My job scope includes providing desktop support to office staff, but that is not the only purpose I am hired for. I am primarily a programmer.

I have been practicing IT for years and my philosophy in this IT-driven era is that everyone should continuously get hands-on with IT. For example, learning a programming language can dramatically increase your own productivity. A computer to a Sales Manager is equivalent to a machine to an operator. If you can't handle your tools, then you deserve to fail.

However, to this date there are still people who don't know what a taskbar is, how to create shortcuts and understand why they should keep files in My Documents and not to save files in C: root.

Despite their obvious lack of skill, they continue to take for granted the IT support to the extent of blaming us for taking too long to reset their forgotten passwords as if we have a lot of time.

I believe in the long run educating these people would cut business costs by reducing desktop support staff and reduce downtimes overall. Unfortunately, it seems that most people still hold the perception of "this is your job, so just fix it while I go make a cup of coffee".

If you are IT support, what do you do? If you are not, how can I convince you to LEARN to solve your problems? I'll teach.

EDIT: I realised that people are treating my post like a rant because, I admit, it does sound like one. So, I would like to clarify:

I am not an expert, know-it-all or good teacher. Thus, I am especially puzzled by people who are uninterested to avoid/solve their own IT problems. They rather wait for someone to fix it than to explore or try out on their own first. I must say that I have no problems fixing their problems at all because it is my job afterall. What I am unhappy about is the indifferent attitude as if they have no fault or obligation. I feel that both for the company and their own good, they can be made to understand that there is a cost involved if they don't handle their tools well. But how? That is the question.

So there are suggestions on how to support their learning, but we haven't got any that can motivate them to be interested to learn in the first place. I think, I will have to accept answers that says "it's not possible" soon.

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    if it is indeed taking too long to reset their forgotten passwords then you can hardly expect them to trust you enough to teach them IT. Your note about "as if we have a lot of time" makes me sense a managerial problem there: understaffed IT support - if this is so, your chances to improve things are quite low – gnat Dec 20 '12 at 7:36
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    writing down passwords - as a means to cut IT efforts? Hm hmmmmmmmmmm. With all due respect I for one wouldn't want to learn from IT guy suggesting stuff like that – gnat Dec 20 '12 at 8:06
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    I think that you post is a bit of a rant and that you need to be more flexible in your expectations of what people should and should not know. The fact that you're expected to be a programmer AND desktop support is a problem with you and your boss. It has nothing to do with the users who need desktop support. – Angelo Dec 20 '12 at 13:19
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    BTW, I NEVER store anything under "My Documents" or any other path with a space in it. :-) – Angelo Dec 20 '12 at 13:26
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    When a user is required to do something not related to their daily work (such as change a password), the automated prompt that tells them to do the thing should also include instructions on how to do it. If you do something every 90 days, you're unlikely to remember how to do it... Part of IT's job is making it easy for employees to follow company policy. – Matt Dec 20 '12 at 14:50

Your question is sounding a bit like a rant, but I see a few scenarios here.

Why do we need IT support, can't people just learn?

Short answer is "no, they can't". Or rather, they won't. People are hired to do specific tasks. Some work with sales, some in marketing and so forth. While it's true that computers are an intrinsic tool in many of these professions, it's also true that computers are still, despite our best efforts, hard to use and easy to mess up. Hence the need for IT support.

Sure, you could do away with that support, if all employees were trained up to some equivalency of super-user level. That, however, is a strategic decision for the company as a whole, not for the individual. It requires time and effort to train, time taken away from the core tasks of each employee so it has to be equated with an investment for the company. So if you want to change your companies approach to IT support, you need to sell your top management on this - not individual employees. And be prepared for a cost/benefit discussion weighing training cost against the cost of maintaining IT support.

I'm hired to do support, but I don't like it

This is something you need to discuss with your immediate supervisor or manager as it cuts to the core of your job description and what you were hired for. Perhaps you thought that your job would involve more programming and less support or perhaps you just don't like to work with support. Either way, if there is a discrepancy between what you think your job should be and what your employer think your job should be, you need to work to resolve that. But trying to get your coworkers to adapt or change just to accommodate your ideal work-day is plain unreasonable - they have their own jobs to do just as you have yours.

