my employee isn’t respected by his coworkers — what can I do?

A reader writes:

I was recently hired as a systems administrator and manager of a small IT department of three people, including myself. Both my reports have been with the company for several years, and are extremely knowledgeable about all of the systems here. Unfortunately, one of them seems to have much less respect from many other employees. We’ll call him Josh, the other tech Steven, and the previous manager Cory.

I was looking into an issue with a user when they made a comment that it had been ongoing for a while, saying “Cory looked at it, Steven looked at it, Josh looked at it. Josh doesn’t really count though.” Yesterday I was speaking to another user about a problem Josh might be familiar with and told them he was out for a few days, to which they responded, “Oh good.” They apologized a few seconds later, saying “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” but it’s pretty clear that while I know Josh is technically competent, other employees of the company are either less confident in his ability or — what seems to really be the case — they simply don’t like or respect him and they are willing to make remarks to that effect directly to me.

What do I do, as a new manager who wants to defend and take care of my employees? I spoke with my director about the first comment a couple weeks back, and they acknowledged that it’s an ongoing problem, but didn’t seem to know what to do about it.

I wrote back and asked: Do you know what’s behind people’s feelings about Josh? Where did that come from / what’s causing it?

It seems to be a personality conflict. Based on the discussion I had with my director about the problem, Josh isn’t the best with people and can come across as condescending and as if he’s being inconvenienced by having to help them. At least one person has apparently expressed that he embarrassed them in front of a few others by implying (in front of everyone present) that the problem they needed him to fix was “stupid.” I haven’t yet had any conversations with Josh about the issue, but I can tell that he gets frustrated by people not being as knowledgeable as he expects them to be. I think it’s a problem all IT workers have to some degree, but the problem here is that his inside thoughts come out a little too much.

Aha! That wasn’t the answer I expected! I had assumed Josh wasn’t very skilled, and that people were making fun of him not being good at his job. Which would still be a problem, but a different one.

But in this case, it sounds like Josh is being … well, a jerk. And the remarks you’re hearing are people saying “we don’t like working with Josh because he’s rude,” not “we don’t like working with Josh because he’s incompetent.”

So, to be blunt, I think you’re looking at this from a slightly skewed perspective. This isn’t really a personality conflict (where two people are behaving reasonably but just not getting along).

What you’re seeing are big red signs that you have a serious Josh problem that you need to deal with. The problem isn’t that other people don’t respect him enough, or that you need to defend him. The problem is that Josh needs to change his behavior because he’s interacting with people in a way that’s not acceptable — which means he’s not performing his job at the level that you need to require.

That means that you’re going to need to have a serious conversation with Josh about how he treats coworkers. Before you do that, it might be worth collecting additional information from people who work with him regularly, so that you understand the full scope of the problem. You can do that by saying something like, “I’ve heard you and a few others joke about not wanting to work with Josh. I want to address whatever is going on. Can you tell me more about what’s caused that?”

Then sit down with Josh, explain that he’s coming across as rude to coworkers (being as specific as you can) and that it’s making people reluctant to work with him, and explain what you need to see from him instead. You can use language like, “Doing well in this role requires having good relationships with colleagues, and if people are reluctant to approach you, it will impact your success here. I want people to walk away from their interactions with you thinking of you as a helpful resource who they’d be glad to come back to.” (More advice on doing this is here.)

Your instinct that part of your role as a manager is to take care of your people and to intervene if they’re being trash-talked is a good one. But you’ve also got to look at the situation more broadly and ask where the trash-talking is coming from and why. Your employees won’t always be the ones in the right; sometimes the talk you hear will be an indication that there’s a problem you need to address with the employee themselves. And that’s what’s going on here.

But once you address this with Josh and are staying actively engaged to make sure he’s working on the problem, then you’ll have standing to say something to others when you hear anti-Josh comments. At that point, you can say things like, “I’m actually working with Josh on that. Can I ask you to give him another chance, with an open mind? If you still run into problems, I’d like to hear about it so I can address it — but I’m hoping you’ll give him another shot.”

(Of course, you can’t credibly say that if people don’t then see real changes in Josh, or if you don’t act with more seriousness if the problems continue.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark*

    Josh needs to be managed, because he’s alienating his coworkers by being a dick. They do not need to be managed for not enjoying working with a dick, or for treating him like he’s being a dick.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely, and Alison is 1000% on point. We had a similar IT person who was so awful to work with that we literally would wait until he was on vacation (when another IT advisor would cover for him) and then try to process all our backed up requests.

      People will often treat you the way you treat them. If OP wants Josh to be treated with respect, then Josh needs to treat his coworkers with respect and patience. He can’t be effective, and he may become a net negative, if he’s treating people poorly or embarrassing them for requesting help. And acting inconvenienced? Not even a little bit ok.

      OP, you may want to read Bob Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule for context on why this is a Josh problem, first, not an everyone else problem.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        This is why I love this blog. I’ve been Steven, thinking, ‘why does Josh get to be a dick and blow everything off and I have to do all of my work plus most of his, but all my boss does is say that we all need to treat him with even more respect and deference?’ Very insightful post, so thank you OP! Please come back and give us an update.

        1. Specialk9*

          That was my exact thought.”This is why I love this blog.” It would have been easy to get sucked into answering the question OP actually asked, but it was the wrong question. Alison is GOOD!

      2. AnonandAnon*

        Yes, and god help the poor backup who is now inundated with requests, which is what happens when you have that bad apple, everyone avoids it so the larger share of work falls to someone else…OP, that’s not fair, and it makes working with “Josh” even that much more difficult.

      3. Anonymoose*

        The only thing missing from her totally-spot-on advice (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?) is that it seems Josh thinks he’s above customer service because his role doesn’t scream customer service (like, say, food service).

        OP: does he know that everyone that Josh works with is a customer? I don’t think that this direly important concept has been adequately stressed to him: if there aren’t customers – because they refuse to work with Josh – then there is no reason for Josh to exist in his role.

        Or he may not be a people person (anymore?), but there’s a reason he got into this role: aptitude, perhaps he used to be more kind when he was younger, etc. This may end up being a much longer conversation in which he’s coached out of his interfacing role and into something that is more of an individual analytical project contributor. Or get coached out of the company altogether. This would be a kindness to Josh, too, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re part of the group ganging up on him. He’s obviously miserable in his current role – find a way to get him to open up about what he WOULD like to do, and then see if you can work together to make that happen.

        1. Gatomon*

          Yes, I’ve seen that attitude crop up in otherwise good techs. The problem is most IT really IS customer service. Whether you’re fixing someone’s problem directly or trying to tactfully communicate the problem lies elsewhere or even just get the budget to order the gear you need, IT is generally not the “sit in a dark cave and beat the machines into submission” job we want it to be.

          1. Pescadero*

            Eh… I’d say “Desktop Support” really IS customer service.

            “IT” encompasses a lot more than just desktop support – some IT jobs really ARE “sit in a dark cave and beat the machines into submission” jobs.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Valid point, but that doesn’t make it okay to be a dick to coworkers when you finish beating the machines into submission and leave the cave. You don’t have to be nice to everyone (god forbid) but a little basic human kindness shouldn’t be too much to manage.

              1. Smol Cinnamon Roll*

                My rule is: If you can be nice, be nice. If you can’t be nice, then don’t say anything at all! And I get that sometimes people may have a bad day in the office, but this Josh fellow seems to just be a rotten egg.

                Hopefully sitting down with him and asking him to lay off on being a jerk out in the open will work.

    2. Artemesia*

      He needs a major head realignment. He is supposed to be the expert; they are expert in other things and the IT stuff is a tool for them. They are not supposed to be expert in it, that is why HE HAS A JOB. His job is to be helpful; if they didn’t need his help, he wouldn’t have a job. Being condescending to someone who doesn’t have his expertise is not only a dick move, it undercuts his whole reason for being there. Does his doctor act like he is an idiot for not understanding complex medical issues? Does his lawyer expect him to know the intricate areas of estate law? This is why we hire experts. It isn’t a matter of just changing some words i.e. being more polite — it is a matter of changing his understanding of his role. That is where managing him begins. I think attempting to just change ‘his words’ will not have a lasting impact on his behavior.

      1. Lora*

        Someday Josh will meet a non-IT person who happens to know more than him. He’ll be offering some flimsy excuse as to why he can’t make an email alias for someone to change their name in the absence of a social security card, and they’ll be all, “no, you just need to change the NAME field in the XYZ folder in the ABC partition to redirect to, and then it will be fine. It’ll take 5 seconds, if you do it now I can check that it’s working.”

        1. HyacinthB*

          That (almost) exact thing happened to me! The IT dept (mostly really great guys) wrote a program for me and it didn’t work. And I knew why! I went over and said something about it’s not running right and I think it’s missing a [whatever function] and I got a little bit of a sideways look from the IT guy, until he looked at it and saw that I was exactly right. Fortunately, they are all good guys and not really condescending, but he did seem amazed that the accountant actually knew what was wrong!

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I have an affinity for tech and 20+ years of experience – I learned and became proficient in MS Windows in the early 90’s.
          I have some expertise and a good feel for when a glitch might indicate a deeper problem, and there is *nothing* worse than an IT guy who doesn’t respect my knowledge and experience! One of the ones here is so bad I refused to work with him again after the *third* time he spent 30+ minutes arguing.
          How hard is it to listen and say “thanks, we’ll look into that?”

          1. Chinook*

            Been there, done that. On the plus side, the guy who did this to me condescended to me for the last time when he did it in front of his boss who had picked me to work on that particular project as the one non-IT person because I understood both IT-speak and what the actual users needed. The “brogrammer” did everything but pat me on the head when I gave my input, which caused the usually mild-mannered boss to sit up (literally in his chair) and bring everything back on topic. I am guessing a discussion was had later because I rarely interacted with the guy after that and, when I did, the condescension was all but gone.

          2. Anonymoose*

            Seriously, what’s wrong with ‘hey, that’s a good idea’. It’s not like admitting that you don’t know absolutely everything will get you automatically fired or shuttled into the black hole of idiocy. Well, not normally, anyway.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        Also–IT people should be glad other folks don’t have or want technical expertise, because it means really good job security. (Told to me and affirmed by IT friends).

        1. The IT Manager*

          OP here: Agreed. I tell people all the time – everyone has to call someone for something. You shouldn’t be ashamed of needing help.

          1. Observer*

            Exactly. But the flip side is that you should not make someone feel ashamed of needing to call someone. You get that, and now you need to make sure that *Josh* gets it.

          2. Lora*

            The other part is, IT is a cost center in organizations that don’t actually write software. From Management’s perspective, your department does not manufacture product, therefore they have to constantly squeeze the support departments for pennies.

            It’s best NEVER to give them a reason to wonder if they’d be better served by outsourcing this function. All support departments – HR, accounting, engineering etc – can be outsourced by software or to subcontractors. You definitely don’t want the head of Finance thinking, maybe tech support out of Costa Rica wouldn’t be so bad…after a Josh Special Fix.

            1. IT*

              I worked at a major, public company that did outsource IT to a company in India. No offense to those Indian IT people, but, there are some parts of desktop support that you just can’t do remotely.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        1. When I first got this job working at a hospital, I was surprised some of the doctors and nurses weren’t proficient in basic things like Word and Excel. Until I realized they’ve been busy helping and saving patients!
        It’s good for me too, they see me as a guru with my Excel reports and access to data. :)

        1. Quickbeam*

          As a nurse who is proficient with IT, you keep it to yourself. Otherwise you become the clinical fix-it person for RNs and MDs and never get your patient centered work done.

          1. Artemesia*

            Yes it is like the olden days when young women were told to not let people know they could type or they would be assisting their male peers instead of making their own way up the ladder.

            1. Autumnheart*

              As opposed to now, where young women actually do the work and yet the credit still goes to their male peers.

      4. TootsNYC*

        they are expert in other things and the IT stuff is a tool for them.

        This is so important! Learning all that IT stuff can actually get in their way and make them WAY less productive.

        My doctor was wailing in frustration trying to prescribe meds for me. It took him so long to wade through all the layers, etc. Having the clerical/technical/tool stuff be dumped on the subject-matter expert is a major productivity loss. You may have fewer secretaries, but your doctors and experts won’t product as much work, or as good of work.

    3. Pescadero*

      I’ve seen both sides of this.

      I’ve dealt with the condescending IT guy who treats you poorly.

      I’ve been the IT guy that can barely hide his frustration at having to fix the same thing, for the same person, for the 475th time… even though they’ve been trained in how to avoid the problem and how to fix the problem – but just can’t be bothered to learn.

      It’s unacceptable behavior (I’ve always been able to keep my frustration under wraps) – but sometimes the end user IS part of the problem.

      1. hugseverycat*

        No one’s saying end users aren’t irritating. I work in tech support, so believe me, I know. We’re saying it’s the IT/tech support people’s job to help them anyway and be pleasant about it.

        1. Pescadero*

          Absolutely it is IT/tech support people’s job to help them anyway and be pleasant about it. Nothing excuses being a rude jerk.

          It’s also managements job to force people to learn and not waste IT time. There is irritating, and then there is willfully ignorant and refusing to learn your job.

          That being said – if it is willful ignorance, you still act professionally toward the user – and then bring it up with their management.

      2. Jadelyn*

        One or two specific users, sure. But it sounds like everyone has this same issue with this guy, which sounds like it’s less a “frustrating user” issue and more a “dude is a condescending jerk” problem.

      3. Autumnheart*

        And sometimes IT is the problem. How freakin’ hard is it to keep the tools online? And stop pushing releases without testing different scenarios, especially for customer-facing systems. Why must we submit tickets after EVERY release because some cowboy changed a variable that broke a major function because they didn’t stop to make sure what the heck it did before changing it? Every time. What the hell is wrong with programmers who don’t. test. before. pushing. to. production?

        But I don’t say that when I submit a ticket because being a jerk is a Career-Limiting Move.

      4. Robm*

        But we’rE talking about Josh and his problem with many users.

        If Josh has problems with several people then the problem is with Josh.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yup. As the saying goes: “You deal with an asshole in the morning, then you ran into an asshole. If you deal with assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

  2. Peaches*

    Alison’s advice is spot on. Your question was, “what do I do, as a new manager who wants to defend and take care of my employees?”, but based on Josh’s rudeness towards other employees, it’s actually Josh who needs to be spoken to about WHY other employees find him so difficult to work with.

    1. Anon for now*

      Exactly. If he makes people feel stupid and belittled when they have problems, it is no surprise they are happy when he is not there. People should not feel like they are inconveniencing him by asking him to do his job.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I think it’s a little odd that OP thinks “it’s a problem all IT workers have to some degree.” I worry about that statement and I think it explains why OP doesn’t see the problem. I know plenty of IT workers who manage to be helpful and friendly, and as a scientist I can tell you there are many fields where people have a lot of specific knowledge, and find a way not to belittle those who don’t specialize in our area.

        1. Washi*

          Yes, and this to me is what distinguishes a great IT worker from an ok one. A lot of the day to day problems IT workers encounter do not require a ton of skill to fix, but do need a lot of skill and patience to explain and prevent in the future without being condescending.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I have so much respect for our helpdesk guys – I do a very small amount of end user support, just for our HRIS, and I know I wouldn’t have the patience to be on the phone all day every day explaining the same thing a dozen different times to a dozen different people. I can barely keep my chill through two or three people’s worth of doing remote tech support. To do that kind of IT work takes the patience of a freaking saint.

        2. The IT Manager*

          OP here: The “problem” I think a lot of IT people have is getting frustrated by people, not being jerks about it. I do my absolute best to always be helpful and friendly, but that frustration can still be there.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s one thing to be frustrated, but it’s another thing to signal that frustration. Most good IT people do get frustrated and may blow off steam to one another, but they don’t show their frustration when they’re working with the person who requested help. Basically, you use your filter. It sounds like Josh’s filter is either non-existent or has big holes in it.

            1. Flash Bristow*

              Right. Josh and Steven could be in league, with a knowing look and a lighthearted “users, eh?” comment when the help-seeker has gone – but instead Josh is being a dick, and Steven won’t want to be seen associated with that.

              Josh is alienating himself.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                My IT guy will sometimes come back from helping an external customer and say “The problem was between the keyboard and the chair.” But I’ve watched him in action with customers, and none of them have any idea at all that he was getting exasperated with the situation, because he remains calm and polite at all times.

                1. Classic Rando*

                  When I did retail tech support, another tech once tried to be cheeky and told a customer that their (user error) issue was from an ID10T error. That backfired spectacularly when the customer then asked what that meant and got increasingly frustrated as the tech grasped desperately for a safe explanation that did not exist.

                2. Specialk9*

                  I was just about to post about the dreaded ID-ten-T error my roommates used to joke about. Sometimes it really is the user.

                3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                  Hubby is IT support. He vents at me DAILY about the end users he encounters (“how did she get a job as a project team lead if she can’t operate email?!” – I’ve met the woman, and she really doesn’t know one end of a mouse from the other). But he has consistently received praise and positive public feedback for his helpfulness. It’s all about professionalism, and keeping PEBCAK jokes away from end users.

          2. Anon Today*

            The reality is though that everyone gets frustrated by others. I’m not in IT, but I get frustrated when I have to repeat myself for 100th time, and/or I get asked a question that seems stupid to me because I’m content expert (but isn’t stupid because the person asking isn’t a content expert). This is something that everyone faces to a large degree. It’s not isolated or unique to IT.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              It’s not. I’m frustrated with the library computer users I help because I tell them the same thing over and over again. And that I’ve put instructions on how to print at every public computer and apparently no one reads them. But I’m also frustrated that our IT system won’t come up with a less cumbersome way for a patron to save to a flash drive (users have to enter E:\ in front of the file name to access a flash drive or save to it).

            2. nonymous*

              I think the stereotype is common in IT because of how workload tends to be structured + the personalities the industry attracts (although the latter is changing).

              So you have the person who is in charge of rolling out massive systems changes expected to staff a help desk. If they’re neck deep in the task, recovering from the interruption to answer a question for the nth time may mean take 20-40 minutes. Add to that where the customer is also frustrated at impact to their workflow, and the expectation that the help desk is available on call (and possibly perceived as lower-skilled staff) and there just isn’t a huge amount of bandwidth for emotional labor on either side.

              It would be like asking an accountant to simultaneously prepare an audit of store’s receipts while staffing the returns desk.

              1. Rather Be Reading*

                Librarian here. You just very accurately described a day in the life of a library employee. We’re expected to do all of that, while keeping a smile on our faces and being kind and polite to all customers we encounter. And we succeed at it about 95% of the time. It can be done.

                1. Salamander*

                  Former librarian here. This. Interruptions are part of the job. And they’ve also been part of most jobs I’ve had. Maybe it’s a gendered expectation, but every job I’ve had has required the ability to shift from working on a project that requires deep concentration to dealing with requests from others.

