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I work in information security performing risk assessments and handling incident responses. At our company, we have a person that is our IT help desk (Tom). We only have 5-7 people in the office so it’s pretty small.

Tom uses a web app so we can request access to certain files, create shared folders, anything for collaboration really. I was also involved in the interview of Tom and while he is very nice, I thought he was lacking experience for the job.

Anyway, the problem is that Tom is very very slow at his job. When we obtain a new client, I request access to about 3 resources and on average, I receive access about 5 hours later. This is very frustrating.

The biggest problem is after access is granted to a resource, the Web app automatically sends out a email with a rating of 1-5 for us to rate the “Help desk experience”.

Every time the experience is a 1/5 (unsatisfactory) but I know it isn’t the help desk but it’s a single person, Tom. It is much more personal and so I give a 4/5 every time.

I have come to the conclusion that Tom is just very slow and has zero urgency.

Question:

How do I properly give feedback in this instance when the “help desk” is actually just Tom and I don’t want to hurt his feelings but also keeping in mind he is slowing me down tremendously?

Things I have tried:

  • Ask a ton if Tom needs help figuring out any of the systems. I can see he understands them
  • Send him private messages on email basically saying “Hey I submitted a ticket! Can you take a look and grant access so I can proceed with this client? Thanks!”
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    Are you expressing any kind of urgency or expected timescale when entering these tickets? – Snow Sep 6 '18 at 6:09
  • Professional Air-traffic-controllers are using a technique called agile pair programming. That means, 3-4 people are sitting on the same computer, acting as a group and help the customer. This improves the quality of service. The disadvantage are higher costs. – Manuel Rodriguez Sep 6 '18 at 6:37
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    By definition, helpdesk tickets are "unplanned work". A 5 hour turnaround for non-automated labor that isn't scheduled sounds reasonable to me. If 5 hours is a problem, then you need to address the problem NOT as a helpdesk request but as a regular business process where a specific turnaround is an actual requirement. I don't think it's Tom's fault. "Urgency" is just BS project-manager-speak for "I don't care about your priorities, just hurry-up." – teego1967 Sep 6 '18 at 9:37
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    @teego1967 normally I would agree with you but we are a very small office and granting access to objects is his primary role. I know this because I interviewed him for the position – pm1391 Sep 6 '18 at 11:23
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    What is his real work load? What does he do all day? Having worked on IT helpdesks, this could be anything between he is simply busy and processing things in order he received (next to maybe some basic admin/monitoring), or he has not enough work and keeps himself busy with other things, not noticing new tickets quickly enough. – Mark Rotteveel Sep 6 '18 at 16:52
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How do I properly give feedback in this instance when the “help desk” is actually just Tom and I don’t want to hurt his feelings but also keeping in mind he is slowing me down tremendously?

This is only incidentally a people issue. It is far more a process issue.

If rapid turnaround for incident responses is important, then it's up to the company to find a way to meet that rapidity need. That might mean having a faster person in the Help Desk role, it might mean that more people are needed, or it might mean the entire process needs to be changed.

Discuss this with either your boss, or in a meeting - wherever you feel this is most appropriate. Discuss it from the point of view of "company need", not from a "Tom failing" point of view. Explain why rapid response is critical, then help the company figure out what can be done about it.

If this is an important issue then just replying to a "Help desk experience" survey email is the wrong way to deal with it. If it's not an important issue, then it doesn't matter how you reply.

  • “This is only incidentally a people issue. It is far more a process issue.” - this made the most sense for me. I think changing the business process is the way to go – pm1391 Sep 6 '18 at 12:00
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Ask him why it takes so long, and move forwards from his response. If there are legitimate reasons for a 5 hour delay then you'll have to factor that in. If not, escalate.

I know plenty of people who take a day to do a task that should only take minutes for no other reason than they can't be bothered. Some have risen quite high in govt.

And stop making false ratings.

  • 5
    It's definitely worth understanding why there's a delay. You might think he's being slow but he might be being efficient (e.g. perhaps he's grouping bunches of access requests so he only has to go into the system once and can do them all at the same time - it could be some of your colleagues always ask for access much later in the day than you and he's waiting to ensure no more requests come in based on past experience). Alternatively perhaps he doesn't see these as high priority so waits for a quieter period of his day to do them, when he's less likely to be interrupted. – delinear Sep 6 '18 at 7:30
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Is this the only thing that Tom is tasked to do? (ie give you access). I would guess he has more on his plate than just this.

The first thing I would do is try to verify the hypothesis that he is slow. I would have a candid conversation with him. Explain how you would need access sooner and how this is preventing you to do your work. Ask him if there is anything you could do to help. This includes any of: submitting requests by a certain time, batching requests or just dropping by for urgent things. If you reach the conclusion that Tom is fulfilling the requests in an acceptable time-frame by the standards in your company you need to stop your behavior. Yes it sucks, but you don't get to make the rules.

If Tom should be fulfilling the requests faster and your conversation did not yield any results, your next step is to establish a routine. Something like: 1) IM message gently asking for the access 2) after 10 minutes: email asking for access 3) after 20 minutes: drop by in person explaining you really need the access 4) after 60 minutes: drop by again in person and don't leave until you get access.

Hopefully after you go through this routine a few times, he will get the hint and give you the access after the step 1) the IM. If you're really lucky he might actually start doing this without any nudges.

If this does not work (ie no results even after clearly explaining and trying to setup a routine) now it's the time to see what Tom's boss thinks about this. Have a candid conversation w/ Tom's boss. Explain how you would need access sooner and how this is preventing you to do your work. Ask him if there is anything you could do to help Tom. This includes any of: submitting requests by a certain time, batching requests or just dropping by for urgent things. One additional thing that you may consider before approaching Tom's Boss is to chat to your boss and explain about your loss of productivity.

After this conversation, add step 5) in your workflow: drop by Tom's boss desk and ask for the access.

Hopefully by now you're getting what you need. If after this you're still having trouble, you need to have a conversation with Tom Boss's Boss. Have a candid conversation w/ Tom Boss's Boss. Explain how you would need access sooner and how this is preventing you to do your work. Ask him if there is anything you could do to help Tom or Tom's Boss. This includes any of: submitting requests by a certain time, batching requests or just dropping by for urgent things.

After this conversation, add step 6) in your workflow: drop by Tom Boss's Boss desk and ask for the access.

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It could be that he's taking the high rating as a sign that he's still doing fine when, in fact, he's not. You've simply been too lenient with rating him 4/5. It's understandable that you don't want to hurt his feelings but you cannot be nice to inadequacy when it's your work that's taking a hit.

The next time you make a request for a resource, send him a follow up email telling that it's urgent and you need it to be looked at ASAP. If it still takes a long time for him to do it, give him the honest rating and report it to your immediate superior. If you're the manager, then talk to him and tell him he needs to pick up the pace.

This kind of behavior will end up affecting the rest of the team if it keeps up like this. Don't let him get the impression that this kind of work is acceptable.

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It seems that you have never told Tom that these requests are urgent. The next time, you go to him and say "Tom, these requests are for a brand new customer who has just purchased our product. I need these requests to be done in half an hour at most, or we will look grossly incompetent to the company".

Maybe he says "I can't do that, I have four hours more work before I start this request". Then you can say "sorry Tom, but unless that other work is extremly important, this work needs to be done first".

Maybe he says "I can't do that, it takes at least 45 minutes". Then you can say "Ok Tom, so start with this work right now".

In every case your chances of getting the work done quickly go up enormously.

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