We all work in different environments, in different
industries, with different departmental structures, different installed bases,
and different users. But as support techs, we share the common goal of helping
people and computers live in harmony. Over the years, I’ve worked in a variety
of industries, from commercial aircraft manufacturing to management consulting,
from a chemical plant to a ceramics factory. And although the hardware,
software, and people have changed, the irritants have had an alarming tendency
to remain the same. So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 persistent

#1 Users who insist on giving you their diagnosis of a problem rather than
a neutral description of the symptoms.

A classic example of this is the VP who constantly tells me
that the T1 is down whenever he can’t browse the Web or log into SAP. Instead
of describing the symptoms, the VP tells me, “The T1 is down; fix it.” This
type of behavior is doubly annoying. Not only does it complicate the
troubleshooting process, but it is also often difficult to disabuse the user of
his misconception, leaving him, in this instance, with a false impression of an
unreliable T1.

#2 Users who hover around asking questions while you’re troubleshooting—and
worse, making suggestions.

As much as I like to share my knowledge and educate users, I
don’t want to do so while I’m struggling to figure out exactly why Ethel can’t
print. This is particularly irritating when dealing with an apparently
insoluble problem, as the user’s probing questions, which I can’t answer, are a
reminder of my incompetence.

#3 Users who deny having done anything that may have caused the problem.

This is the “What? Doom is installed on my computer? I have
absolutely no idea how that could’ve happened” phenomenon. In one instance, a
summer intern from the local university MBA program called the help desk to
complain that he couldn’t access the network. A quick survey of his computer
revealed that it no longer contained any files beginning with the letter n.
The intern vehemently denied having deleted any files whatsoever but eventually
confessed that he didn’t have anything to do so thought he’d delete all the
files he didn’t recognize. Why he started with the letter n remains a

#4 Being treated like a user by tech support from another company.

I dread problems that result in a call to the manufacturer’s
tech support department. I will experiment, read manuals, Google
the error message, and sacrifice chickens on the keyboard before I will call a
tech support number for a problem I can’t resolve. My pride simply can’t handle
answering the most basic questions: Have you checked that the printer is in
fact plugged in and turned on? ARRRGGGH. Get me out of here. Please, please,
please, put me straight through to your highest support level because I can
guarantee that I have tried everything you are going to suggest at least three
times. Oh wait, never mind, the power strip was turned off….

#5 Purchasing departments that change purchase requests.

I understand and appreciate that part of the role of the
purchasing department is to find the best possible price, but I do not
appreciate it when they substitute what they consider to be an equivalent item
because it is cheaper. One particularly irritating instance of this was an
order I submitted for Kingston RAM for a Lexmark printer. When the RAM arrived,
I failed to notice that it was Golden RAM instead of Kingston. It simply didn’t
work. A quick check of the Lexmark documentation confirmed that Golden RAM was
not acceptable, but as the RAM was now “used” it could not be returned. The
purchasing clerk had made the substitution on the advice of our VAR, as there
was a special on the Golden RAM that made it a third of the cost of the
Kingston RAM. This proved to be a very expensive attempt at cost savings.

#6 Internal junk mail.

We go to great lengths to minimize the junk mail being sent
into the organization, but there seems to be little we can do to eliminate the
jokes, photos, and movies being shared internally. Policies preventing or in
some way restricting personal mail are of limited use unless mail is manually
screened or spot checks are made. Merely using the corporate e-mail system for
sending the occasional personal message is not a big deal, but when people start
liberally using “Everyone” or create folders for “Recipes,” “Baseball,” and
“Boy Scouts,” I tend to get a little annoyed.

#7 Users who think part of my job is to spend my lunch break telling them
how to fix their home computers.

During one particular job interview, my prospective new boss
announced that he would hire only people who “eat, breath, sleep, and think
computers 24/7.” I stood up, shook his hand, and told him I was wasting his
time and wished him luck. Not that there’s anything wrong with being
computer-obsessed; it just so happens that I’m not. If I were, I would probably
welcome having my peanut butter sandwich interrupted by, “Uh, every time I try
to access the Internet, this message pops up and then the mouse freezes. What’s
the deal?” I’m more than happy to help people out. I just resent being asked at
work where I’m a captive audience.

#8 Users who complain about not being able to use a new application, when
they “didn’t have time” to attend training or read the documentation you painstakingly

I find this situation especially irritating because in most
cases, the user really didn’t have time to attend training or read the
documentation—so it wouldn’t be fair of me to vent my frustration on the user.
This is a symptom of the far bigger problem of expecting too much of too few
employees. Instead of being irritated at these people, I find that they have my
deepest sympathy, as they are usually the most overworked and pressured people
in the organization.

#9 Being summoned to a user’s office to resolve an urgent computer problem,
only to be kept waiting.

This is extra annoying when the person in question is on a
personal phone call with her husband to discuss plans for the weekend. I never
know how long to wait. Leaving instantly would seem churlish, but once I have
waited beyond a certain length of time, leaving and having to return a few
minutes later simply increases the total time wasted. Fortunately, in all but
the most intractable cases, treating the user as a used car salesperson by
starting to walk away usually elicits a cooperative response.

#10 The positioning of the IT department in the organization.

During the course of my career, I have reported to an office
manager who reported to a regional office VP; to an IT manager who reported to
the CFO; to an IT manager who reported to another IT manager who reported to
the CFO; to an IT manager who reported to a committee; and to a department head
who wasn’t sure who he reported to. Whereas most departments know where they
are positioned within a company, no one seems to quite know what to do with IT.
All too often, the IT department is made into a subdivision of some other
department, which then has unfair control over the IT resources. In other
instances, each department or division has its own IT function, which may or
may not have a well-defined relationship with corporate IT.

So now you know my personal peeves. Perhaps these are my
problems alone, and I should learn to overcome them. But maybe some of you have
run into a few of the same situations. Feel free to jump in with your opinions and your own pet peeves
. It’s sometimes reassuring to know that others share our pain.