolls, attitude, etc. I admire and respect the guys I work with, but they really need to lose the attitude. I think it’s just a combination of insecurity and social awkwardness, but I don’t know.

    1. A Non*

      If the whole IT department has an attitude problem, I’d look at the guy in charge of the department. There’s a decent chance he’s making everyone miserable. At the very least, that manager is failing to set professional standards.

      In my career, I’ve only ever met one IT person who was in the same role at the same company for longer than five years who wasn’t an incompetent jerk. IT people generally get bored staying in one spot for a long time, and it’s an exceptionally upwardly mobile industry, so someone who does stay put for 5+ years is likely there because they’ve found a spot where they wouldn’t be fired. It’s not a foolproof rule, but it’s more accurate than not.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Maybe that’s true on the enterprise level, but I haven’t found that to be true in schools. Most tech people in schools (Director of Tech, Network Engineer, Technology Associate, Technology Support Specialist, etc.) tend to stay at their school for a while, even if they’re competent. I’m working at a school now, and my boss has been there well over a decade and it pretty awesome (both technically and personality-wise). Same deal with the boss (who’d also been there for years) I’d had two schools ago.

  57. First time*

    I haven’t read through the hundreds of comments, but I thought the OP’s manager was flipping out at OP and their team (“throw someone under the bus?”) and not seeing the IT guy’s attitude as the problem here. In that case OP is not necessarily protecting IT guy from the consequences of his behaviour, but trying to protect their own team.

  58. Matt*

    I can somehow relate to the IT guy’s reaction although it’s certainly not OK for him to “be a jerk” towards the people who’s supposed to help …

    I’m not in technical support, but I’m a software developer, and in busy times I can have two to three parallel projects on which I should work concentrated. I also have to do third level support for my legacy applications (if someone has a problem, they call the help desk; if the help desk determines it’s a software problem, they give it to the software quality management department; if QM department determines it could be an error in my program, then I get it).

    Now if everyone would just stick to the ticket / bug reporting systems and email, I’d be able to prioritize things by myself and help everyone out as soon as possible … but unfortunately we have a strong phone and/or personal drop-by culture, so everybody calls and calls again … and if I ignore the phone while trying to solve an urgent problem on one of my other “construction sites”, they complain that I’m “never reachable” and “unresponsive”, or they might drop by in person and explain to me how urgent this is. I’m always tempted to say: “Everyone who knows about this problem is working hard on it. Except me, I’m on the phone” …

  59. Ducky*

    This is belated, but for all those wondering at the contentious comments: this way of talking and claiming to be “attacked” is *identical* to the language used by Gamergaters*, MRAs, and certain Sanders supporters. I’ve come to associate it with White Male privilege being challenged on the internet. The plural of anecdote is not evidence, but every IT person I have *ever* interacted with across four different companies has been a tech-savvy White male who to varying degrees didn’t like a woman, whatever her background, attempting to tell them what was wrong with her computer.

    I’m calling it out because I’m betting Alison and many other commenters here aren’t familiar with the less savory sides of internet discussions because the moderation here is good and respectful. (Also, I’m an engineer on the autism spectrum myself, so seeing a question, well, I feel compelled to answer it.)

    *Gamergate was an incident in which a mob of men on the internet lost their minds about women making games and feminism creeping into popular gaming franchises. They cloaked their misogyny by saying it was really about “ethics in gaming journalism,” and endlessly debated the way women and their allies should be making the ‘gaters feel better and included when talking about problems in, say, Tombraider.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m calling it out because I’m betting Alison and many other commenters here aren’t familiar with the less savory sides of internet discussions because the moderation here is good and respectful.

      It is certainly a well-moderated blog, but many of us are also familiar with the GamerGate/MRA style. Alison certainly is, too, since she’s the one who moderates!

    2. Violet Fox*

      Hi. I’m a woman. I’m a sysadmin, and GGs scares the living crap out of me.

      You are making a lot of assumptions out of nothing.

    3. Observer*

      Tech certainly has a diversity problem. But, if EVERY SINGLE TECH you have worked with has been a white male, then your experience has been so atypical that it’s really not useful.

      I’m familiar with GG, so is Allison, and so are a significant proportion of the commenters here, based on prior exchanges. As much as I think the person in question, nothing the OP describes comes close to GG. Furthermore, your assumptions and explanation come off as rather condescending.

      And, yes, as a woman, I’ve been on the receiving end of both standard and sexist condescension.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      I’m a tech, and though male, I’m not white. Just because you criticize doesn’t make you right.

  60. That Marketing Chick*

    I’m not condoning his behavior in any way; but keep in mind that IT people tend to not to be “people person” types of people. They are often introverted and are very “to the point” in the way they communicate. Consider that he may not realize he is coming across as rude; and that he may truly not be rude as much as he is simply brief and to the point. I find that if I communicate with someone in the style with which they are comfortable communicating, it’s quite helpful.
    IT people tend to be green; gold dominates my personality (organized to a fault). You can learn more about this simple colors personality test here… I find it to be the easiest of all I’ve had experience with: truecolorsintl.com

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Consider that he may not realize he is coming across as rude; and that he may truly not be rude as much as he is simply brief and to the point.