              2. SarcasticFringehead*

                We have a situation right now where the powers that be don’t really understand the different kinds of IT, so we hired a sysadmin to do that and be the primary helpdesk contact. According to our IT director, he’s great at being a sysadmin, and according to everyone else, he’s terrible at being helpdesk. It’s frustrating all around – users aren’t getting the help they need, the IT director is overwhelmed (he used to be helpdesk, and he’s pretty good at it, so everyone comes to him), the higher-ups don’t understand why the “IT guy” can’t do every aspect of IT simultaneously, and the sysadmin is constantly being interrupted. Hooray!

              3. Gatomon*

                Precisely. IT shouldn’t be structured like that, but it often is. First, why pay someone $40+ per hour to tell users to reboot when you can pay someone $20 to do that? Second, you’re interrupting work that is often very risky. Level 3’s “configuration error” back in 2017 is a great example. One oops took down part of the internet for millions of people. That’s why the help desk usually doesn’t do anything but respond to customers. How could you justify the millions of dollars in monetary losses of that event if the root cause was, “network engineer was distracted by answering help desk calls and mistyped a BGP statement”?

                To be honest, I get annoyed when tickets come up that I know our help desk should be able to resolve. I don’t take it out on them, but it is frustrating to be pulled away from a project I’m getting pushed on to finish because someone can’t do a “show log” or the help desk pissed off the customer because they haven’t figured out how to be a good customer service representative. Sometimes it’s not that the ticket needs a more skilled tech assigned, it just needs someone who can talk to the customer better.

          3. Violet Fox*

            One of the big things for me is that IT has been pretty traditionally portrayed as the sort of job that is good for people who either don’t like people or have bad people skills. The opposite is really the case. You need to have really good people skills/soft skills. Technical skills are just not good enough if you cannot communicate with management and cannot communicate with your user-base well.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This, plus these expectations are soooo gendered. Nurses have every reason and more to get frustrated with people, but we don’t portray it as okay for them to go around biting patients’ heads off.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                +1000. Although trying to be fair, I do think the average person on the street would think that a grumpy, unsociable (male) person should go into computers/geek stuff and that would be a good fit for their skills, while I assume people don’t tell unpleasant and grouchy young women that a career of nursing will provide them with rich rewards. Ironically both fields can end up being about human interactions all day.

                1. Mad Baggins*

                  This. I think there is a general expectation that women be pleasing and smiling at work, but IT definitely has a reputation as not requiring people skills, and therefore/because it is staffed by awkward geeks. (Not that any of this is the case, and I think every job requires people skills except maybe lighthouse operator?)

            2. the gold digger*

              They hired a new on-site IT person last fall. The hiring manager’s biggest requirement?

              Someone with a great attitude.

              “I can teach him the technical details,” hiring manager said. “I can’t teach him to be approachable and helpful.”

              (NB The previous IT person was neither competent nor approachable.)

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Spouse is a boss, doing hiring the last several years. That perfectly encapsulates where he has wound up.

              1. Mike C.*

                Do what works best for you, but this idea that soft skills cannot be trained or coached needs to go away.

                Soft skills are like any other skill.

                1. Someone*

                  It absolutely can be trained (says this person who improved her people skills some years ago), but it requires the acknowledgement that there’s some learning to do.
                  When it comes to things such as “willingness to learn” and “understanding that other people have a different perspective and expertise” (which I’d list under “attitude”) you have a bit of a hen-and-egg problem; and I wouldn’t want to be the person having to solve that.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  While I agree that they can be taught, people tend to be more receptive to “You don’t know how to use MatLab, so we’ll train you on that” than “You don’t know how to interact with your coworkers in non-annoying ways, so we’ll train you on that.”

                3. Ego Chamber*

                  I just now put it together that the reason people who are super deficient in soft skills try to play it off like “I don’t know how to be nice to people on the phone or explain things in a way that doesn’t hide how done with working for a living I am! That’s just my personality!” is probably because there usually isn’t any dedicated training for these things, unless you work customer service, which most people consider to be below them and often resent having to do, even if it’s something they’ve chosen to do.

                  That is why, if I was the god of this place, I would mandate that everyone had to work some form of customer service for a minimum of 1 year before they could be hired into any career path.

          4. Turquoisecow*

            Is it possible Josh could be in a less customer-facing role (customers here meaning his coworkers) or maybe a more challenging role? After years of doing the same kinds of things, maybe he’s tired of password resets and simple PC questions. If he’s burned out, maybe he needs to switch jobs.

            (Of course, if there’s nothing like that open in your company, OP, this is his problem and not yours. But maybe Josh just doesn’t have the personality for the work he’s doing.)

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Although I hate to reward low performers! I would try to make sure this is a lateral transfer, not a promotion.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                Oh, definitely!! And if there isn’t a spot available that meets the criteria, it’s not your job to create one – let him find such a position elsewhere!

            2. tangerineRose*

              Almost any role is going to be a role where you get questions sometimes. If Josh can’t deal with any questions without being obnoxious, then why employ him at all?

          5. OlympiasEpiriot*

            Look, anyone who is an expert in something gets frustrated occasionally. The thing is that it is categorically wrong to get frustrated with someone for not knowing or not remembering something they rarely use — which is, frankly, the case for lots of people w.r.t. IT.

            TL/DR: Do not patronize. It prevents you hearing what people are saying. People, not the tools, are your job because they use the tools.

            I am technical. I am in a technical field. I am not IT. I am not scared by IT, I use IT, and I have some knowledge, but, I regard it as a tool, a complicated one, that periodically changes the order in which things get done or where to find various sub-tools in the tool and that often requires specialised knowledge for efficiency.

            Because I am not IT, I may use terminology to describe a problem I am having or trying to solve that a IT specialist doesn’t. I have more than once in my life had to wade through a helluva lot of patronizing before I can get someone from IT to even admit that there is a problem. [I am vividly remembering a database where files got entered and for some reason I couldn’t get information from those files to appear on reports I would run. I described what I was seeing with the metaphor “cul-de-sac” and was mocked roundly until I pulled in an extremely senior person (like C-suite senior) to a meeting I demanded with 3 people in IT who stayed long enough to hear me lay out the problem Yet Again, then C-Person said “Right, OE has explained it to you. I expect you have the skills to solve this.” Then, dear reader, he left, leaving me at the front of the room and all of them starting at me. We solved it. Took several days, but we did. It took weeks to get to this point. Colossal waste of my time.]

            When I get frustrated with my clients, I tell amusing stories to my co-workers around the water cooler. I do not patronise my clients. If it has gotten to the point I cannot be courteous to them, I get other people onto the job to run some interference, or I consider firing them as a client.

            1. Magenta Sky*

              It’s frustrating when someone uses not only a different term than an IT pro would use, but uses a technical term, and uses it *wrong*. When they tell you some specific piece of equipment is not working, and you show up with everything you might need to repair that piece of equipment and it turns out that item has nothing to do with the problem. (Real incident: “Our office printer won’t print.” “Well, it prints just fine for me, but the virus that’s playing the porn video in the middle of your desktop is a problem. If you’d told me about *that*, I could have brought a spare computer to swap it out with. Instead, you’re without a computer until at least tomorrow, because there’s no way in hell I’m leaving that one here for some 16 year old cashier to walk in on.”)

              What’s really, really frustrating is when they keep doing it over and over and over, no matter how many times (or how politely) you explain it to them.

              There are a lot of people (a small minority, but there’s still a lot of them) who simply refuse to understand, refuse to learn, because they don’t want to. There’s a level of aversion to computers that amounts of a disability that’s making people more and more unemployable.

              Bad people skills are a two way street.

              1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                Then as IT, you make it impossible for them to access the websites with the porn virus. Or you update your security better. Or you cross examine them about EXACTLY what they see on the screen. Or you install the software on your system that allows you to hijack their computer and poke around for yourself before going over there with everything. Or all of the preceeding.

                If your (clients) people are so bad about describing the problem, you have no business counting on their diagnoses.

                I do a lot of remedial work on far more physical problems with different technology. I never rely on the diagnosis from the client unless they happen to be one of a very tiny, select group of people.

                1. Magenta Sky*

                  Yes, I do all of that (if you do IT work, it shouldn’t surprise you that viruses can easily break remote control software). But it’s not on *me* that they had a porn virus running on a computer accessible to all employees (including the underage ones) and reported it as “the printer doesn’t work.”

                  If you are so utterly incapable of reporting a video of people having sex running on your computer that you believe that your printer isn’t working, you are too incompetent to be managing a retail store. Or much of anything else, including your own life.

                  (That one is a bit of a sore spot, because we do have underage employees, and if a sixteen year old cashier had walked into the office and seen that, we’d have been lucky if we got a call from the family lawyer, rather than the police. If they had reported it accurately, even from a non-technical person’s perspective, I would have been there a lot sooner, and the legal liability to the company would have been much less dire. And they wouldn’t have been without a critical piece of equipment for a day.)

                2. Rather Be Reading*

                  @Magenta Sky:

                  If the only symptom of the virus was that I couldn’t print stuff, it might not occur to me that the problem was a virus. It’s not my job to know that. It’s IT’s job to remote in and look at the computer and the printer network and figure out what the problem is.

                  And I’m not at all surprised that the person didn’t tell you about the porn related problem. If I was engaging in activity on my work computer that might get me fired, the last person I’d tell about it would be the IT tech!

            2. TardyTardis*

              I recommend lots of screen shots of what is happening. Pictures really are worth 10,000 words in IT, and I used them all the time whenever I was busy trying to break whatever new update for Platinum the managers were trying out.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                I’m a software developer. Our own *QA department* would send problem reports with important steps missing. I wrote up a wiki page on how to configure QuickTime Player to show mouse clicks (alas, there was no option to record key strokes) and would bounce any bug report that was missing one if the “steps to reproduce” were insufficient.

          6. Magenta Sky*

            Having over two decades of IT experience, I can say you are correct.

            It’s very frustrating to have to deal with someone who literally cannot read the plain English error message on the screen in front of them because “I don’t know anything about computers.” Who literally cannot follow instructions as simple as “push the power button to shut the computer down” because “I don’t know anything about computers.” Who make the same basic, simple mistakes over and over, and simply refuse to learn even the simplest computer usage. Who are so willfully incompetent with computers that they are incapable of doing their own jobs. And it’s even more frustrating when the IT guy gets blamed for all this no matter who polite and professional he is.

            There are ways to deal with all this properly (sometimes be finding a different job, where people are expected to master all the necessary skills for the job, including computer use). Being a jerk and embarrassing people who do stupid things (I once had to drive to another location to take a stapler off a keyboard) really isn’t one of them.

            Yeah, Josh is a problem. But it’s entirely possible he’s not the *only* problem. And driving him out won’t solve any other problems.

            After talking to the people who don’t want to work with him, talk to *him*, with specific examples. “You did xxx, and it made the person you were dealing with unhappy. You should have done yyy instead.”

            1. Hills to Die on*

              This is a thing.
              PITA: ‘I need IT to do a mass update to my records because my staff doesn’t have time to do them all. They take 5 minutes each!’
              IT: ‘OK, but it will take 36 hours to build this for your update. How many records do you have?’
              PITA: ‘um, like 87’.
              IT: ‘So, it will take us 5 times longer but you want us to do it anyway?’
              PITA: ‘Yes, and you should quit being so unhelpful.’
              IT: *eye twitch*

              1. Magenta Sky*

                I get that sometimes. Sometimes, it’s easier (and quicker) to literally do their job – to input the updates manually, one at a time – than to automate it. But, hell, that’s part of IT work here. But I’ve never had anyone insist I do it the hard way.

              2. Jadelyn*

                Didn’t XKCD have a comic about how to calculate the amount of time saved vs the amount of time spent on the time-saving solution, based on the frequency and duration of the task? Cause I have that problem sometimes – I want to build fancy macros and stuff or figure out a formula-based solution but it would honestly take me longer to get that built and working and tested to be sure it’s doing what I want and nothing more, than it would to just do the thing manually in the first place.

                1. Melody Pond*

                  Yep, I loved that comic. Except I would add the caveat that the time spent on automating shouldn’t be weighed equally against the time spent doing the actual task manually, because A) the work to automate stuff using macros/formulas is often more fulfilling/engaging for the worker’s brain, and B) the automated solution, assuming it’s well-built (which is not always a valid assumption, I realize), will have a higher likelihood of ensuring accuracy for repetitive, rote tasks, like data entry.

                2. TootsNYC*


                  the work of creating the widget is learning. And I can use that learning elsewhere.

                  And the widget I create might be used in some other situation.

                  Back in the days of XyWrite and DOS, I learned how to program keyboards. The first thing I did was make a keyboard that would type “April Fool’s” every time someone typed a capital letter A. And I pushed it out to the three people I knew would think it was mildly funny (and would know to call me to take it off).

                  Then I put a flashing message of farewell on the screen of someone who had announced their resignation. (She thought it was funny and didn’t want me to take it off; she just needed to know how to turn if off each morning until she left).

                  Both of those were things that I LATER used to push out keyboards with typesetting coding in them, or alerts.

                3. SusanIvanova*

                  Many years back, the instructions I got for a new job included “visually compare the Unix & Windows makefiles to the Mac CodeWarrior projects and sync them up.” It was a new and large project, they changed on a daily basis.

                  I spent two days redoing all the makefiles and writing scripts so I could auto-generate the CW projects. The other new Mac guy spent two days visually comparing makefiles to CW projects. Years later my system was still in place (though modified to something much more sane for the Mac), and the other guy was long gone.

            2. Serin*

              Oh, I’m married to a very smart guy who has a problem with nouns — he gets so frustrated when it’s impossible to solve his computer problems unless he can correctly distinguish between a window, a program, a document, a dialog box, and the screen.

              I think in his head they’re all rectangular so what’s the difference?

              IT requires MORE social skills, not less!

              1. Magenta Sky*

                We used to have a housewares manager who couldn’t use a mouse. Really, seriously, couldn’t use a mouse. Heck of a housewares manager, though.

                “IT requires MORE social skills, not less!”

                Yes. But so does being a user who had to deal with IT. It’s very, very easy to blame IT for everything, whether it’s their fault or not.

                1. Someone else*

                  Yeah we had a saying where I used to work… Users are required to tell IT what their problem is.
                  “I got an error” does not tell IT what the problem is. It tells IT a problem exists. That’s about as helpful as opening a ticket that says “Help!” and nothing else.
                  Users that don’t know what to do don’t frustrate me. I’m here because they need my help. Users that refuse to participate and tell me at minimum “I do X and Z happens” or “The error says ABC” frustrate me. Users who acknowledge they don’t know how to fix the problem, but they’re absolutely sure what I’m suggesting they do will not fix it and can’t they try something else? frustrate me. Users who think they know how to fix the problem and that I must be completely wrong about how to fix it and they tried A and surely that will fix it, except it hasn’t, but they still don’t want to try the fix I suggested, frustrate me. I still don’t get to be an ass to them, but they do frustrate me and at a certain point the answer is going to be “you need to try what I suggested first or I cannot continue to troubleshoot” because it’s literally true.
                  I think this is what LW was alluding to with the “problem all IT have to some degree”.
                  All that said, Josh has gotten to the point that the majority of users are conspicuously avoiding being helped by him in favor of anyone else, it’s very very likely there’s a Josh problem and not an every-single-user-in-this-org problem.

            3. Knitting Cat Lady*

              On the other hand some IT techs are simply incapable of going off script.

              I once got a bios message on my work computer: ‘Disk failure imminent’

              Took me about an hour to get it through that I needed someone to come and take my PC in for hardware diagnostics.

              And when the motherboard of my next work PC died the IT people simply wouldn’t believe me when I told them that my PC was blue screening with a memory error even though I was doing nothing. Once I managed to brow beat them into running a hardware check they became very sheepish and replaced my PC.

              And there’s been more than one time I wanted to crawl through the phone line to strangle one of my customers. Because they, too, seem to be unable to read and comprehend anything.

              I’ve lost count how often I wanted to shout ‘I cannae change the laws of physics’ at PMs…

            4. Michaela Westen*

              “cannot read the plain English error message on the screen in front of them because “I don’t know anything about computers.” Who literally cannot follow instructions as simple as “push the power button to shut the computer down” because “I don’t know anything about computers.” ”
              Some people are intimidated by computers. Like some are intimidated by math.
              They are afraid to get involved with it even a little, on a simple level, because they’re afraid it will lead to a situation where they get in trouble for not being a computer expert.

              1. TootsNYC*

                and if the IT guy is condescending at them about not being a computer expert, they’ll never, ever dip their toe into the water.

          7. SE-No*

            I think it’s a huge problem to lack the patience to do a key part of your job, interacting with customers. As someone who has done over a decade of Tech work, the shop is for venting and popping off when you’re frustrated. Being a jerk is never acceptable to other people. It’s a really difficult skill to master, trust me, do I ever know, I had to really super work hard to take the jerk out of myself.

            What I did was focus on the REASON they were not receptive to the problem. For example, if someone grew up poor, they probably never had a computer or a lot of technical experience. Most people do all their internet on the phones these days, too. Computers are seen as “hard”. We in the STEM field have made this problem, in part, because of the way that we treat people. Other people have been flat out /told/ they’re too dumb to get it, that they will break it, and the way that WE as IT/TECH people react to their problems either helps them get through that or reinforces that.

            People aren’t, by in large, lazy. They have things in their life that we aren’t privy to. I -again- understand and know the frustration. But there is a reason why we have such horrible reputations as jerks. Just my 2c

            1. hugseverycat*

              Agreed. Yes, it’s frustrating when users describe problems badly, ignore your advice, or don’t understand you. But it’s our job to be the experts, and it’s our job to figure out the problem without being a jerk about it.

              If the user is being a jerk, or is unemployably bad at using their tools, we’re not going to help anything by being condescending or rude to them. We can talk to their managers as we would with anyone else who is mean or incompetent.

              1. SE-No*

                Yeah, I mean, no one wants to be a “tattle tale”, but if someone is truly THAT bad at vital job functions, their boss should know. Most offices I know of love the idea of enrichment stuff, making it part of that employe’s goals to “take X course and up your skills” is a great way to not only solve the problem, but it gets your employe focused on their IT issues.

          8. RUKiddingMe*

            Maybe IT people should work on not getting frustrated with people who can’t really be expected to have an in depth knowledge of IT stuff because it’s not their field of expertise. Maybe keep in mind that IT is your area and “Cathy works in purchasing” ergo she would not have the requisite schooling and experience to do your job?

            1. SE-No*

              Well certainly, but as a 20something-year-old kid I needed a way to align my thinking appropriately and that’s the way that I did it. There’s also somewhat of an iron curtain in the tech field, unfortunately. I have no idea why transparency is something that departments seem to fight so hard against (at least in my past experiences).

              And, honestly, there is a huge difference between “Cathy works in purchasing and accidentally clicked on a phishing email and now we have to do a scrub” one time and “Cathy works in purchasing and accidentally clicked on a phishing email and now we have to do a scrub for the 400th time”. After a while, the onus is on an employee to be knowledgeable about the technology they need to use to do their job. Cathy doesn’t have to know how to network her device, but she does need to know how to spot a bad email and report it.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                After the second scrub the manager needs to be looped in to talk to Cathy. I cannot imagine working any where and making the same mistake 400 times (or how ever many times) and being able to retain my job.

