Dealing with Difficult Users Page 7

Deb Shinder

Fred Fingerpointer

Fred, like Ida, always seems to be plagued with more than his share of computer/network problems. Unlike Ida, who blames herself, Fred never accepts any of the responsibility. He always has to have someone else at whom he can point the finger.

If his network card is unplugged, it must have been the janitor who did it. If he "accidentally" wiped out all his TCP/IP settings, it's the fault of the software vendor for making them so easily accessible. If he deletes the wrong file as you walk him through the process of installing a new driver, and renders the machine unbootable, it's your fault because your instructions weren't clear enough. Fred is never to blame for anything - at least, from his point of view.

The urge to lay out the evidence and make him admit his culpability can be overwhelming - but it's counterproductive. Confrontation only puts him on the defensive, and he'll be all the more adamant that you, or the co-worker next to him, or an act of God, is to blame.

Dealing with Fred requires the ability to just tune out his accusations. Take this tactic: "it doesn't really matter who caused the problem. What's important is to figure out what the problem is, and fix it." That will take the wind out of his sails quickly, and defuse all his protestations (which are really based on his underlying belief that he is the source of all the problems, even though he would never, ever admit that to you.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2000

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