Dealing with Difficult Users Page 3

Deb Shinder

Sally Secretkeeper

Ida may keep her computer problems secret if you yell at her or make her feel even stupider than she already feels, but otherwise she will usually try her best to answer your questions and tell you what you need to know. Sally Secretkeeper, on the other hand, is a different type. She deliberately withholds information. Trying to find out what she was doing when the connection was lost or what error message appeared on her screen as the system went down is like pulling teeth.

Sally's reasons for remaining incommunicado can be a mystery. Maybe she figures you get paid the big bucks to diagnose and fix the IT problems so she's going to make sure you earn every penny of it with no help from her. Maybe she's afraid she won't remember correctly and will give you bad information. Or maybe she's just watched too many cop shows on TV and has decided that she has the right to remain silent. Whatever her motive, Sally can make your job more difficult unless you learn how to handle her "silent treatment."

If the user who's having computer or network problems is a secretkeeper, you'll need to approach her carefully. Normal questioning techniques won't elicit much information, and if you start demanding answers, she's likely to shut up even tighter. The key to drawing the information out of Sally's type is to take a roundabout path. See if you can get her engaged in conversation about something that interests her (hint: take a look at her desk and office walls. What do you see? Pictures of kids/dogs/spouse? Movie posters? Company golf team trophies?). Bring the topic around to her computer problems slowly. You'll have to gain her confidence before she'll spill the beans.

You say you don't have time to play these games? The sad fact is: if you don't use these "stealth maneuvers" with Sally, you may spend (waste) far more time trying to determine what the problem is without her input. Network admin/tech support is a people-oriented position. People means politics. And politics means you'll have to learn to be a politician now and then, whether you like it or not.

Sally's antics can be maddening, but at least they aren't deliberately destructive. The same cannot always be said for the next "trouble type,Harry Hacker.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2000

Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date