                While I do understand some of IT’s complaints here, I think it’s legit to tell the boss why a problem is recurring. (Meaning her employee is causing a recurring problem.) A computer is a tool of the job. A lot of places put people on warnings or worse if they repeated break tools provided by the company. If we took out the computers and we started talking about company cars it is so easy to see, “No, you cannot repeatedly dent the company car. You have to watch what you are doing and protect the company’s assets.”
                Protecting the company’s assets is such a basic job requirement that most people think it’s obvious and do not say it. But as we see here some folks DO need to have that explained to them.

                1. SE-No*

                  Of course, but that doesn’t always mean that her manager will do anything about it. As we’ve seen here all too often, people who are incompetent and make a place bad to work in keep their jobs all the time.

                  I never disagreed with any of that at all and I don’t ever think it’s valid to be nasty at work to anyone if I’ve come off that way, I’d appreciate being told where because I seriously can’t see it.

                  Some people, regardless of what they should do, or why they do it, have to change their mindset when dealing with people to better understand them. I was suggesting a way to deal with their mindset and hopefully approach people more respectfully.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          My husband went back to a gathering at his school for PhDs not working in academia, sort of a symposium + tell us what was useful, or what we aren’t doing that would have been useful. (Hard sciences, large prestigious school.) And a recurring theme was “How to communicate with people about my work using words.”

          1. SL #2*

            It’s definitely a thing! I train doctors/nurses for a living and we have an entire curriculum on managing change and communicating to clinic/hospital senior leadership in terms THEY understand. If these stressed-out primary care docs can do it, I don’t see why Josh can’t.

            OP, you have to start working with him on this and you can’t let this be your blind spot just because “all IT workers are like this.” They’re not, and if they are, then they’re just a terrible IT worker, period, end of story.

            1. Magenta Sky*

              “They’re not, and if they are, then they’re just a terrible IT worker, period, end of story.”

              Remove “IT” from the middle of that, and you’re dead on.

              1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                Why do you keep deflecting? The OP’s topic is specifically about IT. We are therefore all using “IT” in our comments.

                1. Magenta Sky*

                  I’m not deflecting. I’m pointing out that the real problem here isn’t an IT problem, it’s a problem no matter what someone’s job is. Trying to make poor social skills an IT problem looks more like deflecting to me.

                  If the buy were a sales associate and treated his coworkers the same way, it’d be the same problem. If the guy were the company plumber and treated his coworkers the same way, it’d be the same problem. If the guy were a receptionist and treated his coworkers the same way, it’d be the same problem.

                  It’s not an IT problem. It’s a poor social skills problem. And it may well not be the *only* problem (though it may be impossible to determine that until *that* problem is addressed.)

                2. Rather Be Reading*

                  @Magenta Sky, as the OP has noted, this particular behavior problem is not uncommon among IT professionals. Given that this is the exact problem the OP needs advice for resolving, it makes sense for us to make that point. Please stop with the #notallittechs. We know it’s not all IT techs. But it’s a problem common to the industry.

              2. SL #2*

                This post is specifically about someone’s trouble with managing an IT worker who doesn’t seem to have the technical or soft skills to be competent at his job. I don’t see a problem with referring to Josh as a terrible IT worker.

              3. Gardiola*

                This letter is about IT. IT is relevant when addressing the OP. Maybe let it go, your constant rephrasing is nitpicky and annoying.

          2. SWOinRecovery*

            Amen! The majority of US military academy or ROTC graduates are required to have a more technical major (engineering, math, science, etc). The thought is that most systems are highly technical, so we’re better off with officers with a highly technical background.

            The problem? Officers aren’t building, repairing, or generally working on that equipment. They’re communicating (written and verbal) about the status of that equipment and its impact on the mission to higher leaders, usually far away. They’re also communicating their plan/assignments to subordinates. Issues didn’t really arise from equipment malfunctions. It was miscommunication either above or to subordinates that caused the worst headaches. When I got a few weeks in the summer to mentor college cadets I would always emphasize how incredibly important their English or paper-based classes/communication skills would be.

          3. Specialk9*

            How to communicate hard science with words… Oh that’s a real problem.

            My one doctor family member knows how to talk Human even when on the topic of medicine, and we can follow; the other might as well be speaking Greek for all that we understand. (And this is a family of ridiculous overachievers – we’re not dumb!)

            Occasionally we’ll jokingly/not-jokingly ask #2’s wife “Is there any chance #2 thought he was using plain English? “Uh yeah. What he meant was this…”

        4. Xarcady*

          There’s stuff on my work computer I have the knowledge/ability to fix, but I can’t because I don’t have Admin capability. So I have to call IT for help.

          Now, it could be that the IT people leave my cubicle and can’t wait to get back to their office to share the latest clueless coworker story, but while they are fixing things for me, they are always polite and willing to answer questions I might have. They’ve even shared info on non-work-related tech topics, which is why I have a nice keyboard for my iPad :).

          Granted, the loner tech guy stereotype lends credence to the OP’s assessment that many IT people have this problem, but I think it is one that can be overcome.

          My brother works in IT. People at his job bake him cookies. Which I doubt they would do if he were treating them rudely. Me, he treats rudely. But he knows how to behave at work.

          1. Violet Fox*

            I haven’t gotten cookies but I have gotten chocolate! (I’m a sysadmin)

            There are three of us on my team and two of us get chocolate and thank you notes, and the third gets.. well he gets the first line support when the other two of us aren’t available.

            In my experience there are a lot of people who are in IT because they are tech for tech’s sake people or because of the stereotypes about a good job for people who don’t like people, but that, at least in my opinion is not what the job is. Yes a lot of tech is pretty much *thecoolestthingever* but it’s about using the resources we have available to make people’s work-lives better and more functional. It’s about making sure people have the tools they need to do their jobs without having to put too much though and effort into it. To be able to do this well it means building relationships with people over time, and being able to work with them over possibly years or longer, including so that they are comfortable being able to tell you what their actual needs are.

            1. AKchic*

              I always have a stash of snacks and chocolates for IT. They are the unsung heroes of my job(s) and deserve praise for keeping me working. If my computer acts up, you betcha I’m going to be making sure I have their favorite snacks/chocolates on hand because I know they are going to be right there fixing my computer as quickly as possible (partially because they already know I have their favorites, and partially because they are awesome at their job).

        5. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’m an IT person, and I’ve never met a person who doesn’t know something that I don’t know (including children). They may not know what I know, and I may be there to help them with a computer problem, but I am in no way superior just because my area of expertise is computers instead of accounting or bugs or watercolors.

      2. Sam.*

        And I think OP should consider the impact on Steven, too! If they know Josh is going to make them feel incompetent or like a nuisance, they’ll go to Steven as much as they can, and he’ll get burdened with an unfair share of the work.

        This is coming from someone who served in a (non-IT) specialist role that involved helping a steady flow of coworkers with questions and problems. Though there was another person in a role similar to mine, at least 8 out of 10 questions went to me because I was infinitely more pleasant to deal with (and more competent, but it was mostly a personality thing). We even divvied things up for better balance – as in, talk to him about questions regarding A, B, or C, and to me about D, E, and F – and people still came to me, regardless. And yes, I was bitter about it. I could see that happening to Steven, too.

        1. The IT Manager*

          “And I think OP should consider the impact on Steven, too!”

          That’s a good point. The two of them have sort of carved out their niches in the department, with Steven doing a lot of the user interaction and Josh doing more back-end work, but there’s not a day that Josh won’t have to deal with people directly in some way or another.

          1. tangerineRose*

            And user interaction can be exhausting. Steven might thrive on it (some people do), or he might be putting up with it for now. If Steven isn’t thrilled with doing most of the user interaction, then Josh needs to do his fair share while treating people decently.

        2. froodle*

          Thirding this. I have been the Steven, where there was only the two of us in one department and Josh had a reputation for being rude, patronising and monumentally unhelpful. Result? Josh got to slack off all day while I was constantly interrupted by twice as many queries as I should have been.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Nor should he humiliate people in front of others (or at all…). If someone I employed did that I would fire them on the spot.

    2. The IT Manager*

      OP here: I should clarify when I said I want to defend my employees, I didn’t mean I think they’re always right or to defend their behavior. That comment was more about the fact that everyone seems to be perfectly OK gossiping and poking fun rather than approaching the problem properly. I acknowledge that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, and if it’s been around a long time I can see why people would get frustrated and just think of it as “the way it is”, but I still don’t feel like making these kinds of comments is the right way to go about dealing with the problem.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        It is a little eyebrow raising that this is such an open secret that people feel comfortable saying such things out loud to his supervisor. But I suppose that could also just be a symptom of how badly he’s behaving.

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          Or it could be a sign of overall dysfunction (sniping behind people’s back is commonplace). Josh can’t be rude. Period. But I think the OP has a point – that there might additional issues at play here that the OP *might* need to navigate.

          1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

            Sorry – I think I nesting failed here. I think I was trying to respond to a different comment, rather than Lil Fidget’s

      2. gecko*

        Here’s one framing–letting you know there’s a problem *is* the right way to deal with it, since you’re Josh’s direct manager. Being snotty about Josh is probably a less-than-optimal way of going about it; but I think that’s outweighed by Josh’s problem.

        1. Washi*

          I think it can often be tricky to figure out how to speak up about someone’s tone, especially if the words they are saying are technically fine. Complaining is already kind of fraught, and this kind of complaint is often dismissed as just being oversensitive, or personality conflict or whatever.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I wonder if people aren’t sure how to deal with it and have resorted to being snarky, hoping the LW will look into it.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        You are right that those kinds of comments don’t fix the problem. But it’s worth remembering that sometimes when people are making those kinds of comments it’s because the problem has been ongoing and they don’t believe it will ever be fixed. Some people are averse to bringing up issues but happy to complain about them, and that might be why this problem hasn’t been addressed. But often those remarks are the last refuge of people who have been dealing with a rude or incompetent employee and know (or believe based on past experience) nothing will ever be done about it. So if you want those comments to stop, the best thing you can do is fix the problem.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          OMG this.

          You know they have a problem with Josh and WHY they have a problem with Josh, so what is the holdup? Go manage Josh. The fact that Josh hasn’t been managed yet is why they’re complaining behind his back–they don’t believe it’s going to be handled.

        2. karou*

          “But it’s worth remembering that sometimes when people are making those kinds of comments it’s because the problem has been ongoing and they don’t believe it will ever be fixed.”

          I agree with this. OP’s letter says that Josh has worked there for several years, and if he’s been acting this way for a long time, they could be very frustrated and fed up that his behavior hasn’t been addressed by his previous manager before OP came onboard.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        But they are approaching you about the problem. They can’t take it up with Josh, so they’re making loud comments in your presence. It isn’t as direct as saying, “OP, Josh’s bedside manner is problematic and leads to people not wanting to work with him or request his assistance.” But they are telling you there’s a problem by signaling to you that they find it difficult to work with him. And now you’re on notice—they’ve told you, specifically, why they don’t like working with Josh.

        To a certain extent, it’s important not to get hooked on whether it was the “right way” to raise the issue with you. If you speak to Josh, and if your colleagues see that you responded to them, you’ll have better standing to follow up with them and say (earnestly, calmly, and kindly), “Hey, in the future if you’re having trouble like this, please let me know directly. I would hate for you to feel frustrated or like you can’t come to me about issues with folks on my team when those issues are preventing you from getting the support you need from our department.”

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Agreed, they’re trying to tell you about the problem in their own way. That they may not say it in a way that makes it clear to Josh’s manager is part of their being users and not IT. Ask follow up questions; they know what they mean, but aren’t sure how to word it.

        2. Lexi*

          I agree I think the previous manager handled the Josh situation badly by not getting a handle on this, and now every department that works with IT is irritated with no recourse. Sadly with how OP brought up the issue it looks like a company wide issue of hiring managers that push issues around and not lead, since OP is clearly pushing this off as anyone but their own issue.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. What I have done in the past is to say, “Tell me the problems as they happen. Let’s address this.”

          What is really cool here is that the non-problems, the whiny stuff, goes away and the real problems bubble to the surface.

          For people who open the subject and then dance around the subject, I would say, “I can’t work on or fix something I don’t know about. If you want me to work on it, you have to clue me in as to what “it” is I should be aware of.”

        4. TootsNYC*

          or you’ll have standing to say, “Listen, Josh is trying harder. I need now for you to be open to change from him. And I need you also to cut out the griping and negativity among yourselves. Give it a chance.”

      5. Peaches*

        I get that, but it still kind of seems like you’re blaming the employees who have been on the receiving end of Josh’s rudeness, rather than seeing Josh as the main issue. Those employees wouldn’t have anything to “gossip” about if Josh treated them cordially. Also, for what it’s worth, if their making those comments to you (his manager), I’m not sure if it’s really gossip since you perhaps SHOULD be the one to know about these issues. Now, they may not say it in the most professional/”right” way, but again, telling you about the issues they have with Josh isn’t inherently wrong.

        1. The IT Manager*

          That’s a fair criticism. I don’t want to blame people who have had to deal with a less-than-ideal situation for a long time. I just want to get the problem fixed on both sides, and I think the advice in Allison’s last paragraph is helpful to me.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            There isn’t a “both sides” here. You hop on this to fix it with Josh, go back to the people who have been brave and frustrated enough to directly talk with you about it, tell them how useful their confiding in you has been and say you are working on it. Also, promise no names are attached to any of the issues.

            Transparency, trust, don’t appear to be doing knee-jerk protection of you “own”, and it is likely to work out.

            1. Fiennes*

              I don’t know that you can say there isn’t a “both sides” problem here. Josh is apparently the bigger problem, but I strongly doubt Alison would advocate snippy/gossipy/passive-aggressive comments as a healthy, productive way to handle issue at work.

              I think OP must start with Josh, deal with that—and see. If this is only about Josh’s issues, hopefully the situation resolves. Employees *should* see that meaningful management is happening, that Josh is improving, and become a lot happier. But if the prior lack of management was long enough and widespread enough within the company, it’s possible that OP may have larger work to do as well: modeling more productive ways of raising and addressing issues. Bad management can, over time, create bad office cultures, and it’s possible OP may have some of this to clean up too.

            2. Rat in the Sugar*

              Personally I think that addressing the issue with Josh will probably clear up the issue with the coworkers, but there’s definitely an issue with the way they’re talking.

              Also, I seriously disagree with going back to the coworkers and telling them how useful they have been. You say they’ve been brave enough to directly talk with OP, but I don’t think saying “Oh good” when Josh is OOO or “Josh reviewed it but he doesn’t count” can be defined as directly talking to or confiding in OP. That’s not direct! Direct would be going to OP and actually saying something like “Josh is difficult to work with and condescending” or whatever. Josh is the much bigger problem here but the coworker’s should have been handling this differently.

              1. LCL*

                I was going to say all this in my patented inflammatory fashion, but you said it better. The indirect passive-aggressive whining was a large part of the culture where I work, and it made things much harder to deal with. The passive aggressive crowd would have a legitimate complaint, but not be direct. This just made the manager of the person being complained about dig in their heels and defend their worker, no matter what the worker was doing wrong. So the PAs would double down on the whining and shade throwing because they weren’t being heard, and the managers would become aggressively defensive. (yes that is a thing.)

                Which is more important, being receptive to other workers’ complaints or advocating for your coworkers? I think we’re scratching at the blue-white collar divide again. In the trades, if you are a manager or line manager, advocating for your work group is first. In the white collar world, I am learning, most people see the collaboration with other groups as the first task. IT, for those that are keeping the hardware and software running, effectively functions a lot more like a trade, blue collar job than a white collar job. We need both kinds of jobs. I am waiting for IT people to become heavily unionized, it will be better for us all when they do.

                1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  It isn’t clear that this is the kind of divide in this firm. If it were my firm, there absolutely wouldn’t be a divide like this. IT isn’t the only “trade” possible in a company and there are other “trades” that would still need IT support.

                  S/He seems to be wondering about how to get in front of the other employees so they don’t escalate complaints before s/he gets Josh to work on the problem.

                  If it were my management problem, I’d be going back to people who had told me their complaints and provide some confirmation that I’d taken their — however snottily phrased — concerns to heart. I see no harm in that and I think that if it is the kind of company where complaints have historically gone into a black hole leading to this kind of employee cynicism then that would be actively helpful. And, I do NOT throw my reports under the bus, but I will not tolerate bad behaviour or incompetence. Both *can* be trained away.

      6. BlueberryHill*

        It might not be the right way to go about dealing with the problem – but getting your internal customers to be open about the issues they have with your departments services is a huge task. You may want to consider doing mini ‘how was our service’ survey after a ticket is closed. My company has one, it is 3 scaled questions (ie, “My problem was resolved quickly”, “The agent was professional and knowledgable” “I am satisfied with the solution offered” – with the button scale being ‘not at all’ to ‘exceeds expectation’, and one comment section. Takes about 20 seconds to respond to.

      7. Amber T*

        I do agree that responses to Josh being on vacation are pretty immature, but it could also be a way of signaling to you that they’re unhappy. Have you inadvertently been playing favorites? It sounds like their thought process might be, “well, Josh is a jerk and is IT Manager’s favorite, so there’s no use in complaining to them about him.” Especially if you’re getting this information from your director about Josh, and not your subordinates.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Their responses haven’t been great, but I kind of wonder how long they all have been together and whether they tried to address this with management and Josh in the past.

        2. Doe-Eyed*

          I kind of got that vibe on this, especially since the LW was very open when Allison asked about Josh. By their admission he condescends to people and seems to be difficult… but their first instinct was to write about how they could make that people he’s being condescending to respect him.

          I mean, to me that seems like playing favorites – being rude to people with no rebuke while worrying that they’re “not respectful” isn’t very fair at all.

      8. President Porpoise*

        Are you sure that they haven’t attempted to address the problem directly with Josh? And if they did, do you really expect them to necessarily be able to affect change without the support and intervention of his manager?

        People grumble, in my experience, when there’s a defect that the don’t believe they can fix themselves (or that they feel can’t be fixed). It doesn’t make them bad people – they’re just commenting on working conditions, in a organic manner, to someone who might be able to fix the problem.

      9. hbc*

        Yeah, but that puts you dangerously close to “You shouldn’t have hit him back” territory. The fact that people aren’t responding ideally to his far-less-than-ideal behavior isn’t what you need to focus on. Josh is the source of this problem, and it’s up to him (with your support) to not give people a reason to make these comments.

      10. neverjaunty*

        It’s not, but this is how people behave when they don’t sense there are alternatives to the problem. If management has tolerated Josh or made excuses for him, turn of course people are going to react in this way.

      11. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Well, you say you were recently hired. That means while you are new to the Josh problem, the other people at the company are not – this has been a long-standing problem. And nothing has changed for them, right? For however long Josh has been there, he has been a jerk and nothing has changed. I’d cut them some serious slack in that case, and remember that they are probably just fed up at this point.

      12. Anon Today*

        The comments aren’t okay. But, if the other co-workers have approached Josh and/or his supervisor in the past and nothing has changed, then I get why they make those comments.