      The original letter says he would do the heavy sigh and then eye roll. That’s not just being brief and to the point. That’s being rude and condescending.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Wow. Way to stereotype and condescend. I’m an IT person, and I am not introverted. I do not, however, suffer fools gladly. There’s a difference between being brief and to the point, and being rude.

  61. Daisy Steiner*

    Reading all these comments, this is the very first time that I have wanted to leave Ask A Manager and not come back! We’re all talking at crossed purposes and with different workplace assumptions. I don’t know why this is such a hot-button topic that it’s making everyone (including me) veer into normal internet comments territory, instead of awesome AAM comments style.

  62. ElizzyBeth*

    I can, perhaps, give a small bit of light on the IT jerk… as I, too, am the IT person for a small company. Most of the people I work with are middle age to older (40+) because of the niche of our business and clientele. As such they tend to lack some technical skills with computers because, frankly, we weren’t born with a computer in our home! I’m 41 and I’m the ‘baby’ of the company. Now, that’s not much of a problem. I am more than happy to help people…. BUT…. and this is a BIG BUT… I hear from people a lot that they think I treat them like they are stupid. That’s not at all true. I go out of my way to help people. Way, WAY out of my way! However, I also expect them to LISTEN and LEARN. As part of our company culture, we all tend to work pretty independently with a lot of freedom. We are expected to figure out things on our own and rely on our smarts. Everyone in our company is incredibly intelligent. They just lack some technical skills… okay, a LOT of technical skills. Let me just say that I about died of happiness the day our Senior Intake person (she’s 72) finally embraced text messaging on an iPhone. For years, she was the lone hold out, very stubborn. She didn’t even want to read or answer email on her phone. Now, she’s a pro at it, but it took about 8 years to get her there.

    Anyway, I get frustrated with my coworkers when they call me for the 50th time to ‘fix’ the same problem, over and over and over again. 90% of the time, the problem is not the equipment, it’s the user not knowing basic skills and not paying attention or learning from the first few times we’ve addressed it. That’s when my jerk side, admittedly, can come out. I have to pull out the polite, but admittedly mildly condescending, “Remember how we fixed this last month when it happened?” I don’t do it to be a jerk. I do it to teach and help them recall the answer so they can become more self proficient. People don’t like to be reminded they forgot something.

    I have one woman, who I just adore, usually… but I just want to scream at her sometimes. Every single week (really, it’s a weekly issue!) she calls me in a panic because her Outlook folders ‘disappeared’. I have to remind her all she needs to do it click the ‘Expand’ symbol. She gets upset with me because she doesn’t know what that means. She says to talk to her like she’s 5 to explain it. I tell her, “The little white arrowhead…click it.” Every single flippin’ time! I bought all of them Windows reference books to use when they couldn’t reach me right away. I was told it was insulting, and others didn’t have the time or patience to look it up in a book. It’s easier for them to just call me. Well, for them, perhaps. But see, my job isn’t to fix the little stuff. These employees are already supposed to know this stuff or proactively figure it out. I do it because I’m the ‘computer girl’ and I’m nice and I love the people I work with.

    A few months ago, I went to the CEO and very politely suggested that some of the employees enroll in a basic computer course because their constant, repetitive calls were taking away from me handling the big stuff. It’s not that I don’t want to help, I just can’t keep ‘fixing’ the same problems over and over. She thought it was a good idea, she brought it up in a meeting and everyone went ballistic. They all said they didn’t need to take a basic computer class, they already understood how to use a computer and they were really angry I treat them like they are stupid. I just sighed and admitted defeat. And not 15 minutes later, one of the those same people pops up and says, “I have something new. I need you to come look at my computer. When I’m working on it, I need everything to always type in big capital letters on my screen so I can see it better, but it can’t out that way. Apparently that pisses people off.”

    What I’m saying here, is that I know a lot of employees seem to think the ‘IT Guy’ is there to ‘fix’ every little thing, but you have to understand that he (or SHE!) is often pummeled with the most asinine, repetitive requests that are very easily solved if people would put their thinking caps on, take a deep breath and tried to figure it out for themselves first before they call for help. Now, obviously, that can’t always happen, but just have some patience. Do we think you’re stupid? Well… no. And YES. Yes, we think some of you are class A morons, but maybe not for the reasons you think. In reality, we probably really like you and want to help, but we can only take so many people telling us the they’ve been ‘hacked’ after they hit ‘shut down’ and the screen went black, when they meant to ‘restart’.

  63. kay*

    I completely understand why the system administrator is getting aggravated. It doesn’t sound like his role IS to troubleshoot people’s random computer problems. I worked in the same room as the IT department for a startup and the myriad of extremely complicated matters they were working on was mind-blowing. Then when you have superiors who are pushing deadlines or wanting them to change something because they don’t understand how much work, or how feasible changing an API actually is, they’re under a lot of strain. And yet I would still ask him if he knew why my computer wasn’t turning on one day. He’s in IT, I assume he knows more than me, but that’s not really his job. The company needs to hire IT support, because I’m not sure he’s getting the time and respect he needs from the office. The fact that the OP clarifies that calling him ‘the IT guy’ offends him backs that up, because mislabelling someone’s job title often means people have the wrong idea about what their duties are. Especially if he was hired to do back-end work and is being forced into front-end because of the company structure

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