The support-load is too high and I don't have enough time to fulfill my duties

This one is easy - if your load is too high and you feel that you don't have time to complete all your duties, start a discussion with your superiors about hiring additional support personnel. Document your work-load, how long it takes to act on support tickets etc. to get some supporting metrics.

People should appreciate the work of IT support

Despite their obvious lack of skill, they continue to take for granted the IT support...

This is a pain I can absolutely sympathize with. Support functions in general (and IT support definitely) often go under-appreciated. This is often tied to the particular culture at a company. Strictly hierarchical organizations tend to measure an employee's value based on where they are in the hierarchy, rather than what they contribute to the whole. Since support functions is often not high up on the totem-pole, they get under-valued.

However, most of the time it's not you people take for granted, it's the service you provide. Much in the same way as you take for granted that the sales-organization is going to sell and that the manufacturing division is going to, well, manufacture they all expect support to do that - support. And why not? It's your job after all. But it's not personal, that's the key.

It's also the way forward. Once you stop taking it personal and start looking at what you do as a service, you can start to make rational determinations and suggest strategies to improve it.

  • A lot of your time is consumed by repeating, mundane requests - perhaps you could create some form of self-help process or tools for the most common support issues
  • Response time is too long and people get upset - maybe you need to hire more support personnel
  • People require more support than reasonable - perhaps your IT and desktop infrastructure is overly complicated. Or maybe all employees should get more/better IT training.
  • etc.

But remember, these are all investments and the best way for you to contribute is to help the company make a positive cost/benefit determination (assuming it is).

  • I admit that this question was inspired by a rant. But my main objective is to check if there are companies out there who embrace this idea of making staff learn the importance of solving problems themselves, and if so, how do they do it. Of course we still need support staff to fix complicated problems, but there are some tasks I feel can be taught and reduce downtime waiting for support to come around. But I get your point, people don't see it as their benefit to learn. – user5473 Dec 20 '12 at 8:24
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    @Jake "if there are companies out there who embrace this idea of making staff learn the importance of solving problems themselves" -- well such could be only companies who could afford to hire problem-solvers as their staff to start with, and that wouldn't likely be cheap. I guess even if there are such companies, these would be rather exception/elite than a rule/typical. Cost of "entry ticket" is pretty high so to speak – gnat Dec 20 '12 at 11:38
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    Many companies DO embrace problem solvers. Its just the problems they solve aren't necessarily directly related to IT and their desktops. One of the bitter truths of IT desktop support is that they are still considered the equivalent of the "A/V" crew from high school. – Angelo Dec 20 '12 at 13:23

Support roles can be irritating, at times - we had a client claim our software "didn't work" because he was getting an error message. The error was "Your disc is full.." when writing out a file. Sigh.

Unfortunately, from what you have described, it is part of your role to offer this kind of support to people who are not as technically gifted or competent as yourself.

I suspect that even of you offer to train senior staff at their desks, they will feel awkward about revealing their lack of knowledge; it can be veery difficult when faced with basic questions not to sound patronising when you respond, and this creates a further barrier to training. Training, by and large, is all about patience.

In the mean time, I would suggest that you look at what you can do proactively to create support material for common issues. For example :

- set up a Wiki/Intranet for staff, with active and helpful IT tips and tricks

- use screen capture software to extend this with the use of videos

- create a guide for new staff to help them understand the IT, and where to find help

- get the IT manager to order in a stock of the "for dummies" books

- set up lunchtime "familiarisation" seminars where you can train multiple people

This takes time to do, but its well worth the investment as you build up a body of knowledge. To some extent, StackExchange provides the same set up.

These are all the approaches we have used to lower out software support burden, and over time they have been highly effective for us.


Based on your comments you seem to be finding that people "don't want to learn"; generally this applies when they are not engaged with the teaching/coaching style you have adopted.

For example, showing people what to do is a lot less effective than telling them what to do, and having them do it while you offer support.

Training, coaching and teaching are all skills that need to be learned and refined. If this is part of your role, you might want to look at "train the trainer" courses that could help you to be more effective.