      13. Artemesia*

        What that says to me is you have a huge problem with Josh because people speak about it so openly. The problem does appear to be Josh and not their manners. You have to fix Josh before you fix their manners. And worry that Steven may find another job if he is getting stuck with all the work that Josh doesn’t do because people don’t want to work with him. Fix Josh first and then you can be upset about ‘gossip’ or ‘ridicule’.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah I think once you’ve counseled Josh and you see him making a good effort, then you could try to step in if you hear similar comments in the future with the script Alison provides in the last paragraph. But if you skip step one, you’ll just be telling them to stop complaining about an employee who belittles them, which isn’t great.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            One thing you could do is tell them to bring their complaints to you rather than each other, OP. Remind them that telling each other does not solve the problem. You are Josh’s boss and you are paid to solve problems.

            Making them respect Josh is not a good goal because rumor mills being what they are, Josh will be an ogre for years to come.

            Six years ago my friend did X 7 times, then she stopped doing X and has not done that for 5.5 years. The rumor mill has insisted that she is still doing it and has done it 1000s of times. My friend still gets complaints that she is doing X, even though it is totally not true.

            Respect is built one person at a time. Josh will need to build a good working relationship with each person that he works with. It took time to make this problem and it’s going to take time to undo the problem. I don’t believe we ever totally cure these things.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I’m reading Grant by Ron Chernow, and it’s becoming clear that the biggest evidence for U.S. Grant’s reputation for drunkenness came from his early military career, and NOT his later one. But once that reputation was there, it was hard to shake, and easily revived.

      14. Sarah*

        So did you know why the rest of the company dislikes Josh when you wrote in? Because that was a very big piece that doesn’t put you Josh’s manager in the best light, which I’m guessing you knew when you wrote in because the first portion paints the employees as bullies and Josh as the poor kid they are picking on. Your a new manager, but you want to address the symptoms not the problem, and most likely the manager before you did the same and took the rest of the company’s issues as not an issue. I think you need to readdress how you are handling things, if the majority of people have an issue then there is an issue. The comments may not be the right way to go about it but since Josh’s management isn’t fixing the issue, this is all they have. Clean your house before you go and criticize someone else’s cleaning. You have a problem that you are pushing off on everyone else, fix your problem and the people who dislike Josh will stop.

        1. LCL*

          I don’t think OP is pushing off the problem. OP specifically asked Alison and the rest of us rabble for help. I think OP is perceptive in realizing that she is basically dealing with a human problem, and that when more than one human is involved in a work problem there are usually things that should be addressed on both sides.

          Are you saying OP should remove the cause, but not the symptoms?

          1. Sarah*

            Im saying by asking initially what to do about the people who didn’t want to be around Josh that OP is only fixing symptoms. Where he should be asking about what to do about Josh making an entire office hate him. OP really set it up with the original ask like it was a bully situation against Josh and then when Alison asked for clarification we learned a whole new aspect that completely changed the game. OP wasn’t asking about what to do to fix Josh, OP wanted to fix everyone else.

      15. BlueberryHill*

        Something else to ponder — if Josh is being condescending or belittling his coworkers – they may not want to respond back to him out of guilt that it is a stupid mistake on their part. If the issue is due to user error, or one that is easily resolved by Josh -they may feel too abashed at the time to call Josh out for sneering. Nobody wants help from someone who throws salt in the wounds, or makes them feel stupid.

      16. Jady*

        Given that you’re brand new to that team – I wouldn’t see anything wrong with stepping over to someone who is gossiping and saying “Hey, if you have a problem with another coworker, please come talk to me about it.”

      17. Beth*

        You might well have two separate problems–Josh is a jerk, and your team in general has a culture where gossip and snide comments have become normalized as the way to handle problems. But in this case, it sounds like addressing the former might remove the latter (assuming Josh’s behavior is the main subject of gossip). If the gossip continues to be a problem once Josh’s behavior improves, that would be a sign that it really is a separate problem and needs to be directly addressed; if, on the other hand, it goes away, then maybe it was always just a symptom of the jerk problem.

      18. Myrin*

        I hear you, but I also think the “gossiping and poking fun rather than approaching the problem properly” is a secondary problem in this particular case.

        You have only been in your position since “recently” and you are Josh’s boss, but I bet the people you hear speak negatively about Josh don’t even really think about that; you are just another person who needs to work with Josh, so of course they speak to and around you the same way about him as they seem to have been doing for a long time. Some of them might even have “approached the problem properly”, as you say, once upon a time; they might have been direct and upfront with Cory but nothing changed so they’ve resigned to acknowledging their dislike of Josh and trying to work around him as much as possible.

        They may need to (re-)learn that with your arrival, there’s a new person in the mix who can and will do something about Josh and the problems he brings with him. And I think that actually fits nicely into your wish of them being more direct and pro-active: show them that they can come to you about problems with your reports, that you will listen to them and try your best to do something about their grievances. I’d guess that this situation where everyone moans and snarks about Josh will actually resolve itself once you’ve shown that you’ve taken action regarding him.

      19. Observer*

        I suspect that this is happening because no one has tried to deal with it. I mean, your boss didn’t have any ideas for you when you brought it up to him. His reaction SHOULD have been to give you the background and discuss how you deal with Josh and let people know that you’re working on it. So people are frustrated, not just by Josh, but by management’s past behavior on the matter.

      20. RUKiddingMe*

        It might be a …backhanded (I can’t really think of the word I want here) way of letting you know that Josh is a problem without coming out and saying it straight. I mean if he’s always been this way, and the former manager did nothing, there probably isn’t a whole lot of breath holding happening expecting things to get better under new management.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            There it is! Thank you. It seems that today is (has been) one of those days where my brain refuses to engage.

      21. Specialk9*

        Sometimes that’s how people tell their manager there’s a problem. They give a hint, enough for the manager to go dig, but they haven’t committed themselves. You never know when the lout is the nephew of the CEO, the manager’s best friends kid, or the HR person’s secret lover who will fire you for having your lunch stolen.

  3. Chriama*

    Another thing I’m not sure OP mentioned is that Josh might be unhelpful or unresponsive. Saying “Josh doesn’t count” implies that he takes user queries so lightly that he doesn’t look into them seriously. Maybe he takes a cursory glance and/or just insists it’s user error. So it’s quite possible that if Josh’s job includes user support then he is actively failing to perform part of it.

    1. Anon for now*

      That’s a good point. The OP should definitely follow up on why he doesn’t count. If he is taking a cursory look or throwing problems back as too trivial to deal with, that is a serious performance issue.

    2. CityMouse*

      Also, sometimes you have to get IT to fix “stupid” problems because admin access is restricted in work computers. Yes, I know this is an easy fix, and if I was on my home computer, I could fix it myself. But I can’t at work. Please just do this So I can keep doing my job.

    3. straws*

      This is true in my experience too. We had a Josh and insisting that an issue was user error with minimal troubleshooting was his go-to. If you start every conversation with a user by blaming them for the problem, they’re quickly going to take their issues elsewhere or let them fester until they’re major issues instead of minor. We’re still dealing with this behavior even though he’s gone, and it takes up more time to have to slowly convince every employee that yes, we will take your issue seriously and not immediately make you feel stupid. Unfortunately, we did speak with our Josh (multiple levels on multiple occasions) and he was unable to correct the behavior.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yep, this is what I was coming in to say. I’m fairly tech savvy and I’ve been the user SME for some of our technical systems – all issues from general users funneled to me, and if I couldn’t explain/fix the issue for them myself, it would go on to IT, with my notes in the ticket about what I’d already tried/looked at and what known/historical issues it might be related to. I was widely known to our tech support employees as someone who didn’t pass along things that weren’t actual technical problems and who provided good detail on tickets, but I still had the occasional IT person who treated me like I was an idiot and considered user error as the strongest potential root cause for issues I passed along. I had enough clout with IT leadership that I’d give them feedback in cases like that. (And OP, if you have a user that you liason with frequently, it might be helpful to seek out their specific feedback on Josh.)

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agree with this. When I say “[Name] doesn’t count,” it either means their opinion is not necessary for resolving the issue, or more often, that they’re not helpful and I have to go up a level for real feedback.

      A long anecdote:
      I remember I had an issue that literally made me cry in frustration one day—my computer was insanely slow compared to other people, and it was affecting my ability to get materials to my boss because it would take over 42 minutes to do a 20-page printing job. I brought it up with our IT guy repeatedly, who complained every time, dismissed my complaint without looking into it, and loudly told everyone that I was “difficult” to work with because I was “always complaining.” (I raised the issue 2x over nine months, and I couldn’t go around him b/c he was the only IT staff for our location.) It got so bad that I would have to ask my coworkers to process print jobs, and I had to bring in my own laptop to do my work.

      Well guess what? Nine months later he had to log in as the admin to do a software update. He sat down and said, “Wow, your computer is so slow!” OP, I nearly lost it. This guy had been a total asshole to me for months over what turned out to be a hardware issue.

      1. Margot the Destroyer*

        It is amazing how quick something like that can change when they step into your shoes. I had an issue years ago, cant remember exactly what it was, but complained about it to my boss several times. She said it was fine as it was, didn’t need fixed. Finally when I was out on vacation for a week, she had to do my job for me. Wouldn’t you know the issue was fixed when I came back.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Oh god. BTDT. Three years. Finally outsiders were complaining about how slow my printer was because they had to wait. I said to them, “Call IT for me, because they laugh when I ask.” So they got me a new printer finally and… it’s miserable. I see it marked way down in price at Well Known Big Store and I know why.

  4. Murphy*

    The first example sounds like the person thinks Josh isn’t good at his job, since he doesn’t “count”, but the second definitely sounds like “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with him today” which seems more in line with the other feedback, that he’s being kind of a jerk.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I’m glad I’m not the only one who noted that. I would advice OP to go back to the person who made that comment specifically and dig deeper. It just doesn’t sound like, “Josh is a pill to work with” to me.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Playing off Chriama, I could see the first person thinking that Josh dismisses everything as user error, so they had to check the box “Ask Josh as first level support, be told to turn it off and back on again, then move up to someone who can actually help.”

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Ah, that would be a good possible explanation for this comment. OP should confirm it though.

      2. Murphy*

        Ah yeah, that’s definitely a possibility. That Josh doesn’t count because he doesn’t really take the time to examine the issue.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In fairness, their boss did learn to say that to everyone who called, thereby managing to disguise their complete lack of actual IT skills,

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, with the context given later I think that comment was very likely meant to say that Josh didn’t really look into the problem so it would be more accurate to say that only two people had looked at it rather than say that three people had.

    3. Sarah*

      We have our own Josh here that absolutely refuses to believe an issue is happening unless it’s reported by multiple people. So he’ll “look into it” but not actually, and just close tickets with the note that he couldn’t replicate the issue. So while he’s perfectly competent, unless I’m the fifth person to report an issue, I’d say that him looking at it didn’t count.

      1. yasmara*

        I would argue that he’s not competent! He may have technical skills, but he’s not competent at hinjob of helping people resolve issues.

      2. NW Mossy*

        Yeah, my area has a Josh too. His particular hang-up is that the only issues he pays attention to are bugs. Requests for enhancements or changes to the code to better serve business needs are summarily dismissed with “the code runs fine, so go away.”

        1. hugseverycat*

          Ha, my company sometimes does this sort of thing. When the end user hasn’t configured a particular setting, a (unrelated, in the eyes of our users) part of our product refuses to work and says “unexpected error”. But we have to report this to the “feature request” black hole because it’s “working as designed”.

        2. Commander Shepard*

          IT support isn’t going to have any control over adding new features, so he would be right. If something isn’t working, support can help, otherwise you need to find who can look at enhancements

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        My uncle had this! He’s a cop, and one night people were calling 911 to report an elephant walking by. After the fourth or fifth call, the dispatcher stopped suggesting coffee and asked a squad car to go check it out.

        There was an elephant: it had escaped from the circus. (This was around early 60s.) My cousins were listening to the police radio and crushed that the authorities managed to contain the elephant before it reached their house. (Pro tip: Do not attempt to stop an elephant by parking your car across the road.)

        1. Be a Tree*

          I so read this as your cousins house was crushed.. Now I’m a bit disappointed. (not that I wanted their house to be destroyed)

        2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          “(Pro tip: Do not attempt to stop an elephant by parking your car across the road.)” I…I’ll keep that in mind…

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Hey, a bunch of small town Florida cops thought they would never need to know that animal husbandry tidbit, and then…

        3. Not So NewReader*

          The elephant probably thought that car was a step stool.

          We had elephants go by one place we lived. They had to get from the circus to the train so they walked. They were awesome. And they were very much under control. /side tracked.

      4. CityMouse*

        Oh that is so frustrating. We have been having serious network problems at work and IT has been doing nothing. They want you to call in problems all the time, but then they put you in hold forever and just note the problem and say they will get back to you. I work for a large org and it is a terrible waste of time to have hundreds, if not thousands of people reporting the same issue. I have started just emailing them because the phone system is such a joke.

        1. Margot the Destroyer*

          Luckily, we have a website that we can look into known issues that have been reported numerous times. If there is nothing on there though, its awful to call in and hear you are caller # 50 in queue.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I worked at a place that swapped out a perfectly good problem reporting system for one where you *couldn’t* look to see if it had already been reported – they’d used the same category for security issues and ordinary facilities requests, and while it made perfect sense that you couldn’t look at who had access where, it was ridiculous that you couldn’t see if anyone had already reported a leaky faucet.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          There are many web sites devoted to war stories that go like this:

          “Our internet is not working at all.”

          “Put in a trouble ticket on the support web site.”

          “How can I do that when our internet is down?”

          “I can’t help you without a trouble ticket.”

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Aaaargh, I had this thing ringing up IT. The WORST was calling Apple help to say my keyboard wasn’t working, so could I book an appointment, and after 30 minutes of telling me to press various combinations of keys, they diagnosed that…. my keyboard wasn’t working and I should book an appointment….

  5. Lil Fidget*

    It’s interesting that the “linked-to” articles here are about the Brilliant Jerk stereotype. I think OP is falling to that mindset, that since Josh is (apparently?) competent,* he should be able to get away with being unpleasant. This is not true, and being a jerk is going to limit his ability to get things done because people are already resisting his input and avoiding him. This is a natural consequence of being a jerk.

    *although the comment that “it doesn’t count” if Josh reviewed something, still throws this into doubt for me. That doesn’t seem to be a comment about his tone.

    1. The IT Manager*

      OP here: I definitely don’t think Josh should get away with his behavior. I’m mostly trying to figure out how to address it with him, while also putting a stop to the jokes and gossip that might just make it worse again.

        1. The IT Manager*

          It’s definitely helpful advice. I want to head the issue off as soon as possible. I don’t want to end up between a rock and a hard place if things get more out of hand with Josh’s behavior combined with people openly making fun of him.

          Employee evaluations are due in a couple months (as I found out yesterday) so I’m just starting to review previous reviews to see if this is something that’s been addressed before or not. The previous manager, from what I’ve heard of him, doesn’t seem the type to have confronted this issue. At least not properly.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            By “ending up between a rock and a hard place,” what do you mean, specifically? You have the authority in this situation, so that shouldn’t really happen. You need to set expectations with Josh about his behavior and hold him to those; if he doesn’t hit the bar you need, then you need to warn him about the seriousness of the issues and let him go if he still doesn’t improve to the level you need him at. Meanwhile, working on that will give you standing to address the comments the way I described at the end of the post. But I would move very, very quickly to begin addressing this.

            1. The IT Manager*

              I mean I don’t want a more serious situation to arise – such as someone getting really upset and making an official complaint – before I have a chance to try addressing this.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah, got it. I would say look at those performance evaluations today to get any history but then plan on talking to him this week and starting the process. Timeline-wise, I’d expect to see real improvement in the next few weeks after you have a clear conversation with him (“expect” meaning it’s reasonable to require that of him, not that it’ll necessarily happen) — and if you don’t, you know you’re likely to have a more intractable problem where you’ll need to start framing this as something he could lose his job over if he doesn’t address it in a real way. I’d also loop in your own boss at that point, so that she’s on board if it does get to that point.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  I’m reading over the previous evaluations for both guys now, to see how they compare to each other. That should give me some idea of how the previous manager saw and dealt with things.

              2. Observer*

                That makes sense. But the best way to do that is to address it with JOSH, and do it ASAP.

                Alison’s advice is spot on.

              3. Plague of frogs*

                I’m not trying to pick on you, but up above you were complaining about people gossiping rather than confronting the problem head-on, and now you mention that you want to avoid an official complaint. It sounds like you’re trying to have it both ways.

                I worry that you are still seeing the outcome of Josh’s behavior as the problem, when the problem is Josh’s behavior. I hope that’s not the case, and I think it’s great that you’re willing to have the tough discussion with him that his previous boss did not have.

                1. serenity*

                  I agree. And OP’s focus on previous years’ performance reviews may give a modicum of helpful background but it’s quite clear the previous manager didn’t effectively deal with this. You need to, and now – this isn’t something you can pass the buck on at this point.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                Why not beat everyone to the punch?
                Why not go to your boss and say that you hear a lot of grumbling about one particular employee and you are investigating that. You will let her know what your findings are.

                Honestly if there is a blow up, no one is blameless here.
                Cohorts should have been reporting problems.
                Josh should have a working relationship with most people.
                Previous bosses should have managed Josh instead of ignoring him.
                And upper management could have told you they were aware of a problem.
                The Joshes of the world, don’t “just happen” it takes the lack of effort on the part of many.

                If it blows up then it blows up. Meanwhile, if you have told your boss you are investigating you are covered here.

          2. gecko*

            Hmm–do you mean like, you need a way to talk about the jokes and gossip with Josh? Or that he’ll be even meaner once he hears the jokes about him?

            In that case, I think you can be sympathetic to him while still holding firm: “It’s really difficult to hear that said about you, and I have your back when I hear anything like that. But, I’m afraid that doesn’t change that we still need to work on X, Y and Z as I said.”

          3. KayEss*

            There’s “rock and a hard place” and then there’s the place I worked for a while, where there were people who had been in the IT department for years and you could tell when they had a performance evaluation because they’d suddenly stop being overtly hostile and condescending in meetings for a few months. The entire 200-person department (not just support, but data center admins, network field techs, etc.) all had to undergo mandatory constructive communications training in an effort to get them all to stop being such colossal jerkfaces, both to customers and to each other. I left before it was clear whether or not the initiative was successful.

            This is a performance issue for Josh that is reflecting poorly on your team and likely having a negative effect on its work. If he does improve, there will be a transition period in which he–and YOU–will have to earn back the trust of the rest of the organization. You can’t skip that step. It’s not optional because the damage is already done. By Josh. (And the previous manager, to be fair, but Josh is the face of the problem.)

            And if he is unable or unwilling to modify his behavior and attempt to repair the relationships he has damaged, you may need to be prepared to discipline or fire him.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              And this is management.
              Granted it’s probably the worst part of management.
              But a boss who is afraid to fire or afraid to give constructive criticism will spent a lot of time fretting over every single thing that happens.
              OP, decide what you will do and how you will handle things. There is no greater fear than the fear that comes from not knowing what one will do. Line up several plans with contingencies if need be.

