No need to send your users a Valentine — but it never hurts to remember the upsides of supporting them.
Believe it or not, this is not tongue in cheek. There are actually reasons to love your end users. And although sometimes we fail to show that love, we shouldn't deny that it's there. This industry can chew you up and spit you out. And when you lose sight of the humanity of the cause and the results of your efforts, it becomes easy to roll over and give up. How do you avoid that? You accept that some of your end users are pretty good people, worthy of your admiration and friendship.
Let me tell you some of the reasons why I love end users (some of them... not all). Maybe something in this list will inspire a new-found affection and respect to help you get through those insane hard times.
1: They respect us
Your end users actually do respect your skills. They don't have the knowledge you have, and most of them couldn't even do their jobs were it not for your skills. And they know it. If you forget about this and just look at them as parasites, things will go downhill fast.
2: They give us job security
End users are the reason we all have jobs (well, that and Windows' propensity to break). They're our bread and butter, and when they aggravate us, we still have to find the needle of love in the haystack — even if that needle is the idea that they directly help put food on our table and roofs over our heads.
3: It's our job
Think about it this way: You can either treat your end users like the enemy and risk your job or you can treat them like an ally and keep your job safe. You need those end users on your side — no matter how inept, pathetic, or unfriendly they sometimes seem. There are times when you might want to mock them, scream at them, even deck them. Don't. Your job depends upon your ability to see those end users as friends, not foes. Be kind to them and eventually they'll be kind back. And in the end, you'll still have your job.
4: They're someone's mother/father
This is going to sound silly, but it helps to remember that your end users may be someone's mother or father. Just because you might see them in one particular light, that doesn't mean it's the only side they have. If you treat them as if they are nothing more than overly demanding jerks, you're going to wind up with enemies. Treat them like they're your (or someone's) mother or father, and the result will be far more pleasant.
5: They keep things from getting boring
If your only job was to babysit a server farm, life would get really boring, really fast. But end users add variety to our lives. Every day there is a new challenge. Granted, most of those challenges are "I can't print!" or "Why aren't I getting email?" But sometimes end users pull out a problem that has you scratching your head. And let's face it: Those are the problems you love.
6: They're all smiles, all day
That's right. End users are all smiles all day! They love working in their cubicles like lab rats in an experiment gone horribly wrong. And when their computers break down, it's the best treat ever. Okay, not really. End users aren't always smiling. They aren't always happy. But when they are happy, they help make the day go faster. Many times, I've had an end user really make my day just by smiling at me when I wasn't expecting it. This is especially so when you have those select few end users who are pleasant no matter what is going on. You'd think they were Steve Martin with a banjo!
7: They may return the favor
Some end users work in departments where you might need a favor from someday. The accountants, the HR team, the cafeteria staff... at some point, you'll need a favor from one of them. And those favors can get you through the day or help you out of a pickle. It's not a bartering system, but we all know the old adage: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Those scratches add up. Just be careful to not turn the tables around such that you wind up being the parasite to the end users.
8: They can up your IQ
This is going to sound really bad, but many times end users make us look really smart. For some odd reason, PCs seem to work via magic to most people. When we do our thing on those systems, it seems we have worked some sort of wondrous spell over the hardware and things just miraculously start. End users make us look good so often — even when the problem is as simple as an incorrectly typed password. When you do work that magic voodoo, your end users can make you feel special. Just don't take the opportunity to make them feel stupid — or the next time you fix something you'll get the cold shoulder (or worse.)
9: They make us socialize more
There is another reason why I love end users that many probably don't even think of: They keep us from falling into the stereotypes that so often haunt us. Instead of continuing on as hunched-back trolls, tirelessly coding away in a basement and playing WOW, we become social creatures who actually relate to other human beings! Having interaction with our fellow workers or clients goes a long way toward protecting us from stereotypes and falling victim to the Type-A personality traits so often associated with geeks.
10: Friends are hard to come by
Over the years, I've made some important friendships with end users. Those friendships have made life a heck of a lot more enjoyable and work a lot more tolerable. Sometimes, these friends are just casual acquaintances. But in other instances, the relationships go far deeper. There are days when I just don't know how I could make it through without those friendships.
Love conquers all
It's not a perfect world and sometimes end users make you want to pull your hair out and hide from humanity. But many times, those end users actually improve the quality of life you lead at work. Don't be afraid to admit your appreciation for end users. The love you spread will come back tenfold in ways you probably can't imagine.