Is providing user support a thankless job, or is the best thanks to hear nothing at all? Joe Rosberg explores that question and explains how he adheres to the axiom, no news is good news.


I had planned to write my blog piece this week about how providing user support can appear to be a thankless job. I almost opted for a different subject, however, because over the past several days there have been other pieces, in both the blogs and the discussions, that touched upon the subject in one way or the other. Patrick Gray wrote a piece that appeared in Toni Bower’s IT Leadership blog about how IT professionals sometimes whine about the lack of acknowledgement for what they (we) do; and while I certainly didn’t intend to whine about anything, I didn’t want anyone to make that assumption or run the risk of coming across that way.

Since I approach providing user support as a sort of customer support role, I was also interested in Tricia Liebert’s piece about her experience with customer service. And JamesRL (the voice of reason around the TR water cooler) started another discussion about a bad customer service experience he had.

I didn’t want to inundate the site with similar material, but it seems to be a hot topic. Maybe it’s something in the summer air (pun intended). Nonetheless, since I planned to write on the subject all along, I just went ahead with it.

I was talking with someone the other day about how I always hear about problems, but I seldom get any feedback when things go right. I often work after hours or over a weekend (so people don’t have to suffer through network or computer downtime), and I even coordinate that with the users (since many of them also work after hours), but I can’t recall the last time someone came to me on Monday morning to even acknowledge what I’d done. Not that I expect to be showered with accolades day after day, but it seems that about the only time I hear anything at all is when something goes wrong.

This came to light recently when I did some upgrades that significantly increased our Internet connection speed, especially the time it takes to download large files, but no one seemed to notice. I thought about sending a company-wide e-mail asking for feedback, but I decided to say nothing just to see what kind of unsolicited comments I might get. After all, in the past, some people have mentioned how some files take a long time to download, and others have commented about slow Internet connections from time to time, so surely someone would notice the improvement and say something.

As a result of my router and switch upgrades, I measured the increase in download speed to be four times faster than it had been in the past. Surely someone would notice! Nope, not one word — not from anyone. Thinking back, I could say the same thing with just about any upgrade or user support effort I’ve made. A couple of months ago, I upgraded half the office to Core2 Quad computers, ones I personally specified to ensure a Vista 5.9 performance rating; I know for certain these computers are incredibly fast, since I gave one to myself, and the performance difference between these and the old computers is very significant. However, not one person has mentioned it.

Oh well, at least I probably won’t hear about slow Internet connections any more. Nor will I hear about how long it takes to download a 100 MB file. And no longer will other people mention how slow their computers are. That’s just fine with me. I’ll not ask for approval or thanks, but instead consider the sound of their silence as golden.

When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.

— Henry J. Kaiser

I like Mr. Kaiser’s philosophy. If the people I support aren’t complaining about a problem, their silence speaks volumes about how I’m apparently doing most things right. Why should I interrupt?