              This is not a waste of time, if you stay in management for any length of time you will find bad employees and employees that need coaching. In talking to others I have found it helpful to think about my own mistakes and my own misconceptions. This has helped to give me words to say and points to make.

              Here Josh is missing a key point: Part of what we are paid for is our willingness to get along with others. Don’t feel like getting along with others today? (And most of us have this happen.) Then find ways to fake it or ways to take a few minutes of down time to recoup.

          4. Jenn*

            This is great timing to address this then – if you talk to him right away, he has time to correct this before your formal evaluation. Then if you need to say his efforts aren’t working, he is not hearing it for the first time in his eval. And if they are working, that can be reflected on his evaluation as well.

          5. Jenn*

            And to add to my own reply, if you’re worried about this escalating, be sure you document that you are on top of it.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Your priority should be on addressing his behavior first. If he changes his behavior, let that stand on its own. If his changes don’t register with his critics, then you can say something.

        But a lot of this is Josh’s own making.

        1. Murphy*

          Yeah, your focus shouldn’t be on what other people are saying about him. It should be on his behavior, which is causing other people to have these things to say about him. What other people are saying is just a symptom of his bad behavior.

          1. Specialk9*

            Well, I’d take note of who’s complaining. It makes a good list of people to apologise to, and explain the new policy for responsive IT.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Understandable, but your phrasing was very defensive of Josh, and your employees may pick up on that attitude.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think you’re focusing on the wrong problem. It’s not “gossip”—it’s people commiserating about a shared negative experience. (It’s not kind, but it’s not gossip.)

        If Josh fixes his behavior, the other stuff will go away, too. Note that they’re not making jokes or snide remarks about your other team members. So I would refocus 95% of my energy on dealing with Josh, let some time pass to see if he integrates your feedback and improves, and then start to gauge whether people are still making comments about him.

        1. Anon for now*

          Yep. It is not gossip to complain about a rude coworker and not want to work with them.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of this sentiment here. If people were running around going “omg you’ll never believe what Josh did!” that would be one thing. But it sounds like it’s just people mentioning in the course of a work conversation where Josh is a relevant topic of conversation that they don’t really love working with him or that he didn’t actually try to help them with their problem (which is my interpretation of the “he doesn’t count” comment… that doesn’t really sounds like they’re doing anything wrong?

            If someone is repeatedly/consistently acting like a jerk, people are allowed to comment on that. They shouldn’t necessarily be going around talking about it all the time but if it comes up, well that’s just how they feel. So the only problem to address is what is Josh doing to make everyone feel this way.

            1. Vague Tribble*

              +1. They’re complaining passive-aggressively because previous attempts at being direct (with previous managers) didn’t work. Josh is still here, he’s still being a jerk, he’s still apparently not helping clients, and nothing they’ve done has gotten rid of the problem. They’re kvetching because they don’t see a way out.

      4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        If you address his behavior and get that fixed, the other stuff will go away. Those comments are a response to his behavior and are being brought up to you because you are now the person to fix the problem

        1. Infrequent Commenter*

          I agree with you on this. And if they’re commiserating with each other, it may be because the previous manager chose not to deal with this or take their feedback seriously. By managing the problem you have a chance to reset their expectations of how issues are handled now.

      5. Artemesia*

        You need to frame it in terms of his role — he has a job because his particular expertise is needed; the others he works for don’t need that expertise which is why you hired him. His core job is to know these things others don’t know and to be helpful with this computer issues and to explain things to the people he serves. Then talk about specific markers of being helpful, being condescending etc. i.e. Reboot his frame for thinking about this; then focus on his specific strategies for being helpful.

        and as others have noted, often this kind of comment occurs because the person is simply not doing his job i.e. dismisses comments without investigating or before the problem is resolved.

      6. Technical_Kitty*

        The jokes and gossip are childish, but it’s kind of Josh reaping the whirlwind. If someone is a jerk, that’s what they get. If Josh feels put out by the office response to his jerk behaviour, maybe point out to him why it’s happening and suggest he be less of a jerk.

      7. RUKiddingMe*

        If I were to bet money on this I would put it on “fix Josh and the rest will fix itself.” Josh is the problem.

      8. KaleighimSorry*

        It might not be ‘gossip.’ — If I am speaking of how Josh treats co-workers (did you hear about what he said to Melinda?) that is gossip. Telling a story about others for recreational pleasure. If I am expressing my frustration about my experience (“Boy does IT make me feel stupid when I call with my problems. Josh just sneers at me. “) I’m not sure I would consider that pure gossip, more of a shared frustration between coworkers (along the lines of “you have to make 20 copies? good luck with the copier seeing how it jams when it collates”). Or maybe even work preference (“For that issue you will need to call IT – be sure to ask for Chris or Sam” if you want it resolved quickly/calmly/nicely”)

    2. CurrentlyLooking*

      I would really love it if the stereotype that tech people don’t need to have good social -or communication – skills would just go away.

      Tech people with those skills are so much more effective (as well as better to work with)

      1. tink*

        My partner works in IT, and with his new job he was missing some of the skills/competencies they wanted, but he did well talking about how he handled users and that was ultimately what got him the position. Basically “I can teach you our systems, but I can’t teach you how to people.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My husband was a techie. He said that most of the job was fixing people, not fixing machines. Over time he developed an endearing work persona that really helped him get his points across to people.
          [The next problem was because people liked him they wanted to chat when they saw him. ha!]

  6. Anon for now*

    This really seems to be a case of “you reap what you sow”. He does not respect his coworkers and makes that obvious. That has lost him their respect.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This. You have to give respect if you want it back.

      And sure, not everyone deserves it. That’s a different issue.

  7. Roscoe*

    Ha, Josh sounds like any number of IT people I’ve worked with in the past. Bad people skills and condescending. If Steven and Cory are both good, he definitely will stick out more than normal. You definitely should address this with him. I’d also try to do some “observations”. You are a new manager and it would be easy for you to do this to really see how he comes across with people. In my experience people like him aren’t even self aware enough to change their behavior in front of a boss, so you could address it right after the observation.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      One thing I think (maybe OP?) but also Josh needs to understand, is that this isn’t justsoft useless feelings-talk heartspace nattering. This is definitely the attitude of the Brilliant Jerk in my life (although he’s also not as brilliant as he thinks he is). He think any squishy feelingstalk is meaningless, like we just want a kinder office culture or something, while he’s out slaying cylons and doing Real Logic Work.

      In reality, there are real-world consequences for failing to treat people with respect – things he cares about, like nobody willing to go to bat for his ideas, or people failing to adapt to new systems correctly because he is terrible at explaining them well. I try to explain that EQ is part of Real Logic Work but he just resists that notion and thinks if he’s “right” that’s all that matters.

      1. Amber T*

        Can we all agree that Brilliant Jerks are rarely as brilliant as they say they are? They’re just so jerkish that no one really wants to attempt to get into it how brilliant they’re really not.

        1. AKchic*

          If you have to say you’re something, or try to convince people you’re something – you’re not. Hands down, no argument, no fight, point blank – you’re not. End of discussion. Put that topic to bed.

          (Examples: When I try to tell the cats that I’m really the boss in the house)

        2. Autumnheart*

          Agreed. I have yet to meet a Brilliant Jerk who was actually brilliant. The brilliant people I *have* met were brilliant in part because they COULD bring others into their vision. Not because they couldn’t.

    2. Anon Today*

      “In my experience people like him aren’t even self aware enough to change their behavior in front of a boss, so you could address it right after the observation.”

      I agree. I worked in one organization where we had an IT employee like Josh, and he was openly disrespectful to everyone not just his boss and co-workers, but also the VPs and CEO of the organization (to the point where he told one of the VPs that they were stupid in a large staff meeting). It was raised time-and-time again and he never changed. Even when he was fired about the VP incident, he left the building talking about how his firing was unfair (which I agreed, he should have been fired long before mouthing off in public to a VP).

  8. Former Computer Professional*

    As someone who was in a similar job, I’ve worked with Josh (or, really, someone just like Josh).

    What we wound up doing is shifting duties around so that Josh had less time directly dealing with other humanoids, and put me and another person in the more “customer facing” work. That way Josh got to use his technical skills without issue and we got to tactfully deal with the people who sometimes did stupid things.

    I don’t know whether this could work in their situation.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Everybody wins! However I’d still worn “Josh” that this will limit his mobility in the field and probably his ability to move up, if that’s something he values. Until the cyborgs take over, he’s going to have to find a way to successfully interact with other humans.

      1. Former Computer Professional*

        In the field in general, yes. But my experience (which is only my experience, so YMMV) is that people like Josh want to settle into their little universe and avoid everyone else. I know a mess of Joshes who will spend every day sitting in their office, grinding out their work, and want no part of promotions or even another job, because this one lets them do what they’re happiest with.

        1. Amber T*

          My father would be happiest in a dark room in front of a computer for 10-12 hours a day with zero human interaction, as long as he was paid on time at his requested salary. Promotions? Perks? Cool office spaces and employees? Nope.

        2. Nisie*

          I explained the autism spectrum to my husband, who is in IT. His response was that’s why so many folks in IT were the way they were.

          1. Former Computer Professional*

            I don’t know how many are on the autism spectrum or have a kind of social anxiety or dysfunction. But, yes, I’ve found people like this to be incredibly common in my former field.

            To pat myself on the head, I’ve had jobs where people came to me (over coworkers) because I could talk to humans without condescending and even take the time to explain the simplest things if they needed or wanted.

            Ironically, my current job considers me a cynical old fart who shouldn’t talk about technical things. This is, in part, because of how I was trained. I frequently suggest that they think things through before implementing changes, which they think is silly because they’re -sure- they know what they’re doing — and then they don’t learn from the resulting trainwrecks. Woo hoo.

          2. CityMouse*

            Can we please not. This kind of stereotyping is harmful to people on the spectrum. (My dad specializing in treating kids with this condition and I used to.voluteer tutor with kids like his patients and at a special summer camp my dad would take shifts as the medical director). Autism doesn’t make you a jerk or rude. Many kids and adults with autism carefully rehearse interactions to avoid being perceived like this.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Yup, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn. It just means they need to learn very specifically. And they have to want to.

    2. AnonandAnon*

      Yes, but that only works if the Josh actually has the skills…ours has neither, and yet he’s been here for going on five years (under the same manager!). The other pleasant side effect of Josh? When he messes up, we *all* get reamed out. I know the Exit sign is going to be lit up for me any day now!

  9. Persimmons*

    Josh is short-sighted. Working in IT is touted as being all knowledge-based, but soft skills are HUGE. If Josh approached these “stupid” problems with understanding, humor, and the desire to teach, users would be more willing to learn from their own mistakes, and the feedback loop would lessen. As it stands, people are probably frustrated, digging in their heels, and fobbing off the issue on a help ticket at the earliest opportunity.

    Help Josh see that improving his personal interactions can make HIS job easier, and he may come around sooner.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      To be fair, we did also create a “help desk” position staffed by a friendlier, more patient IT person, and the office Nick Burns (SNL reference, sorry) was put into other technical stuff. Nick/Josh got a lot more bearable at that point and I do sympathize that he was probably trying to juggle both extremely high level IT stuff and “printer not working” type complaints.

      1. DArcy*

        I dislike that “solution” because it’s de facto rewarding bad employees for malicious mistreatment of coworkers by giving them what they want.

        I would only ever do that if the employee in question was untouchable.

    2. Stone Cold Bitch*

      Yes, soft skills are a huge part of IT.
      We got a new guy in a few years ago who really helped revamp the perception of the IT departement because of his amazing attitude. He does a lot of the basics such as setting up things for new users and is always happy to help even with the simplest of questions.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m going to impart a lesson that I learned from my upbringing:

    You cannot force people to feel certain emotions — respect, liking someone, etc. — simply because you want them to or we all work together. If you want Josh to be respected and/or liked, then he has to do something to earn and maintain those feelings in others.

    Although you’re so much nicer than my father, he complained constantly about not being respected or appreciated or thanked when he did absolutely nothing to foster those feelings in his children. That approach set me up for a lot of failure because I would want to break up with someone or stand up for myself or end a friendship, and I would hear the litany of things I was “supposed” to feel instead of what I actually did.

    Don’t do that to other employees. Not only isn’t it fair, but you’re asking them to set aside how they feel about Josh based on things Josh has said and done and play nice with someone who may not deserve kindness, empathy, and the benefit of the doubt.

    1. A Nickname for AAM*

      “You cannot force people to feel certain emotions — respect, liking someone, etc. — simply because you want them to or we all work together.”

      The problem is, this assumes that the person who is disliked or disrespected is doing something wrong. I have worked with- and directly supervised- people who feel that “My way is the only way to do things and if you do not allow that, I will not like or respect you.” In many, many cases, these were people whose subject area knowledge of their own job was very poor themselves, and they would assume that anyone who didn’t agree with them was “against” them, “disrespecting” them, or “didn’t like” them. The people they did like were the people who would back them in whatever cockamamie scheme they came up with, ex: turning up hours late for a shift, breaking core safety regulations, etc.

      It is very easy for a poor employee or a jerk to take advantage of this mindset, is all I’m saying.

      1. neverjaunty*

        No, it really doesn’t matter; you can’t insist that a co-worker likes or respects someone else because they “should” or there’s supposedly no reason they can’t like one another. Insisting on appropriate BEHAVIOR is very different; and to get that, the OP needs to deal with Josh’s behavior. That’s when she can move on to “I don’t care if you’re fond of Josh or not, but I expect you to work together without snide remarks.”

        1. Mad Baggins*

          The thing is, I’m honestly not sure if it matters how the other employees truly feel about Josh in their heart of hearts. If they behave politely and professionally, does it really matter if they curse him out inside their heads? You can’t physically force anyone to feel anything, but as a boss you absolutely can force people to play nice at work.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        We don’t know if Josh thinks he is being disrespected. OP has not mentioned that part. OP has shown several examples of people react to Josh and his work effort.

        A Josh I know would end up yelling at the machines. But if the boss called him on it, he would say he does a perfect job and is a model employee. This Josh was totally obvious to how severely he had discredited himself. And he had no idea how people felt about his work and his behavior.

  11. michelenyc*

    I know this not helpful but all that keeps coming to mind is Jimmy Fallon as Nick Burns your company’s computer guy from SNL.

    1. The IT Manager*

      OP here: It’s obviously comically overdone, but not necessarily the most inaccurate analogy.

  12. Laura*

    One of the things I’ve learned is that accounting (me) and IT need to make sure that they are considering other departments to be their “customers” We don’t bring revenue in so it’s an easy place for others to think we are useless. It’s better to be Jane, who’s a whiz at unscrambling any computer/budget problem, especially if he wants to move up.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Zomg the amount of times I’ve bitten my tongue to keep from yelling at our “service departments” that they ARE SUPPOSED TO BE *HELPING ME* DO THE WORK OF OUR ORGANIZATION! Hahaha.

    2. Ella*

      THIS so much. I work in a library and occasionally run into people who think that working in a library means working with books. No, working in a library means working with PEOPLE. Especially these days, when libraries do so much more than check out books and movies.

      I don’t know why IT doesn’t seem to have made the same transition. Working in IT, especially service desk/troubleshooting type jobs, isn’t “I work with computers.” It’s “I work WITH PEOPLE who use computers.” It shouldn’t be acceptable to be condescending to people who don’t share your knowledge base (working in an office is often all about distributing the knowledge base amongst many people so they can all work together and get things done that otherwise would be too big to handle, no?), but for some reason people in IT get away with it. I’m kind of over it.

    3. Bea*

      I don’t like the idea of “internal customers”, given that customers are indeed a whole different beast and handled differently all together. I can expect customer service to know enough and our communication is much more candid than a customer would have.

      The point is that as different departments, we’re a team.

      Accounting does have a lot of impact on sales. If we screw up, customers will leave. I’ve changed vendors with crappy AP departments. I actually lost my mind over a flippant comment by a low rung AP clerk giving me crap for refusing to pay a bill that was for a lost shipment. I had claims in but their departments were clearly detached. I had the rep creep into my office afterwards and halfass apologize and “she wouldn’t know and hands tied” crap. If your hands are tied you tell someone you can’t help with that and escalate the damn thing.

      But yeah, if they’re customers, they can yell at me. If they’re coworkers, I’ll get their asses fired for that nonsense.

      1. Melody Pond*

        In the situation you described, it actually sounds like you would be the “internal customer” of your company’s accounting department. Not the other way around. And that makes sense, because customers are usually the ones who have standing to complain about a staff person’s lack of performance or lack of doing their job (insofar as it affects you and what you needed from that staff person), to that staff person’s higher-ups, so that the higher-ups can deal with it appropriately.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Internal customer is a relatively new term.
        I think the idea of the term is to impress upon people who they serve. “We serve people inside the company, therefore our customers are internal customers.” And they can bring in the whole idea of customer service etc.
        Makes me think that telling employees that they had to be nice to other employees did not really get the point across effectively. So we have latched on to the idea of internal customers.

  13. Anon Today*

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Josh was viewed as only being semi-competent because he was dismissive of people’s problems and/or rushed to complete work that they requested and that resulted in errors. I’ve seen that happen in multiple organizations. Rushed and dismissed gets conflated as being incompetent.

    1. Autumnheart*

      To be fair, if a worker is rude, dismisses problems, and rushes work such that it increases system errors instead of eliminating them, he *is* incompetent.

  14. Murilegus*

    Might also be worth making sure that everyone involved (including Josh) is aware of what Josh’s role is. If Josh thinks he’s in a systems administrator role (which typically involves less face to face interaction with people), and coworkers think he’s in a helpdesk role (where your job is almost entirely user facing), that’s going to exacerbate any existing arrogant-IT-guy problems. Having “the guy who’s job is to maintain the mail server is brushing off questions about how to send an email when he’s ambushed by end users” is a very different conversation than “someone who’s job is primarily user support is brushing off tickets submitted for help setting up mail forwards”

    1. Washi*

      OMG this explains so much about my current IT issues. We have a remote helpdesk and a human systems administrator, and now I finally understand why he is SO GRUMPY when he has to troubleshoot problems with the phone or printer that can’t be fixed remotely. I mean, I think he could be more polite, but I also didn’t understand the difference between these two roles until just now.

    2. Tish the tester*

      I don’t condone the guy being rude or condescending, but…this could certainly be a contributing factor. If he’s being asked to do stuff that is super low level and he’s trying to refer them to the actual person that should be doing it, it can come across as rude even if he’s not, because people hear “I’m not important enough for you to help” when what is really meant is “if I spend all my days helping people print, our servers are not getting important security updates”. Something to look at when evaluating Josh and his interactions with people (I’m in IT, so I also have met my fair share of techs who really DO mean “you’re not important enough”, I just think the other possibility is also very common)

      1. Murilegus*

        Yep, exactly! I’ve also found that people will also respond with similar feelings when asked to submit tickets, even thought “it’s just one quick thing”, and when told “I have no experience with iPhones, I’m a network engineer. I’m going to have to google the problem, which you are equally as capable of.”

  15. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Yeah…if there wasn’t the first comment I would be all aboard the HMS Josh is a Jerk. But with the first comment, eeshk. Sounds like he might be both incompetent AND a jerk. Which is not a good combination to have. I work with someone like that. It is beyond unpleasant. (Yes, I also rejoice when she is off for a day or two.)

