Security

Perfume allergy makes tech support painful

You're the only support person in a small office and one of your most demanding users wears a perfume to which you are allergic. What would you do? Read this week's scenario and help the tech resolve this irritating problem.


Our "What would you do?" column is a forum for sharing your knowledge and experience in dealing with the softer side of computer support. Every two weeks, I will present a scenario that requires more than a technical solution. Each situation will be an accurate description of an actual event, with the names and other identifying factors changed to protect the innocent—and sometimes not so innocent.

I will first present the outcome and discussion of a scenario from a previous week. Then, we'll jump right in to the next problematic situation. Here are your responses to our fifth column, "Would you support management-endorsed piracy?"

Protect yourself from management-approved piracy
The vast majority of readers recommended that Julia and anyone else caught in a similar situation do some or all of the following:
  • Perform a complete audit of all software in the company.
  • Document the comparative cost of updating all software to legal standards and the potential cost of leaving the illegal software as is.
  • Obtain documentation from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
  • Make a written, signed statement of her antipiracy stance.
  • Present all documentation to her boss and to other appropriate individuals within the company.
  • Ask her boss to provide a written statement to the effect that he has knowingly asked her to do something illegal.

Many readers reported that by taking the above steps, they were able to extricate themselves from similarly difficult situations. And usually, in the face of such overwhelming evidence, their bosses relented and made the appropriate purchases.

But what if Julia’s boss still refused to do the right thing? What should Julia do then? While some believe her documentation should protect her in the face of an audit, others felt that this could also be used against her, to prove that she knew she was doing something illegal. Rather than be a victim of a messy lawsuit, which could threaten her certifications, reputation, and integrity, member B. Waldron warned that Julia should be prepared to resign her position. As member D. Facer wrote, “Getting caught as a software pirate can ruin your life."

So what did Julia actually do?
So how did Julia actually resolve her problem? Against her boss Harold's wishes, she didn't stop worrying—she instead asked the advice of Meredith, a coworker who Julia thought could be trusted. But unfortunately, Meredith had her own agenda involving Harold's boss and wanted to increase the internal conflict rather than offer assistance. Meredith knew that the piracy issue had surfaced before and also knew how the issue had been successfully resolved. Instead of sharing this information with Julia, Meredith fanned Julia’s concerns.

The problem was eventually escalated to someone in upper management, but by this time Julia’s integrity was in question and the workplace tension had increased to an almost unbearable level. Although management eventually agreed to resolve the issue, they felt Julia should have gone through the proper channels to report the problem. Julia isn't sorry that she stood her ground, but she does wish that she had found an easier way to resolve the issue.

Tech fights intense allergic reaction to end user's perfume
Update: So what really happened?
To learn the outcome of the scenario outlined below and get a recap of the comments and suggestions given by TechRepublic members, click here.

Blake is the only IT support person in a small company of approximately 200 employees. The company culture is pretty laid back and casual. The employees recently received corporate on-the-job harassment training, and it's clear that they are to be cautious in the ways they interact with other employees. Since a larger corporation recently acquired Blake's company and lay offs were pending, everyone was being very careful to not stand out in a negative way.

Unfortunately, one of Blake’s most demanding users, Crystal, always wears a heavy perfume to which he is allergic. After inhaling the perfume for just a few seconds, Blake is left with painfully inflamed sinuses and headaches. Blake has tried to deal with this situation by adopting the use of remote support for Crystal, talking her through things instead of making a personal visit when possible, but Crystal has caught on and now comes directly to Blake’s work area to address the issues personally, which is even worse because then the scent lingers in his work area.

Crystal is a very nice person, and Blake would never want to offend her in any way. But supporting her has become a three-hour commitment, when you consider his dealing with a headache and sinus attack after being exposed to her perfume. Blake doesn't have much time to spare on one user, nor does he wish to be continuously subjected to painful headaches.

If you were Blake, what would you do?
If you have ideas about how a satisfactory resolution might be achieved, send them to us. Don’t hold back, and don't be afraid to be creative. And if you've ever encountered a similar situation, we're particularly interested in hearing the steps you took to achieve a resolution.

You can submit your ideas either by e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of this column. A week after the publication of a scenario, we'll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will later present them with the situation's actual outcome in a follow-up article. You may continue to add discussion items after the week has elapsed, but to be eligible for inclusion in the follow-up article, your suggestions must be received within a week of the scenario's publication.

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