Jenny’s boss, the IT manager, inherited his current position because he is an old mainframe programmer who has been with the company for many years. Not long after Jenny was hired five years ago, she realized her boss’s technical skills were severely lacking when it came to the company’s current LAN, yet he was very talented at making both the users and his boss believe him to be an expert.

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.

As all IT organizations should do, Jenny’s department performs an annual IT user-satisfaction survey. When Jenny was hired, the process was unnecessarily cumbersome; it required users to fill out numerous paper forms. To streamline the survey and reporting process, Jenny created an easy-to-use network application that gathered the survey data, while Jenny’s boss wrote the survey questions and was responsible for compiling the results and submitting them to his supervisor.

The first time the survey was completed using the new system, the results were amazing: The users could not have been happier with the IT department’s performance. The results were very positive, and Jenny became suspicious that the data had been corrupted or tampered with. After eliminating the possibility of programming errors and data corruption, Jenny checked the network access rights for the data files. Only Jenny and her boss had full rights to the data, leading her to suspect that her boss had doctored the results in the department’s favor.

If you were Jenny, what would you do? As part of the IT department, favorable results benefit your boss and you as well. Would you let the matter go, or would you attempt to prove your suspicions? And what if you were right and could prove it? What would you do then? Would you confront your boss or take the matter to HR?

We want to hear what you have to say!

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.

Perfume allergy makes tech support painful
Here is a summary of your responses to a previous column that detailed one tech’s struggle with an end user who wears an overpowering fragrance.

Although a few readers felt Blake should simply suffer his allergic reaction to the user’s perfume in silence or resign his position, most expressed sympathy for his plight. Recognizing the situation’s potential severity, both for Blake’s health and for the company’s potential liability if a resolution could not be achieved, many readers suggested taking one or more of the following steps:

  • Robertgaunt suggests that Blake address Crystal in a direct, friendly manner to explain the problem. “It sounds ridiculous, but I think I am allergic to your perfume. It’s a great scent, but I seem to get an allergic reaction from it.”
  • If talking to Crystal does not produce the desired effect, or Blake does not feel able to talk to her, then he should take the matter to HR. HR can either address the matter directly with Crystal or, as member Rickf651 suggests, conduct “general awareness training” and see if Crystal responds.
  • If HR is either unresponsive to Blake’s request or requires something more substantive to act upon, Perseus suggests Blake have a medical specialist give him a medical certificate defining the allergy in medical terms. “If this doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to involve OSHA.”

Most of the members who reported having dealt with similar situations with perfume, body odor, cologne, or tobacco smoke indicated that simply being up-front and honest with the user often resolved the situation.

Depending upon Crystal’s degree of cooperation, the severity of Blake’s allergy, and the supportiveness of HR, members suggested the following as potential solutions:

  • Crystal stops wearing the perfume that causes Blake’s allergic reaction.
  • The company installs air filters that will adequately remove the scent.
  • Crystal continues to wear the perfume but understands that Blake will be restricted to offering only remote support or support in her absence.

So Blake, now it is up to you! Read the responses and decide which, if any, of the suggestions might work best in your environment. Whatever the outcome, good or bad, we would certainly like to hear from you.