Dealing with Difficult Users Page 2

Deb Shinder

Ida Incompetent

Ida is the user who, completely devoid of any malevolent intent, can utterly devastate her computer and/or the network faster than a speeding bullet. She means well, and tries hard to follow your instructors, but it's as though her body chemistry emanates some unseen force that is lethal to computer hardware and software. She can do every step by the book, and still the system crashes.

At first you may think poor Ida just happened to inherit bad hardware. But moving her to a different machine or giving her a brand new one doesn't cure the problem; each system she touches suddenly begins to exhibit strange behavior and unusual errors, even though she swears on a stack of Bibles (and you believe her) that she did nothing to provoke such a reaction. You can even stand there and watch her, verifying that she didn't nothing out of the ordinary, and the system merrily crashes or the network disappears for no apparent reason.

Most admins have encountered at least one or two Idas in their careers. In many ways, she is the most frustrating of the problem user types, because you can't really get mad at her. She's a victim of the technology that, to all appearances, just doesn't like her. She apologizes profusely each time she has to call you. Although you may be skeptical at first, you're likely to eventually give up trying to explain the phenomenon and agree with her own assessment of the situation: when it comes to computers, she's cursed.

Dealing with Ida requires a lot of patience and a cultivated bedside manner. Showing your frustration will only make her feel worse - which may result in her being hesitant to let you know the next time there's a problem (and thus, making the problem that much worse by the time you do discover it). Ida requires a little handholding, a lot of reassurance, and, if you can swing it, maybe an exorcist to purge the demons that inhabit every system with which she comes in contact.

It's much easier to feel sorry for Ida than for her fellow "problem child, Sally Secretkeeper.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2000

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