“My Users are Idiots”: IT Myths That Can Sink You


How many times have you walked back to your desk wondering how an idiot user didn’t check that the computer was plugged in? If you’ve watched the TV cult hit “The IT Crowd”, I’ll bet you’ve seen yourself as Roy or Moss dealing with their endlessly annoying users. (If you haven’t seen the show, check out some clips on YouTube…you’ll thank me later!) Point is, a lot of IT professionals identify with how idiotic the users on the show are, and, frankly, a lot of users identify with how incomprehensible the IT people are.

The reality: your users almost definitely know a lot less about technology than you. And, in fact, the things they do that cause you grief and work may even come from complete ignorance. So, there you have it, your users are idiots!

Hold on a minute. Put yourself in their shoes. Most IT pros don’t know how to create a TV ad campaign, and if you were forced to, it would probably cause massive grief and work for the ad execs…and ultimately, they would think you were an idiot too! You don’t have to work with their tools on a daily basis, but they have no choice but to work with “yours.” Tech touches everything in business these days so everything ultimately leads back to the IT department. Lucky you!…Or not. Because this forces everyone to count on you to make things that they don’t completely understand work. They know what they want, but they may not know how to communicate it in your terms. And, to you, their requests may sound like gibberish.

The truth is, this doesn’t mean they are idiots. They’re just not you. And that’s okay.

Respect breeds respect

You don’t want to intimidate people out of telling you what they want by talking to them in language they don’t understand, or in a way they find condescending. That will shut down communication. And, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, communication from your users is what you want.

You need to listen to them with respect, from their complaints about the printer, to their desire for an all-encompassing database that will gather information from 15 countries in real time and print out succinct data analysis with the push of one button. They have a lot of useful things to tell you about what they need and what is and isn’t working for them.

You, however, know a lot about what technology can and cannot do. Maybe your users can’t get exactly what they want, especially at the cost in money and time that is available, but your input can steer them to the best possible solution…and that’s why you’re there, right? You’re there to provide solutions to their real problems, however expressed.

It’s all in the give and take

Listen to people, mix the requests you receive together with your knowledge and experience, and come back with helpful answers. With persistence, you can improve the flow of communication in both directions and build mutual respect. It’s better for the business and it’s better for your career.

Now go forth and be glad that you know more than your users…

…and that they’re not idiots.

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