    It’s definitely time for a sit down with Josh and layout what he needs to be successful in this role.

  16. CaptainNemosUnderwaterAdventures*

    And LW – for pete’s sake while you should give specifics, don’t name names! Because Josh might take it as a “Pat said you were dismissive and rude” rather than “coworkers find you dismissive and rude.” Keep the focus on Josh’s behavior. And don’t discount that anyone in the office who overhears Josh speaking to Pat may also be discomfitted enough to avoid asking for IT assistance because it becomes a game of ‘please don’t let them send Josh’. This hurts the entire IT department.

    1. The IT Manager*

      OP here: I’d never dream of naming names when having that conversation. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        We’ll as someone who has accidently been a Josh – it is tough to feel like all your co-workers secretely hate you and run about you to the boss too. Especially if said coworkers never address issues with you directly!!

        If josh does improve after you coach him and you still hear one off examples try asking the coworker to address themselves.

        One of my pet peeves is that my co-workers run to my boss over items I would never dream of escalating (example I am in a gotomeeting and staff approaches me not realizing I’m in an important meeting and I guess I did not turn from the meeting enough to their liking when I turned and said I am in a meeting shoot me an email with a smile). They run to boss and of course it’s my fault since I have had past communication issues where people felt dismissed. But when I discuss specifics with the boss about meetings he agrees with my approach And the same coworkers complaining about me being dismissive literally slammed a door in my face earlier that week. I didn’t run to the boss – just assumed they are having a bad day and moved on.It can start to wear then if someone works hard to improve but is always seen as on the wrong due to past mistakes.

        So yes. Coach Josh. Use Alison’s script about second chances but if Josh imoroves don’t keep passing every anonymous complaint about him. Some folks will be at BEC mode with Josh and never care that he worked hard to improve. Personal experience.

        1. Jessica*

          Agreed, also from experience. People are not necessarily swift to notice improvement or adjust their own behavior in response to it. LW, I think you should give thought to exactly how you’ll assess Josh’s improvement or lack thereof, because even if you get him to improve, the coworkers may be stuck at the “Josh is the worst” setting, so I don’t think “everyone stops making snarky remarks about him” is a really fair metric to evaluate him on, if you’re trying to evaluate his RECENT work.

        2. Triplestep*

          Yes, this … so much! 99 times out of a hundred, I provide excellent customer service to my internal clients. But if that 100th time I allow my frustration to show through in my face or my voice, I will spend all eternity in that job living it down. My work is to design, build out and move people into their new spaces, and many of them are not happy to begin with. (New open space plan, impacted commute, further from amenities, what-have-you. Change is hard.) I need to go above and beyond in my communication AT ALL TIMES or I’ll be living down that one time I let my filter down. (I’m sure the fact that I am 50+, female, and have an ethic tone to my voice on a good day – think NY Jewish comedians – does not help either.)

          When it’s mentioned to me by a manager, I am often not given an example, just a vague reference. And peers I talk to all say they love my communication style, so that’s no help. But what REALLY does not help is bringing up that one example from last year (or whenever) that we all agree I could have handled better. Hence my advice below about having recent examples and not dredging stuff up.

  17. Triplestep*

    I agree with Alison’s advice, but I wonder if it would be more effective if the LW actually waited to witnesses Josh “in the act” of being a jerk. If I’m Josh and my new manager is giving me feedback on old incidents from before their time, I’m going to give that less credibility.

    We know from the letter that LW’s director didn’t seem to know what to do, but we don’t know what conversations LW’s predecessor might have had with Josh. I can imagine Josh hearing old stuff brought back up again and wanting to roll his eyes. But if a new manager is noticing new stuff and bringing it to Josh’s attention (especially if old manager talked to Josh about previous incidents), that would have much more of an impact, IMO.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      That’s true, I wonder if OP could sit in on a training or a ticket request with Josh and see if they observe the behavior themselves. Some Joshes are savvy enough to act better in front of the boss, some really don’t GAF / recognize the issue and may well display the behavior the coworkers are complaining about.

    2. neverjaunty*

      “I can’t take your complaint seriously unless I see it firsthand” is a recipe for the OP being dismissed by the rest of her team. The complaints aren’t old; they’re new to her, and they’re a source of ongoing problems.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely agree. And if Josh is going to give less credence to complaints that predate OP or that OP did not witness first-hand, then Josh needs to go. It’s really not up to Josh to decide which complaints or performance issues are valid or invalid.

      2. Triplestep*

        I don’t think the LW should solicit complaints and then not take them seriously. I think the LW should just be on the look out for things they can coach Josh over after having seen them first hand. Or even entertain NEW complaints. But dredging up old stuff is going to seem to Josh like, well … dredging up old stuff. If Josh is still a jerk then he’ll act out again. If he’s not still a jerk, then there’s a different problem.

        Also, it’s not about Josh giving less credence to complaints that pre-date OP – it’s about Josh hearing about stuff that (for all we know) he’s already been spoken to about, and (for all we know) may be trying to address about himself. Couple that with the LW *not having been around when those things happened*, and you’ve got a Josh who could easily hear this old stuff and feel defeated; as though it doesn’t matter WHAT he does – he can’t beat his jerky reputation. That’s likely to have the undesired affect of his becoming jerkier, actually.

        1. Observer*

          None of that really matters. If it really IS something he’s been working on he can and should bring it up. But right now, the OP *knows* that there a problem with Josh’s behavior, and that it is still currently affecting people.

          If he’s been told about this, and he has not made clear and specific efforts to change, then his dismissing it because “I’ve already been talked to about it” makes it even worse. That’s not a reason for the OP to ignore clear issues.

          Keep in mind that this is a widespread problem, not one or two people. That indicates that it’s not a matter of people who just can’t leave go. Refusing to deal just because the OP has not seen it in person yet is a good way to make sure that no one will work with them on issues like this in the future.

  18. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Ahh, on my first read I’d thought that Josh was being disrespected by his teammates. Then I saw that there was only one other teammate and read closer. Josh is being nasty to the users! That’s a no-no. You don’t do that, Josh. That’s not a personality conflict, that’s Josh failing to properly assist the very people he is being paid to assist.

    And yeah, to another comment I’m seeing as I am typing this, OP’s department cannot afford for it to turn into the game of “please don’t send Josh”, because there’s only Josh and one other guy and no one else OP could send!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah ‘personality conflict’ is an odd way to explain this. If Josh is belittling people publicly (even just because he doesn’t have the social skills to understand the problem) that’s not really a personality conflict. That’s Josh failing to do his job well.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I say “personality conflict” because I don’t think Josh does it on purpose, and I don’t think he has any animosity towards people. I think he’s just not good at dealing with them. I could be wrong, and it still needs to be addressed either way.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          It doesn’t if he is doing it on purpose or not. He’s not acting in a professional manner and that has to stop. This isn’t a “personality conflict” this is dropping the ball on a basic bit of workplace behavior that will haunt him no matter where he works. It sounds like the old manager let things slide, which is why you are hearing the issues delivered the way they are being delivered. The fact that your director knew the origins means people have run it up the food chain and Josh’s management did nothing.

          1. Specialk9*

            I really like the comment upthread that a personality conflict is when two people behave professionally but still don’t get along. When one person behaves unprofessionally, it’s them being a jerk.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Oh, no, that kind of behaviour i.m.e. means he has a LOT of animosity towards people in general.

        3. Heidi Jo*

          Have you considered Josh may have Aspergers? I had an ex-boyfriend who was great at in his field (IT Support) but moved from job to job because he couldn’t mesh with his co-workers. He may not understand why or how his helping them fix their issue is not appreciated. And what may be condescending to others is him being honest and without fluff.

          1. AnonymousAndroid*

            I was wondering the same thing. Without wanting to get into armchair diagnosis here, some of the things that the OP describes would definitely make me want to approach him holding that in mind as a potential factor in his behaviour. Of course he might just be a jerk – and he obviously can’t go around being deliberately rude or offensive to coworkers – but if the complaints are more about his bluntness and lack of finesse, it may be something he can’t do a lot to change.

            And as an autistic person myself, it makes me feel sad to read all the comments saying that soft skills are everything. I think I’m relatively ok at that – for someone with autism – but I’m glad that my own colleagues are understanding of my social mistakes.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              The specifically complaint was that he publicly humiliated someone, so no matter what the root cause is, he needs to be held to a standard where that is not okay.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            A lot of people in IT are on the spectrum (including one of my sons and probably myself to some degree, from what I remember of myself as a child/teen). I agree, the people part of Josh’s job is a challenge for him, if that’s the case. There are coping techniques one can use. My son’s therapist taught him a few when he was in his early teens. I am scratching my head wondering what OP can do in this situation though. OP cannot very well send Josh to go see a therapist.

            1. Cordoba*

              Ultimately, if Josh can’t perform one of the essential parts of his job (that part being “interact with other humans in a way that they find to be tolerable or better”) it doesn’t matter *why* he can’t do it.

              If it becomes clear the Josh is unable or unwilling to do this then the right move for the OP is to remove him from that job and allow Josh to seek one that is a better fit for him.

            2. Autumnheart*

              No, but OP can say, “You can’t act like this to the people our team exists to support. It needs to stop ASAP, or it will result in discipline up to and including termination.”

              Josh can decide for himself how much he wants to fix the issue and how to go about that. OP is his boss, not his parent, and isn’t responsible for teaching Josh life skills and coping mechanisms.

              1. tangerineRose*

                If the OP explains the problems clearly and thoroughly, shouldn’t that help? If Josh is on the spectrum, does anyone have suggestions for things to say that would be clear and direct?

          3. LizB*

            Two things: one, it’s against the commenting rules here to armchair diagnose people. And two, it really does a disservice to people with Aspergers to immediately guess that someone being condescending and rude is probably on the spectrum. No matter what Josh’s situation is, the OP’s action steps are the same (talk to him about his behavior and provide clear expectations he needs to meet), so suggesting diagnoses doesn’t add any information for the OP and reinforces negative stereotypes.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              This ^^ Don’t diagnose people on the internet, please, and there are (1) lots and lots and lots of rude people who aren’t on the spectrum and (2) lots and lots and lots of people on the spectrum who aren’t rude. The OP doesn’t need to worry about whether Josh has Asperger’s because the OP’s steps should be the same regardless.

            2. CityMouse*

              Agreed. I posted this above but this is actively harmful to people on the spectrum. It is a false stereotype anyway, anyone who thinks everyone on the spectrum is a jerk has not met many people on the spectrum. Just stop.

            3. RUKiddingMe*

              Thank you for this comment. Not only does it do a disservice to people actually in the spectrum, it does a disservice to neurotypical people who are expected to abide by certain social standards of behavior.

              Excusing every single jerky behavior as “well she/he might be/have…XYZ…” is annoying and unfair to everyone else,. She/he might just be a jerk…no extra anything else required.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Please don’t suggest diagnoses here! Per the commenting rules, “we can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question.”

            1. Utterly Gobsmacked Aspie*

              I have Asperger’s, officially diagnosed, and frankly the possibility that Josh has it too was the first thing that came to my mind. I’m 63, retired, worked for quite a while as a department head, was greatly admired as a patient and untiring teacher WRT training-and-explaining with colleagues (reports, peers, superiors) … AND spent my entire career on eggshells worried that I’d inadvertently alienate someone, anyone, with a second’s worth of insufficiently sugarcoated honesty. That level of stress is horrible to live with, and I retired the instant I could.

              Can someone please explain to me why it’s wrong for people here, in this setting, to consider, however hypothetically, that there might be an actual, organic, and behavior-modifiable reason for someone to behave like a jerk… but it’s perfectly fine and dandy for everyone to slam, condemn, and castigate that same person, whom they have never met and never dealt with, on the basis of behavior reported (and conclusions pre-drawn and fed to us) by a third party? I really, really fail to understand how this can be positive, productive, or humane in any way.

              But then I have Asperger’s.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                I think it boils down to “does Josh have a medical, or otherwise socially acceptable reason for acting like a jerk? or can we judge him on the basis that he is a jerk and should know better?” For example it would be rude to ignore someone speaking to you, but you would get a pass if you’re deaf.

                This allows us to indulge in the fun drama of gossip without feeling so bad. At least that’s why I comment here.

          5. Observer*

            Aside from the commenting rules, which Alison has already dealt with, this is superbly unhelpful.

            Even if the OP knew with 100% certainty that he were on the spectrum and that this was why he’s behaving this way, it would not matter. Allowing someone in a people facing role to be condescending and rude to people is NOT a reasonable thing to expect. It needs to stop.

            And the best way for the OP to make it stop, regardless of what the reason for this behavior is, is to be clear that Josh needs to do x, y and z and NOT do a, b and c.

        4. Observer*

          The problem here is that “personality conflict” makes it sound like two more or less reasonable people are not getting along. But what is actually happening is that he is not behaving the way he needs to. Period.

          This is the way you need to frame it, both for yourself and for him. And, in fact, if you are right that he has poor social skills, then it’s even MORE important to frame it this way. Because it’s not about figuring out how best to react to inappropriate behavior, but behaving correctly regardless of what he thinks about the other person.

        5. nonymous*

          What might help is mentoring Josh on some soft skills. If he’s just clueless, it may be valuable to work through some intercultural competency training material, especially focusing on conflict styles, to frame the issue (i.e. Josh is not “wrong” but he may come from a sub-culture that clashes with the work one), and then you can identify specific actions you want him to take. A lot of intercultural competency training involves a self assessment of some kind, and in groups I’ve found these tend to spark conversations like “I’m high assertive” or “I prefer to avoid conflict” and they’ll start pointing out when people are saying stuff that falls into one category or another. For example, when Josh calls a problem “stupid” – what he may be referring to is that it’s an embarrassingly simple issue to resolve from a technical perspective (where “embarrassingly simple” refers to the O(n) complexity, not an emotion), but obviously there are other perspectives involved. Maybe for Josh it is a measure of respect to expect that everyone advocates (and defends!) their own perspective exclusively. Meanwhile, the dominant culture finds it respectful to avoid pointing out perceived flaws in the other person’s view. I imagine that would be frustrating for all involved.

  19. Massmatt*

    I am so glad Alison dug deeper with the follow up question, without it I definitely would have had the same impression, that the issue was the coworkers not respecting Josh’s competence.

    Instead, it’s a problem with his people skills. IMO these skills are much harder to train/instill than the “hard” skills about systems etc. because they are part of someone’s personality and emotional state, and deeper habits.

    No one wants to feel belittled or dismissed when they ask for help or support, it seriously detracts from an organization’s effectiveness when they do. I hope you will succeed in helping Josh improve in this area, it will be a big help both to him and the organization if you do, but I would expect progress to be slow, and people will be slow to change their opinions about Josh since he has already made a poor impression. If he cannot change then maybe he needs to move to a role where he has less interaction with the public, it might be best for all concerned.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yes I was thinking, hmm even if we get Josh to understand the problem and he really tries to do better, people’s bad feelings about Josh and the negative impression are still going to linger. It’s SO HARD to change people’s minds about you once they’re made up. If Josh has been known as a jerk for years, it would be a big push before people stop thinking of him as a jerk. Might be good to restructure.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes, I definitely want to help him improve in this area. I’ve got a few ideas so far, and all the advice here from Allison and others is very helpful. I agree that people skills are vital for IT workers dealing with people all the time.

  20. Formerly Joshlike*

    I kind of used to be a Josh…with customers though, not with colleagues. (Not that this at all makes it OK, because it’s not. It wasn’t OK. Please don’t jump on me!) I found that I a) had a low tolerance for stupid questions and b) a low bar for what I considered a stupid question. Even when people were legitimately asking dumb questions, I shouldn’t have treated them like I did. I think for some reason, I felt like I needed them to know that they were annoying, or that they were inconveniencing me, which was a really inexcusable attitude.

    This was years ago, and I’m in a different job now. I still provide customer service to internal colleagues, but less face to face. (I’m also in a lower stress job and no longer underpaid, which helped.) My whole attitude has changed now, so my automatic response is not rude, but I do still have some times when people are being unreasonable for one reason or another and I feel like I want to let them know. What helps me is to ask myself what that accomplishes, and usually the answer is absolutely nothing, making it not worth it. If it’s behavior that’s likely to repeat, I’ll just throw in a quick polite suggestion of how things may run more smoothly next time, in a “help me help you” sort of way. And it’s a really difficult situation, I ask my boss how to handle it., which has the added bonus of giving me someone to vent to. In a professional way of course.

    1. ArtK*

      Many, many years ago I switched from customer support to systems programming. One big reason is that my colleagues and I started joking with each other that we were going to answer the phone: “Customer support! This better be good!”

  21. gecko*

    As you speak with Josh, it might also help to try and change the department culture a little bit, particularly when it comes to frustration about users. For one thing, it may help to encourage some double-teaming–if one person gets too steamed about an annoying problem, someone else can take over the communication for a little while. Also–some venting is good, BUT the complaining about how stupid users are can be really toxic. It’s something that all IT people do, because it’s a frustrating job sometimes, but you can also cut it off and change the subject; that way Josh feels a little less validated in his over-the-top frustration.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I really don’t understand why IT still promotes this “users are stupid and frustrating” narrative. It’s not like teachers are openly saying, “teaching is frustrating because students are so stupid.” (They may think that privately, but that’s not like a mass narrative of the field). I deal with the public and even though I answer the same questions over and over again, I don’t really dwell on how frustrating that is – because it’s always new to the person asking, even if its not new to me. And my degree and background are technical, not in communications or something.

      1. gecko*

        I don’t really know. I see it in software engineering too. But if a user has a problem with software, it is the software’s fault. If the user doesn’t see a button and all the IT person has to do is point at the button for them, it’s the software’s fault for not visually designing the button so it’s obvious that it needs to be clicked. If the user gets so nervous using the software that they’re going to mess things up, it’s the software’s fault for making the user so nervous and not allowing error correction. I guess software developers don’t all subscribe to that perspective because it means more work.

        On the IT side…I don’t know it as well. Maybe it’s the stress, and that the problems they fix are often “easy” to them, making it seem like the users are incompetent–I don’t know. Have more respect for your own job, y’all, you’re a professional and other folks can’t do it as well!

        1. Autumnheart*

          “If the user doesn’t see a button and all the IT person has to do is point at the button for them, it’s the software’s fault for not visually designing the button so it’s obvious that it needs to be clicked.”

          This is why UX is such an exciting (and lucrative) field!

      2. Adaline B.*

        I think the difference in IT might be a lot of the IT people I’ve known (myself included) just have an aptitude for IT and either learned easily/early/both. Technical stuff just comes naturally.

        I have to remind myself that it doesn’t come naturally for *everyone else* when I’m helping people.

      3. A Non E. Mouse*

        I really don’t understand why IT still promotes this “users are stupid and frustrating” narrative.

        As IT I can tell you that a lot of frustration comes in around prioritization.

        It’s hard, because to each end user, THEIR problem is #1 – it’s the only problem they’ve got, and it’s making it difficult or impossible for them to do their job.

