One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. One IT person with a sour attitude can give the whole department a bad name. Enough is enough, folks. Let’s get over ourselves.

You call this service?
My wife has me hooked on watching Will and Grace with her. Our favorite character is Karen, Grace’s secretary. She’s obnoxious, thinks she knows everything, and never does any real work. She reminds me of some tech support people I know.

The old adage “you get a lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” applies to every aspect of the IT industry. I’ve been doing part-time consulting to small businesses for a long time, and I get a lot of repeat business just for being nice to my customers. I’ve come behind consultants (and full-timers) who didn’t return calls, didn’t produce results, or simply didn’t make the client feel good about having them around.

I realize it’s easier to be nice when you’re an on-call part-timer, but you full-time tech support people need to make an effort to clean up your personalities. One of these days, you’re either going to get fired, or an end user is going to knock your block off—and you’ll deserve it.

People remember the bad seeds. Over the last few years, clients have passed on stories, and I’ve heard some nasty things come directly out of the mouths of so-called computer professionals.

Granted, I’m responsible for publishing “ The best dumb user stories of 1999” here on, but that’s a forum where IT people share a few laughs. I try hard never to say or do anything to make a user feel bad in person.

If you want to be the boss, apply for the job
I’ve been doing some pro bono IT work recently, and one of the secretaries told me about a guy who also had volunteered his time in that office but had been asked not to come back. “He made me feel stupid,” she said. “I told him I didn’t know why my laptop wouldn’t come on, and he huffed and acted like I was an idiot.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard similar complaints about support people:

  • “I called the help desk and I didn’t understand a word that was said. She talked right over my head.”
  • “I told him I needed a report right away and he just laughed.”
  • “She was downright rude to me on the phone.”
  • “He acted like it was my fault the computer wouldn’t work.”

Recently I was at a breakfast for IT people and I heard a guy bragging about how he was “getting rid of all of the laptops” in the company where he’d just been hired. “Those users don’t need ‘em. It’s a waste of money, and they’re just spoiled.”

I wanted to whack this guy on the side of the head and say, “Whoa, dude! You’re in IT. You’re in a SERVICE department. If you want to make corporate policies, apply for the CEO job. Until then, provide service and lose the attitude. You’re not impressing anybody but yourself.”
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff’s View from Ground Zero TechMail , and you’ll get a bonus of Jeff’s picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers. To respond to this article, please post a comment below or send Jeff a note .