IT support pros deal with a variety of users, most of whom are professional and operate their computers properly and efficiently. But occasionally, users intentionally misuse, alter, or damage their workstations. Here are a few suggestions to help you protect your company’s data and equipment.
I’ll show you!
Users misbehave for a variety of reasons. They may be angry with a coworker; upset about that promotion they didn’t get, or mad at the IT department. To vent this aggression, users often take it out on their computers.
A desktop technician recently told me about several users who kept deleting their coworkers’ e-mail profiles. These users share a common PC that is primarily used for Microsoft Outlook e-mail. Every few days, someone gets angry and deletes a coworker’s Outlook profile. Occasionally they get really mad and delete all the profiles on their machine.
But Outlook is not the only avenue for their revenge. These same users are also fond of rearranging their shared desktops and renaming their desktop icons. While not permanently destructive, this activity is annoying, disrupts the daily workflow, and wastes IT support’s valuable time.
What can you do?
While not the easiest of problems to deal with, there are steps IT support can take to eliminate these disruptions.
- Recognize the problem. At first, many of these issues are diagnosed as normal hardware or software problems, but if they occur repeatedly, look for other, less obvious causes. Don’t forget to ask the users what they think is going on. Users often know more than you think.
- Confront the users. Sometimes using the direct approach works best. Don't be angry or rude. Simply try explaining to the user why they shouldn’t intentionally damage their computers. Some just don’t understand the hours it can take to fix two seconds' worth of mouse clicks.
- Ask the user’s manager. If dealing directly with the user is like banging your head against a brick wall, perhaps it’s time to seek a higher power. Go to his or her manager, describe the situation, and see if he or she will intervene.
- Lock down the workstation. Depending on the operating system, look into increasing the workstation’s security. If the operating system provides no security controls, check out a third-party security application, such as Full Armor.
- Change the workstation environment altogether. Although this is by far the most drastic approach, it may be the only way to stop malicious users. Consider replacing the problem PCs with Windows Terminal Server boxes. While expensive and time consuming to initially install, this system can follow most malicious users and is easier to administer than many desktop lockdown applications.
When dealing with problem users, or any client, always remember that they are only human. They get angry, have bad days, and do stupid things once in a while. Of course, this doesn’t make intentionally deleting someone’s e-mail profile acceptable behavior, but don’t flog these users the first time if they didn’t cause irreparable damage. Every situation is different, and one solution will not work for all problems. Keep a cool head and try different approaches until you find one that works.
If you’ve ever had a problem with a misbehaving user, we would love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a post below or send us a note.
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.