In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, we want to know how you deal with support favors.
We’ve all been there: A friend, relative, coworker, teacher, or neighbor learns that we’re in IT support and immediately has questions. They usually start innocently enough with, “You know, my modem has never worked right,” or “I can never get connected to the Internet.” From there, the next words out of their mouths are always, “Could you come over and take a look at it sometime?” Inevitably, not wanting to seem rude or uncaring, we answer, “Sure, no problem,” and walk away asking ourselves, “What have I gotten myself into?” No matter how small the problem, solving it usually takes an hour, and most support technicians don’t have an hour to spare. It’s time that IT professionals ask the question: How far should support favors go?
Should you help everyone or politely decline?
This has happened to me more times than I can count, and I’m starting to wonder where to draw the line. I don’t want to sound angry or insensitive, because I like helping people. I enjoy computer support for this very reason, but when someone asks me to reinstall Windows NT, I know it’s going to be an all-day job. Whether you’re a support technician who is constantly stopped in the hallway or a consultant who can’t work because you’re always doing pro bono jobs, the dilemma is the same. Should you help the distressed person or politely decline?
TechRepublic members, here’s your chance to sound off. I want to know how you handle support favors. Are you happy to solve everyone’s problems? Do you charge a fee? Do you politely tell the requestor you’re too busy? We want to hear from you! Post a message below or send us a note.
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Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.