Watching your mouth

Lots of ideas floating around this weekend in the podcasts I was listening to surrounding the idea of what you say about the users you support. It all started with Douglas Welch’s podcast “Don’t Say It” where he talks about the possible consequences of getting not only getting caught “user bashing” but also the negative attitude about doing support that results from spending so much of your time complaining about the users.

It’s really good advice, but as Kevin and George talked about in the latest In The Trenches , this idea of respect is a two-way street. It’s all well and good for tech support folks to do everything they can to respect end users, but at the same time those end users need to respect the tech support folks.

Truth is they’re both right. As Douglas says in his column:

It isn’t you

It is always important to remember that, in most cases, you are merely the focal point for a user’s frustration and feelings of inadequacy. It has very little to do with the quality of your work.

This reminded me very much about a conversation I had in the office with someone who works in another department. They asked how you keep a level head when people are yelling at you. I told her I try the best I can to remember that it’s never personal. People’s reactions to me depend entirely on whether I can help them or not, and sometimes, for whatever reason I can’t give them what they want. Just as when one of my coworkers told me she loved me when I got something working for her that she really needed, I know she doesn’t really “love” me, she’s just very happy I got that fixed for her. The same rule applies when someone is angry and yelling about the fact that they don’t like how something works. I can’t change the way those things work, the most I can do is try and teach them how to best work with it. Some people aren’t interested in learning at that moment, they simply want to vent. So you let them vent, and again, you don’t take it personally.

That being said, if you spend a lot of time yelling and complaining to your tech support folks, don’t be surprised if they bad mouth you. There’s a limit to how much they can take from you before they have to vent to each other. If you constantly complain about not understanding something, and never bother to call the help desk and ask for help, don’t expect them to have a lot of sympathy for you. Your support folks are only human too.

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