        But to IT, I have any number of ongoing and incoming problems I’m triaging.

        So if an end user stops me in the hallway, and I say “I’m sorry, I’m actually on my way to another user’s desk right now, please open a ticket so that someone else can assist you and if I get done here quickly, I’ll try to pick up the ticket myself” and get back an eyeroll? Or some huffing and puffing about why I can’t just fix it now, I’m right here?

        Yeah, I’m going to probably have a little bit of frustration visible on my face. And I’m probably going to be all “THAT guy” when I get back to my desk and my coworkers.

        I try hard not to, and I try very hard to keep my tone positive – but some days (or, to some users) the best tone I can muster is “coolly professional”.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          You’d think other fields that deal with this – medical triage, say – would have some insights. It’s not a circumstance unique to tech support.

          1. A Non E. Mouse*


            I usually remind new IT people is that when users come to us, they are already having a bad day.

            *Something* is already going wrong for them – they are never calling to say hey, great job on keeping the network going.

            I imagine medical professionals would definitely have “keeping your cool when the customer isn’t” ideas!

  22. ArtK*

    This is Josh’s bed to lie in. If he manages to amend his behavior, then that may mend his reputation. Or it may not. He’s effectively burned bridges and those don’t get rebuilt easily. OP, there is nothing that you can do to fix the gossip and joking. Only Josh can, if he’s capable and if he sees value in fixing it. It’s your job to try to convince him that changing his behavior is valuable to him. (As in “shape up or ship out” valuable.)
    Fixing the behavior is the first step that must be taken.

  23. Jessie the First (or second)*

    OP, in the comments you’ve mentioned a few times wanting to stop the gossip.

    I’m confused by that – I don’t see anything about gossip in your post. I see users making comments to *you*, Josh’s manager. That’s not gossip; you are exactly who they should be making comments to. It isn’t gossip to make a comment to a manager about the manager’s direct report being difficult. Are you hearing people complain about him among themselves around the water cooler? What is the gossip you want to stop?

    1. CityMouse*

      Yeah, I think OP should have addressed the obvious frustration immediately. “Why do you say that?” If multiple people are expressing frustration with your employee, the response is not “how do I defend him” it is “is this a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed?”.

      Bad managers don’t stand up for their employees but bad managers those who also are blind to legitimate issues and defend their employees when they should not be defended.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah; I’m puzzled by framing this as “gossip.” That seems to do what Josh is doing—undermine, minimize, or otherwise ignore feedback on a real problem that is affecting people’s effectiveness at work.

    3. bonkerballs*

      I think there’s a pretty clear difference between going to someone’s supervisor and saying “hey, I’m having a problem with Josh,” and making jokes about how someone doesn’t count. One of the people who made a comment to OP even said “oops, I shouldn’t have said that” after making their joke – clearly that’s not coming to a supervisor to address a problem, that’s talking shit and is a problem in its own right. I think it’s absolutely vital that OP address both Josh’s behavior AND the snide comments for the other coworkers. She’s new to this team and needs to make it clear that this isn’t how you deal with a problem.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Calling it gossip is minimizing. The employees are not addressing it in the best way – but gossip, it isn’t. Gossip really implies the substance of the problem is trivial or shouldn’t be talked about. If by gossip, OP is referring to the way people have referred to Josh to Josh’s supervisor, it’s different.

        The goal should NOT be “stop the gossip” but “get people to talk to me fully about what they perceive the problem to be.”

        Those are really very, very different things.

        Also, and this is not a minor issue, but the employees have been dealing with Josh for a long time and Josh is still a jerk. I’d want to know – and if I were OP, I would ask this very directly of the employees – how they’ve tried to address the Josh problem before: who they have reported the problems to in the past, whether they have addressed it with Josh, what the work impacts for them are. Because if they’ve been dealing with this for a few years and have reported it and it’s made no difference (which seems likely, as the director apparently is well aware of the problem) I don’t think it is realistic to expect the employees to be perfect in their response to Josh’s continuing, unchecked and unchanged rudeness now.

        1. LCL*

          When presented the way it is, it’s gossip. Gossip that happens to be true. Gossip refers to the way things are passed around, not the substance.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t mean to be pedantic, but that’s not the definition of gossip. Gossip refers to rumor and speculation (and sometimes fact) about a person’s private or personal life. That’s materially different than “Josh is an ass to work with.” There’s certainly shit talk happening, but not gossip.

            I agree with Jessie that calling it “gossip” is minimizing and moves the focus away from the primary problem (Josh) to the symptom (employees making snide comments and “jokes”).

          2. Specialk9*

            Disagree. I posted above about the reasons why people communicate indirectly with managers, and fall back on ‘joking’ as defense. But they WERE communicating with OP, as the manager. That’s not gossip, at all.

    4. Pollygrammer*

      The coworkers may be very used to communicating that information among themselves, because it’s probably helpful information, and joking around is a way of doing it pseudo-tactfully. Essentially, “don’t go to Josh” or “don’t go to Josh and expect him to be friendly/helpful/respectful” is worth sharing, and it’s just spilling over to his manager because it’s just the norm to acknowledge it.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Agree! If I go to a teammate and say “Hey, did you hear Mary was out sick last week? I saw her at the gym, I know she’s not really sick, what is she up to?” then I am gossiping and it needs to stop. But if I go to my teammate and say “I know you’ve been trying to get your hardware updated because your computer is running slowly – I think you’d have better luck contacting Steven. Josh tends not to be responsive and he’s not really addressed issues for me when I’ve had them” then you’re being *helpful*

  24. KitKat*

    Sorry if this is too OT, but is there anything you can say in the moment if you are the employee in this situation? I’m considered one of the most technologically competent in my office and am not the type to submit an IT ticket for “how do I send an email” but there have been a few times when the IT worker has been very rude, and I’ve always just sort of felt like I have to stand there and be professional back. One time I requested help with something and the IT worker literally responded “Do you know to read?” Which, I feel like even if I had a very stupid question, is not an appropriate way to respond. But everything I can think to say sounds like a parent scolding a child! “I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way” etc

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I would just send an email myself immediately to their manager reporting the interaction, as accurately as I possibly could, without any emotion.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            I agree: share that with the manager, quote him directly and make it clear that he wasn’t saying it in a joking manner, because I guarantee that’s what he’ll claim. “I just observed what I considered to unacceptably rude communication, and I wanted to alert you to it.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yes, and if I’ve missed something basic, I’ll feel like an idiot all on my own thank you. That is not what I need help with from you. Can you please answer my question/issue/whatever?

        1. KitKat*

          Haha I like this! I would want to say something in the moment just because it feels sneaky to bring it to their manager without ever saying directly to the person that it bothers me.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            To me it’s so completely over the line – I’m a professional here, this is a work issue, I don’t deserve to be talked to like that – that I wouldn’t feel any rejoinder would be useful. But you were there, perhaps it was said in a joking manner and I’m picturing something much more caustic.

    1. gecko*

      I think you can absolutely say “I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way,” or, “I find that inexcusably rude,” as you forward the email to their manager and your manager.

    2. Murphy*

      Wow, that’s not even little rude! I agree with sending that to a manger, because you can’t continue a conversation with someone who is going to treat you like that.

    3. MissCPA*

      I had a few encounters at my previous job with our unhelpful and rude IT person (unfortunately our office only had one main IT person who was almost always assigned our local help tickets) and the last time he ever said something rude to me I made sure to reply to him and CC the head honcho of my office. Next thing you know I got an apology in my inbox. The truth is he worked for me, for the office, to SUPPORT the people working on external client matters. It was never my fault that our internet went out or whatever the case was that day, but I NEED your help to get my job done. My suggestion is to call them out on it in the moment. It certainly helped for me.

    4. Cordoba*

      I’d respond with “No, I am completely illiterate” and let him take it from there.

    5. TootsNYC*

      well, there’s “did you just say that out loud?”

      Or Carolyn Hax’s favorite: “Wow.” >silence<

      1. Persephoneunderground*

        I’ve actually used this- said “wow” with a shocked expression and actually walked away. Good because it didn’t require any thought while I was still processing the “I can’t believe he just said that.” And it was a satisfying response to refuse to be spoken to that way by simply leaving and denying them the opportunity to continue.

        I also popped my head in my manager’s office to report the incident, and was told I wasn’t the only one who had complained about him and the offender was being quietly replaced. His contract was not renewed. 10/10 for the Wow plus Leave advice, would handle the same way again :p

    6. Melody Pond*

      I think I would turn it into a question, if I were in your shoes.

      “Wow – why would you speak to a coworker that way?”
      *blink a few times in confusion* “What kind of response do you normally get when you talk to people this way?”
      “Whoa! What kind of a response do you expect to get to something like that?”

  25. animaniactoo*

    Josh needs a hard lesson in “everybody is stupid about something” and that some people have better memories than others. Or coping skills. And that part of the reason that Josh HAS a job is that this is an area where Josh is smart. But how good is he at accounting or cooking or mending clothes or forecasting sales or car mechanics? If he only had to do even a basic step for them about once every 2 to 3 months, how good would he be at them? For every one of those categories?

    Because until he learns that, anything he does is just going to be faking it and attempts to rehabilitate his image are going to fall pretty short. It will get better. But it will always lag behind others.

    Also, Josh needs to know he has an escape clause. i.e. if he’s taught someone the same extremely basic and necessary on a regular basis thing 14 times, and they’re still calling for IT help every time, he can escalate that to his manager as someone who will try to get that resolved as an overall issue that said person NEEDS to become competent at it as part of their job and stop wasting IT’s time. But he still has to help every time and do it without calling the other person stupid. He’s going to have to learn to try and help the user workshop how to remember what to do – can they write the steps down for themselves? Will a mnemonic help? What will give them the ability to handle this on their own?

    Also, some people are frankly afraid of technology and breaking things (particularly the parts they don’t understand how it works and what failsafes are built in against a user screwing things up) and will always call rather than touch it and break it. Help them learn that too, and you’ll get fewer calls.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yes, this is a kind-to-Josh way to approach the problem, try to identify the top sources of his frustration and break down solutions, what his response SHOULD look like, etc.

  26. Rich*

    Very good comments and discussion around Josh’s attitude and the need for him to fix it.

    There’s one subtext area that I think is worth addressing. It’s a small IT department, OP is newly responsible for it, and Josh and Steven are very knowledgable about the systems that run the organization. That’s great to have people with good technical institutional knowledge. But it can also feel like a pair of handcuffs, because replacing that person guarantees that a lot of valuable info about how the systems operate will be lost.

    I’m not suggesting that Josh needs to be fired today, but in my experience it’s easy to build up a hesitancy to fire a problem technical employee because of the fear of loss of institutional knowledge. Frankly, I think that’s a lot of why IT folks (yes, I’ve been in IT my whole career) have been able to get away with behavior that created the “Nick Burns your company’s computer guy” stereotype.

    So, if he’s worth saving, work with him on that. But really think through the question, “If I decide to fire him (or if he quit tomorrow), I’ll have to account for X, Y and Z system-wise”. Those may not be trivial problems to solve, but in my experience they’re less difficult than they appear to be before they’re fully considered.

    Having a plan for a Josh-less future may help bring some clarity for what you have to do to make an acceptable Josh-inclusive future.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. You need back up plans for all roles in an organization, but especially for the technical support positions.

  27. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    Yikes, this could be my organization, except “Josh” was escorted out of the building earlier this year and hasn’t been seen since. I’m in IT, and we have a small team that does sort of “IT for IT” support – they’re who I contact when my computer or printer won’t work, basically. Our “Josh” would sigh loudly, roll his eyes, speak very condescendingly to us, ignore people who said hi to him in the hallway… for a while we were having printer connectivity issues and everyone just tried to avoid printing so they wouldn’t have to interact with “Josh”. Now that he’s gone, we get to work with some awesome people who don’t act like every request for assistance is a personal insult to them, and it has totally changed our opinion of that office! “Josh” is making you look bad, OP, and shouldn’t take it any longer.

  28. Cassandra*

    OP, I’m interested in the combination of “new manager” and “sysadmin” that you told us about yourself. I have an experience-based hunch that part of what’s going on here is that you have had plenty of experience doing similar (or even the same) work as Stephen, Cory, and Josh now do. Am I right about that?

    If so, it feels quite natural to me that you’re identifying with Josh and wanting to defend him. You likely understand his frustrations, having been there yourself, and it’s also possible that your past behavior has sometimes resembled his. You may also be accustomed to “us against the world” banding-together with other IT employees.

    Unfortunately, Alison and commenters are right — these habits of thought and behavior are leading you down a mistaken path with Josh. I won’t rehash the whole, just say that I agree that Josh’s behavior to his coworkers is the central problem, and tone-policing those who are responding negatively to it is not a viable solution.

    As a new manager, you may want some mentoring and/or backup here. (Writing to AAM was a great start!) If you feel able, loop in your manager or another person in management (Cory, if Cory is still at the company?) whom you trust. Talk through the talk you’ll have to have with Josh, and brainstorm responses to likely Josh pushback. Talk through how you plan to communicate to those Josh has irritated that you are trying to do something about his behavior. Talk through what next steps are if Josh doesn’t brush up his toes.

    Addressing performance problems is a common new-manager challenge, both inside and outside IT. It’s a situation that tends to recur, so the sooner you get your feet under you, OP, the more successful you’ll be. Good luck!

  29. Margot the Destroyer*

    Since you are new, maybe you can send out an email to Managers or Team leads stating such and asking for specific feedback on your team or IT in general, this way it isn’t coming across as “what complaints do you have about Josh”. You can say something like you are gathering feedback to address with your team to work on towards accomplishing quicker turn around and internal department communication, or something similar.

  30. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    I’m trying to figure out something – with all the background information, it seems as this is clearly an issue with Josh. But LW seems to be approaching this as an issue with the company. I’m just curious what he’s seeing in Josh that I might be missing – if his customer support skills are bad and he’s in a help desk position, that’s pretty important.

    But…this is kind of making me think of the Josh at my job – one of my coworkers has a VERY similar issue. (I’ll admit I’m a little bit of a Josh myself. Which is…not great, I’ll admit. I’m trying to work on that.) He’s technically very smart. He’s a hard worker. But his interpersonal skills are…quite frankly, terrible. (We’re both supervisors/project managers. So this makes our situation worse.) From my level as a peer, I can see that he’s really bright, and although he’s pretty awkward and often misinterprets things he means well. But from an employee’s perspective, he might be condescending, quick to assume bad faith, and overly rigid.

    And both are legitimate! My Josh doesn’t know how to handle people, but he’s also good at fixing things. So maybe a forward facing role isn’t right for him. Maybe it’s the same way for your Josh – and you have the advantage of being his manager and able to assign him different places! Have you thought about putting him in a backend role so he doesn’t have to directly interact with people as often?

    I mean, yeah, definitely address his jerk behavior. That can’t continue. But he might just be happier not dealing as much with people.

    1. Autumnheart*

      I would respond to this by pointing out that working directly with people in a service capacity is hard and draining work for everyone, even if they generally do it well. I guess I feel like allowing a Josh to keep his job and dial back his customer-facing duties would necessarily burden the people who don’t have a problem doing a critical aspect of their job. What if Steven has a bad day and someone complains, does he get it worse because he has to be the “people person” because the position of team jerk is already filled by Josh? It holds people to different standards.

      Soft skills are an important part of the job. If you had an employee who broke everything they touched but were popular with the users, would you keep them on? No, because they need to be competent problem solvers. By the same token they need to be competent with interpersonal interactions too.

  31. The IT Manager*

    I think this is a very similar situation. Josh doesn’t intend to belittle anyone, I think. He just doesn’t have people skills. Hopefully that’s something we can develop.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      One thing you need to keep in mind is that it sounds like people have run their issues with Josh up to management, which is why your director knew about them, and nothing happened. You are going to be starting out with not much good will, so you are going to have to build some bridges with your users

    2. I'd Rather not Say*

      There is a software vendor we work with who has a sheet listing the information they require us to have when calling tech support. It helps us both get to the point quicker. Would it be possible for Josh to help create a similar form of information he needs from people requesting help? This might lessen his frustration when getting the information he needs to assist users. He could either give it to the person, or use it as a guide for himself – whichever would work best for your organization.

      1. Observer*

        That sounds like a good thing. But I would NOT ask Josh to create it, because he doesn’t seem to have reasonable expectations of what people should know.

    3. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      If you’re responding to me – hopefully! But…that’s really on Josh. He has to not only see there’s a problem but also be willing to change his behavior.

      I’ll admit I was about to go a little bit harder until I thought about it more (which is why you should always think before you comment). One of the hardest things to do is to see how things look when you have a position of power over someone – and Josh, as IT, does have a lot of power when he responds to a ticket.

      I’d also check his workload. I mentioned that I’m Josh-like sometimes – I usually become more Josh-like when I’m doing multiple things at once and an employee asks me a question that they asked multiple times before and that I’ve documented. Some people externalize their stress.

      It’s not an excuse for his behavior at all. But there might be underlying reasons.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I did mean to respond to you. Oops!

        It’s definitely on the person needing change to change, but I want to help in any way reasonable.

        I actually had a conversation with Steven just a couple days ago about the workload and how he feels overwhelmed, so that’s something I’m going to look into as well.

        1. Shhh...*

          Yeah, well good luck to get him to improve on his social skills.
          I am looking at leaving my job, one of the reasons being that a junior employee has extremely low social skills and doesn’t understand the issue even when coworkers say things in the bluntest way possible. I understand he’s not doing it on purpose but it is extremely frustrating and I am going to blow a fuse pretty soon. For various reasons management will never dismiss him, even though they acknowledge this wouldn’t be accepted in other companies .

          The issue is also that management is telling him his attitude is not acceptable, but doesn’t give him concrete pointers to what he should do to make it acceptable.

          People at the office have been arm-diagnosing and many are gossiping behind the poor guy’s back. All this contributes to further deteriorate the work atmosphere.

          1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            I mean…I agree. But there’s also only so much management can do in terms of coaching. They’re bosses, not parents.

            The major issue is that management won’t fire Fergus in your case (and he sounds like the most Fergus Fergus to ever Fergus).

            1. Shhh...*

              I agree with you about the extent of what management can do hence my first sentence.

              I complained to management because this is eating up whatever social energy I have (I have naturally low social skills myself, but thankfully I have been well trained by my sibling who used to scold me every time I said or did something socially stupid). And it frustrates me because from my experience I know that social skills can be somehow be improved, but only if the person sees the interest in doing that.

              The guy is now asking me why he is not spending any time travelling and facing the clients (I am currently the only senior at the office, direct manager is on maternity leave and no temporary replacement has been found, so the juniors are naturally coming to me to ask stuff). I just said “You have to prove to management that you would be able to handle it”. What a mess!

    4. H.C.*

      An alternative, if possible, is keeping Josh out of client-facing work. That happened at one of my OldJobs in web marketing, where one of my colleagues is great on technical skills & not so much on people skills, so manager eventually relegated him to primarily handling fixes and improvements while another colleague does the bulk of the client correspondence.

    5. pcake*

      Why do you think Josh doesn’t intent to belittle anyone? Some people who feel superior really do mean to belittle those they deal with. If you haven’t talked to Josh about this, you don’t know how he feels about it.