  • I started the IT guide for new comers a few months after I joined, naively thinking that it would answer most of the questions I will get from new comers. The way I conduct it is I sit with the new comer and walk through every single procedure and software, from where the switch is to how to shutdown before going home, writing everything down for them to keep. I was naive. They didn't take it seriously at all. 10 out of 10 times, they throw my notes away, and have to ask me the same questions the next day. – user5473 Dec 20 '12 at 8:14
  • You have pointed out the ways we can teach them, but I feel really what we need is a way to make them understand the need to learn. That's the part I am stumped. – user5473 Dec 20 '12 at 8:15
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    @Jake - I've not pointed out ways to teach them. I've pointed out ways in which you can support their self-learning. These have been used by my team, and our internal IT team, to great effect. The issue is not that they don't want to learn, just that the teaching methods and/or style you are using are not being effective. Effective teaching and training is a difficult skill to learn and master, as is effective coaching. How much training have you had in these fields? – GuyM Dec 20 '12 at 8:55
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    @jake, of course they aren't interested in learning this stuff anymore than I'm interested in learning how my car engine works. There is no reason why they would be interested. Are you interested in learning accounting? – HLGEM Dec 20 '12 at 15:09
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    @Jake - The negativity is, I suspect, because people see your question as saying "How can I change everyone else to make my job easier?" The answer is - you can't. All you can do is change yourself, the way you engage with people, and what you do. Check out "Seven Habits of Highly Sucessful People" by Stephen Covey. Two of the habits are "Seek first to understand, then be understood" and "Be Proactive." Your comments seem to suggest you are reacting to a situation and not trying to understand others first. – GuyM Dec 20 '12 at 17:16

You seem to need to develop some strategies to cope with users complaining to you regarding their password resets (or similar) as well as teaching them to teach themselves. The only alternative is to stop supporting the users and convince your business to take on a support person whose sole role is to reset people's passwords, show them how turn on their PC, etc.

I am going to assume you business cannot afford, or is not willing to hire a dedicated support person. So, what can you do with your current situation which will help to make your life easier, and let you get on with programming?

Password Resets

You mention in your post that users complain when their password doesn't get reset in a timely manor. Can you automate this process either through the program itself, or through some sort of script you write?

Get FAQ'd

Get some simple one-page FAQs together. I know you said you had a whole course for newbies, but you need to cater to the lowest common denominator. If someone requests something common, you reply with the FAQ. Again, you could almost automate this.

Change the Support Process

In a previous job I would receive support issues of random usefulness via email. Sometimes it was a whole report (Good), sometimes it was a one lines saying something somewhere may or may not be working right. I changed the support process. After a grace period, anyone who made a support request had to submit one via an email template. Not using the template resulted in a standard reply of "Please use the template". In your situation, this may help you to receive better information on their issues so you can send them the correct FAQ.

Get Business Support

Look at your job spec. Are you spending more, or less, time on support than was specified. If it is too much, speak to your bosses with ideas such as the ones I have outlined above. Propose these to them, such that you will be able to serve them better in your other role.

Get a Buddy

My final suggestion is find someone to buddy up with. For example, if you requests are always coming from one department, find the person who makes the fewest requests and get him on board with supporting you. That way, they will go to him/her first before coming to you.

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    good, practical and reasonable guidance overall, I have only one caveat regarding email template submission. Using this approach, IT would better provide a failover option to report the cases when, well, the very issue is that email is broken. Web form, or messenger, or something else... – gnat Dec 20 '12 at 17:49
  • @SheyMouse "So, what can you do with your current situation which will help to make your life easier, and let you get on with programming?" -- You give good suggestions, but I am dissapointed that the community so far has misunderstood my intention and have turned rather aggressive. Maybe is my bad choice of words, but I cannot explain any better. I am not looking for an easy way out at all, in fact I am looking to do more to get people educated because I feel it benefits everyone as a whole. Really, nobody think that learning to be independant is good for themselves? – user5473 Dec 21 '12 at 2:12
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    @Jake - My comment did attempt to take your wish to get people educated into account. The first step is getting the people you deal with to learn is to teach them where to look for the knowledge. People won't think if they don't have to. Replying with a FAQ they have to read to solve their issue is a start. Remember, the FAQ can have anything in it, including "If you have similar issues in the future why not go here: " and add a link to a wiki, webpage, whatever. – SheyMouse Dec 21 '12 at 8:14