Career Opportunities

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Peeves, Pitfalls and Pickles: Part 5

© Douglas E. Welch 1997

It is important to remember that personality conflicts are not all on the side of the computer user. Sometimes, there are people whose attitudes and operating style disclude them from any position in technical support or other positions where they must deal regularly with users.

Knowing it all

One of the most dangerous attitudes that a computer support person can adopt is that of know-it-all. When a user calls in for support they are already putting themselves at risk. No one likes to be thought of as stupid or even ignorant but this is exactly what a user is admitting when they call. There is not need for a support person to reinforce these feelings of inadequacy. No one gains from that type of power play.

It is important to assure that user that this problem has happened to others before and will probably happen to others in the future. Clearly and quietly walk the user through the solution and insure that they understand how to solve the problem, should it occur again.

Support requires patience and understanding. Making a user feel stupid will only assure an even great estrangement between users and support staff. Never demean the user. This might seem obvious but I have seen many support people who treat users as if they are bothering them. The unspoken communication is "I have much more important work to do and I can't believe you are bothering me with your piddling question."

Simple user questions should be given as much attention, time and care and the more difficult ones. The goal is always to help the user be self-sufficient but every user requires a different amount of hand-holding and training before they reach that point.

If support people are reaching the point of burnout and cannot give the user the attention they need and deserve, they should quickly be shuttled to another role in the department where they have less direct contact with users. If not, their bad attitude will begin to infect everyone's relations with users.

Remember When?

One of the most effective methods for understanding users is simply thinking back to the time when you didn't understand certain computer issues, It may be difficult since most of us have a natural aptitude for computers but all of us had a time when we were struggling users. Call on these memories to help you in your relationship with users. Put yourself in their shoes and also consider the additional stress of learning about computers while actually performing a full-time job. Most of us probably had the luxury of learning in high school or college when the demands on us were significantly less.

In the end is all comes down to one phrase, "Be kind!"

There are goblins lurking around every door in computer careers. Hopefully this months articles have helped to expose a few and can help you avoid them in the future.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at