  32. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

    Okay, I think you have something you need to do before you talk to Josh. I think you need to observe the guy to avoid having him write off anything said as someone else’s version of the situation. Your understanding of Josh’s personality comes from your director and you couched your understanding of how he made someone feel with the word “apparently.” This means you’re still working with second-hand information. This means you’re not going to be able to give very effective feedback about what specific behaviors and language needs to change.

    You also need to have specifics that you can comfortably document for HR in case this rises to the level of a PIP. You’re Josh’s manager and that means you need to be Caesar’s wife when it comes to your handling of a potentially sticky situation when you’re new on the job. Documentation of direct observation is a CYA move as well as a move that allows Josh no wiggle room for dismissing the way a coworker describes the situation.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Direct observation is only good indicator of how someone behaves when they know they’re being observed, though.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        … OR it’s an excellent time to pretend you’re a restaurant critic for the NYTimes, and break out the wig and glasses.

      2. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

        Depending on the office, there can be a number of ways to indirectly observe an interaction between an IT staff member and a user. Beyond that, even if it yields no real results, at least you can say that you attempted to observe what they were talking about. This isn’t about giving Josh the benefit of the doubt. This is about the OP making sure all ducks are in the row moving forward. We don’t know what HR looks like at this company and some of them are downright pedantic when it comes to disciplinary actions by new managers.

  33. Cucumberzucchini*

    Being frustrated that people don’t understand or have as much knowledge as you have a Subject Matter Expert needs to be reframed to Josh as a good thing. Why does he have a job at all if not because people don’t understand IT things to the same level as him? Just like he likely doesn’t understand logistics fulfillment or HR or whatever his coworkers do his coworkers rely on him for IT stuff. If they didn’t he would not have a job.

  34. Adaline B.*

    I used to be very similar to Josh. Maybe not as overt (but then again I snapped at a VP soooo… *cringe*). The serious This Cannot Happen discussion from my manager was my wake up call to change my behavior. It’s taken a lot of work and restraining my instinctive reactions but my manager has received several comments that people have noticed a change.

    And as time goes by, it has gotten easier to let the small stuff go and not be bothered by it.

    1. LQ*

      I’m so glad people are noticing the change and commenting on it! I think it can be hard sometimes to recover when people have set in their minds that Adaline behaves like this. So you are clearly doing a good enough job that you’re changing people’s expectations. That’s seriously awesome.

  35. Observer*

    One quick thought – this is NOT a problem that “all IT people have.”

    GOOD IT people understand that, at minimum, they cannot be rude and condescending, nor can they let their frustration show on a regular basis. They also generally understand that expecting people to have a certain level of tech knowledge is generally not reasonable or realistic, and that even if it really IS something fairly basic that “should” be common knowledge, that doesn’t make the person stupid or ignorant in general.

    You need to manage Josh. Do NOT defend his rudeness. Make it 100% clear that he needs to rein his attitude clear. And try to work with him to set more realistic expectations of what people can be expected to know.

  36. KR*

    When I worked in IT, my manager used to frame it like “The users don’t speak the same language as us. They don’t have the vocabulary to say what is actually happening. So while a program might malfunction for us and we understand to try different things, or that sometimes programs just don’t work right for whatever reason, or that it’s because of x, the user just sees that their PC isn’t doing what it usually does. It’s our job to teach them and to help but to also only give them as much information as they need. Some people are never going to be good computer users but that’s ok because thats what IT is for.”

    1. KR*

      Also follow-up, I have stopped going to mechanics because they got frustrated with me for not understanding what was wrong with my car or having a car that had problems (which is silly of them because the more problems my beater had the more money they made….). I go to a mechanic because they know much more about cars than I do and I am paying for that knowledge, much the same as your company paying you for your knowledge and expertise. IT is first and foremost a support department.

    2. Bea*

      Exactly! I don’t get mad when people ask me simple and seemingly dumb accounting questions because they’re asking me because I’m the one with the job. My job requires me up be an expert, their job requires them to deal with Other Things I don’t understand everything about either. It’s so batty to get salty when someone outside of your department asks you to do your damn job and be pleasant about it.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      > only give them as much information as they need

      This. Do not go into details unless they ask for details.

      I have a good friend who likes tabletop games and he’s fun to play with. However, he *sucks* at teaching them, because he forgets how to know nothing. He’ll be going thru sort of naming all the bits of the game and then he’ll start talking about strategy, and I’m like, I need to actually play the game to even start to understand that. I won’t remember it later when I need it, and trying to take it in now is only interfering with me learning the game basics. (He did that once with a game that he had not yet told us how to win, or even how the game ends! I got very upset at him and pulled out a lot of “I know I have a weird memory” sadness and … I think we played a different game that night. Can’t remember. We’ve since adjusted our methods.) I have simple needs: just let me play the game *badly* once, and then teach me the finer points when I’ll have some context for them.

  37. Former Retail Manager*

    No time to read all of the previous comments….apologies for repeats, but Josh (and sooooo many other IT people I’ve encountered) need to understand that when they work with users, customer service is a HUGE part of their job. Perhaps OP should advise Josh that customer service is just as important as technical expertise. Knowledge, without the ability to properly utilize it, isn’t much help to anyone.

  38. Jackson*

    One thing that I haven’t seen here, surprisingly, is that maybe Josh has undiagnosed autism. Many people on the spectrum are very, very good at what they do, but not so good at relating to people. I also know that if a child is functioning at school and not getting into trouble, many parents will not realize there is something amiss, so they grow into adults who don’t really know why they are the way they are.

    We almost did this with our son. We suspected that he might be on the spectrum, but as long as he seemed happy and was functioning well, we were hesitant to have him stuck with a label. In high school, suddenly he was neither happy nor functioning well, and he told us that he wanted to know “what’s wrong with me.” So he spent some time with a psychologist who diagnosed mild autism. He then spent some time with a therapist who gave him some tips on how to relate to real people in the real world, handle stress, etc., etc. He is heading off to university in the fall, has had a summer job where he received glowing references for his work and for his people skills, and will be working at a state park this summer in a client-facing role. So clearly mild autism is treatable with behavior modification therapy.

    I’m no expert, but based on what the OP has told me, he sounds a lot like he fits the profile. It’s kind of hard to tell someone they should go see a psychologist and find out if they have autism, but a little understanding and an open mind might be a good place to start as a manager, and it sounds like the OP is trying to find a solution that works for Josh and the employer. If the kind of mentoring Alison mentions doesn’t do the trick, the kind thing to do might be to suggest that there might be something underlying that he needs to work on.

    1. Unseelie*

      It’s against the commenting rules here to armchair diagnose people, which is why you aren’t seeing it. So not surprising, actually.

      1. Jackson*

        Sorry I didn’t realize that. I do think it’s fair to wonder if there is not something else going on that OP should look into, though, beyond a simple “performance” issue.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Yes, it was mentioned somewhere. But here’s the thing: people on the ASD spectrum can learn perfectly well how to behave well to others, they just have to be taught specifically. They don’t even have to be diagnosed, they just have to be taught specifically the skills that many pick up in childhood. And it isn’t OP’s job to diagnose Josh, or even suggest it to him. It’s OP’s job to point out what behavior, specifically, is not acceptable.

            OP: You probably realize this, but you can’t just say “be more polite”. You need to say “No heavy sighs, no eyerolls, and you have to greet them with Good Morning/Afternoon when you show up to their desk”. Be really specific.

        1. Observer*

          It was mentioned elsewhere.

          But there is a good practical reason to not bring it up. And that’s because, in this context it really does not matter. The OP can’t diagnose him, treat him or require him to get into treatment.

          Of course the OP should not be demonizing Josh, but his behavior most definitely falls under the category of “jerkish”, so that needs to be addressed clearly and forthrightly. And that stays the same, regardless of the reason.

    2. Temperance*

      I mean, does is matter whether he is on the spectrum or not. He still needs to be decent.

  39. LQ*

    A quick story about our Josh. He’s the worst. His solution to every single IT problem is “I’ll reimage your computer, it will take a day or two (or 4 or 5 depending).” And when I say every single IT problem I mean it. (He’s help desk so he isn’t dealing with our massive multimillion dollar system but aside from that…) And don’t get me wrong reimaging the computer “fixes” things if you ignore all the facts. He closes all the tickets and fast, he might be the most brilliant technical mind we have. None of that matters. He’s incredibly rude, he never tries to trouble shoot, and even if I have the screen up and all he has to do is enter his stupid admin information so it will run the office repair which takes all of 3 minutes and he doesn’t even have to come to my desk. He still wants to just reimage the computer. For every reimaged computer we loose about a week’s worth of productivity because all of the software has to be readded because somehow it’s mysteriously never there when it is brought back. Then license keys have to be found and on and on. (And yes, technical people, I know none of this should be a problem. I understand the technology of this well enough.)

    But Josh’s manager just thinks that IT people are like that so it’s ok. And that he closes all of his tickets. But I would 100% say that Josh doesn’t count if I was talking about a problem. And I have tried talking to the managers. And my managers have talked to his managers. And my manager’s managers have talked to his manager’s managers. But he’s allowed to roam free, reimaging computers. So we manage the problem by getting real, real unhappy about it. Which doesn’t help things, but his manager won’t manage him, so yes, we are going to be relieved every single time he’s on vacation, and we are going to say his trouble shooting doesn’t count.

    Please, please deal with your Josh. It doesn’t matter how smart Josh is if no one wants to work with him because he’s condescending, or because he’s unwilling to listen to what the problem is, or because his solution to everything is reimaging computers. Smart is the least important thing at work a lot of days.

    1. Vague Tribble*

      Sympathetic “nooooooo!!!” about someone reimaging your computer every time!! We just had all our laptops redone and it was such a pain in the butt. Not actually getting the new laptop, but getting all the software I need reinstalled because even though I gave them a list. Sorry I have to bug you for the admin password every 20 minutes, dude, but I told you I need this! How on earth is your Josh still there if his response to every issue causes you to lose a week of work?

      1. LQ*

        I do not know. Though I suspect that while our area gets real real unhappy about a week of work not happening there are some folks around us where they don’t get nearly as unhappy and think of it as a …snow day, but 5 and paid.

  40. Bea*

    I can’t believe you think he should be respected and are worried about him when you know he’s an asshole with an attitude problem! I hope these comments help recalibrate your feelings and see Josh needs to be reeled in and dealt with.

    I’ll leave a job where someone is allowed to make others feel stupid and are put out by doing their job.

  41. RUKiddingMe*

    “…he gets frustrated by people not being as knowledgeable as he expects them to be. I think it’s a problem all IT workers have…”

    IT is his job, not the job of Sue in acquisitions or Mike in marketing. He is expected to be knowledgeable in IT stuff, Cathy in HR, not so much.

    He’s being a dick. IT people who expect that non-IT people should “just know” this stuff, and/or get frustrated/irritated/condescending at non-IT people suck so hard.

    Maybe while you’re talking to him OP you can point out that the reason he has a job is to do IT stuff for the people who aren’t IT.

    1. LQ*

      I think this is a really good point. Sue in acquisitions can get crabby that people don’t know all the intricate steps of the process too. But at some point you’re a professional and you have to behave like a professional and that means understanding that while you may be the best at your job, other people have other jobs in which they are excellent and you would not be as knowledgeable.

      Every time someone asks me something that makes me want to roll my eyes a quick reminder to myself of all the things they know that I don’t brings it all back into focus. (And I get more like this the less I’m learning at my job every day, so he may need a challenge, the challenge should obviously be to be more professional and present a demeanor that is more pleasant and makes people want to reach out to him for assistance.)

  42. AnonandAnon*

    I work with “Josh”, all our users go out of their way to contact anyone but him. He’s so unfriendly on the phone, and so users know they will be made to feel like they are bothering him. His favorite response is “I don’t know.”, and will do nothing to troubleshoot, but push it off to someone else.
    The users also hear his comments under his breath when he hangs up the phone. Many complaints, and nothing has changed. He sucks, everyone knows it, and no one does anything about it. Of course that also means more work for the rest of us because we actually like helping our end users!

  43. Plague of frogs*

    “I think it’s a problem all IT workers have to some degree, but the problem here is that his inside thoughts come out a little too much.”

    Hard disagree. Most IT workers probably recognize that if everyone had their level of expertise, they wouldn’t have a job.

    I, personally, have yet to met a condescending IT worker.

    1. Bea*

      Good to hear I’m not alone! I’ve never dealt with smarmy IT people, our crew is so unbelievably kind and helpful. Sure they probably cringe at some of our silliness but we all have mutual respect.

      This guy sounds like the maintenance dbag my mom had at work for a few years. Just a nasty crabby dick who shouldn’t be around others, it’s not the job just the crappy personality they’re born with.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I don’t think the LW is suggesting that all IT workers are condescending, but I’m sure they are all at least aware that yes, lots of people are unwilling to learn very simple things about their computers and won’t bother to Google totally google-able things before they submit an IT request.

      As a non-IT layman, I’ve certainly witnessed that kind of thing myself and I find learned helplessness a little aggravating in any arena. But feeling frustrated (which I’m pretty sure is what LW means) isn’t the same thing as expressing that frustration.

  44. Noah*

    Agree on Josh, but I don’t think that’s enough for Josh’s coworkers. They need to be told that they cannot talk about their coworkers that way while at work.

    1. Observer*

      And how do you expect to police that? Also, Management’s failure to deal with the problem has probably caused a morale hit already. Could you imagine how people would react to being told that THEY are the ones who are “misbehaving”?

  45. Tony Stark*

    It’s also worth checking tickets and follow up with users to see how he handles problems.

    I manage IT for a branch of our organisation, but things like the network, Active Directory, various services are controlled through head office. They recently got a new guy to join the IT team there, and he has often said one thing or another and closed off a ticket in a seeming resolution. Then two minutes later after I’ve actually processed his response I’m like “Wait, that isn’t actually how it works!”

    (Ie. He told me to resolve an automated email group issue by manually signing up a user because “they probably just never signed up” and closed the ticket. A moment later I realise *no one* usually signs up to the group because they’re added automatically)

  46. TootsNYC*

    You are new–gather more info!

    Then follow Alison’s plan.

    OK, my story:
    I had a colleague who was in charge of what got done when–sort of our project manager. He and I worked closely together, and I had done his job at other places and filled in for that role.

    He used to get mad and rant, and throw his stapler at his desk (seriously–we had these nice, new wooden desks; his had dings all over it)

    I realized people would come to ME with info or questions they should have brought to him. I could answer those Qs and relay info as needed, which I would do at first until I saw the trend. Then I tried to tell them, “You need to tell Fergus. He needs this info.” I would coach them on how to approach him (“he won’t be mad because you’re telling him first; he only gets mad when he gets blindsided” and “Start off apologizing,a nd then he’ll be so focused on making you feel better”).

    They would just refuse. They would say, “You tell him, won’t you do that for me?”

    I finally sat him down and said, “You need to fix this, you need to stop. You are not getting the info you need, because people are afraid of you. I shouldn’t be doing your job, because I might not remember to pass on info.”

    He did work on it.

    I also had a colleague at another job that used to get mad at people and slam around the office (he once kicked a hole in the wall because he was mad about something–at 8:30 in the morning). On one memorable day, there was a party during deadline. Those of us in the deadline were working furiously with small breaks for socializing, but he got really mad that people weren’t at their desks when he handed work off to them, and that they finished their two sentences before zooming off to tackle stuff. He would throw things at people’s desks, snap at them, etc.
    I went to his boss and said, “This is damaging productivity. He pisses people off, and then they spend several minutes in self-soothing–venting to one another, etc.–which wastes time. And they’re not performing at peak ability either, because they’re mad. It’s not about whether he’s nice or rude; it’s about what effect it’s having on productivity.” The boss said, “You are the first person to draw that link for me. Thank you.”

    I ALSO supervise proofreaders and copyeditors. And i had one guy complaining about people who didn’t put the comma after the state name. I pointed out: If they were all as good at this as we are, we would not have jobs. That’s a thing to say to Josh.

    And then also point him to that xkcd comic about being an expert, and if you’re snotty so people don’t ask you, you miss the fun.
    Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE being the person people go to for help. I get to feel like the smartest person in the room, and a superhero to boot. Talk about a major ego boost!

    Then, there’s the idea that teaching people how to solve their own problems is also an incredibly valuable skill.

  47. Josh*

    As an actual Josh who works in IT, I would like to say that this man does not represent all of us.

    1. Totally not Josh's brother*

      Uh oh, sounds like Alison’s got a serious Josh problem of her own here.

  48. Linnette*

    Old IT manager here.
    OP, you still have the “new puppy smell” on you and can get away with stuff so here is not only what I would do but what I have had to do when faced with an employee like Josh at a new gig.
    1. Have training meetings with your team covering how YOU expect them to treat their internal customers. Make them role play. Go over things they consider troublesome and come up with solutions that you approve with them. Phrase it as “I have watched things for a few weeks and this is how I want things done by my department from now on.” Since everyone is used to new managers coming up with their own stupid policies, Josh won’t feel picked on and now you can hold him accountable for FUTURE behavior.
    2. Put both guys on to writing up SOPs for the most common simple request that your users have permission to resolve. Then put this in the internal knowledge base. Have both of your guys do 2-3 short ones a week each. You vet them. If they don’t pass the neophyte test, hand them back to the writer and have them do it again. A lot of IT folks are just crappy about giving instructions in person or in writing. This forces them to get better at it. Have them write up common definitions of terms that they may use with internal customers and put that up in the knowledge base. Have them practice using the SOPs to walk people through their issues and add other SOPs as needs arise. After 60 days of this, Josh will either get better at giving instructions without giving anyone grief or self eliminate because writing out the instructions will drive him nuts.
    3.Next open the knowledge base to your internal customers and spend the next 60 days walking all calls through the knowledge base articles step by step. This will help the folks who are afraid of their computers at least feel comfortable using the knowledge base and gives Josh more practice giving instructions and help.
    4. Keep having training meetings and update meetings with YOUR crew. Find out what training they think they need to do their job better, what things that should be off-loaded to the knowledge base. Use this weekly or bi-weekly time to give constructive feedback and listen to gripes.
    5.Work with other department heads to see what are the most common things that they would like THEIR teams to have in the knowledge base.

    If at any stage Josh doesn’t shape up, he has been properly notified of the NEW expectations of behavior and expectations of documentation. He has gotten regular feedback and needed training. PIP his butt and fire him. The other team leads, employees and your boss will see you as someone who gets things done. If Josh does shape up, the other team leads, employees and your boss will see you as someone who gets things done.

    Good luck!

    1. another fake name*

      Can you please be our IT manager? Seriously, you sound like you know your shit.

  49. Cousin Anne*

    When my husband was an IT sorta-newbie 20 years ago, his manager had to pull him aside and tell him that his tone/manner came across as rather arrogant/condescending to some of the interns and other newbies. Husband was stunned, he had no idea! He worked hard on it and improved significantly. In his current job, he is often the go-to guy for tricky conversations with customers, known for his tact and easy-going style. People can learn and improve — but only if they know improvement is needed.

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