How to Get IT to Solve Your Problem

Why are you banging the side of your computer monitor again? Well that’s not going to help. And put down the phone. Who you going to call? IT?

That’s not going to help either. At least not right now. You have to do a few things first. Like grab a pen and paper. And write down what happened. It’s like remembering a dream.

Good point. More like a nightmare.

But you need to write down all the details of what you were doing while it is still fresh. Someone is going to ask these things. While you’re at it, write down what programs you’re running. No, just don’t say word processing. Get specific. Are you using Word? What browser are you running?

OK, you should have a pretty detailed report on what’s wrong with your computer. By the way, is it still haywire? Just checking.

Hey, is everything plugged in correctly? Are all your cables securely connected? Is it possible to restart the computer?

Try all the easy fixes. Note everything you’re doing. It can help someone help you.

Before you call for help, use the prairie dog network. Just pop your head above the cubicle wall and ask if anyone else is having trouble. Maybe it’s not you. It could be the network. Even if it isn’t, maybe someone else has had the same problem. They might be able to show you how to get out of this mess.

Yeah I don’t know what’s your problem either. Sorry.

If you have any kind of access, try the Internet. Enter some keywords like “[stupid program]freezing multiple documents open.” See if there is anything about your problem. It’s really unlikely that you’re the first to discover this glitch.

If you’re lucky, someone will have a forum post or blog entry or article on the fix. If you’re not so lucky, the fix will be above your pay grade.

But at least you will know something about the problem. And IT people like people who know something about the problem. They like people who fix their own problems even more. But for now you’re not that person. The person you don’t want to be is the one who calls and says, “My computer won’t work.”

Those are the people who are of no help fixing the problem. These geeks and nerds seem like wizards with arcane knowledge. But they’re mere mortals who need info on the problem. They need to know what’s running, what was your computer doing before the problem and – as specific as possible – what is the problem.

No matter how close to deadline you are or how important you think you are, be calm and friendly. Yes, IT is here to serve you and me. But don’t act that way. You’re here to serve other people too. How should they treat you?

If the Golden Rule isn’t enough to adjust your attitude, remember someone will be setting a priority to your problem. Nice guys may never win, but they tend to get their problems solved.

Well, maybe not always. There’s always the chance that your problem is going to be put on the back burner. Then it’s time to master the fine art of the squeaky wheel.

First, squeaky wheels need to get names. Write it down. Get an extension and e-mail address for that person.

Second, call back when you’re problem isn’t fixed. Make sure you talk to the original person who logged your problem. Ask for a status and estimate on when you’re going to get a fix.

Third, be nice and friendly. Ask about more than your problem. Get to know the person on the other end. You want to be genuine but you want them to like you. If there is any chance to get someone to give more priority to your problem, it’s here.

Fourth, keep up the relationship after your problem is solved. Because the next time you have a problem, you want to be comfortable going to them directly. Don’t be surprised if they send you through official channels. But they might give you some advice on how to get a solution more quickly. Or your friend may bump up your priority or take a personal interest in the solution.

Of course this is only good if you’re genuine. Faking friendship with the IT people will backfire. They’re not stupid.

Sometimes you’re not going to have to have time for all this. Then it’s time to recruit a squeakier wheel – your boss. You’re going to have to let him or know why you can’t do your job. The best way to do this is to send e-mails to IT with copies going to your boss. That lets them know that they aren’t just delaying you, but a manager.

Make sure you show appreciation to everyone who helps you. Especially if they go out of their way to solve your problem. And find out what it takes to fix it. Maybe you can do it yourself next time. They will appreciate one less thing to do.

And maybe you can help when it happens to me.

Cubicle Curtis is the guy sitting at the next workstation. He's been in this office longer than anyone else, so he's a valuable resource of who does what and how to get things done. Before this job, he has worked just about every job between pizza delivery and accounting. Now, he's all about getting the job done and helping you figure out how to survive yours.


  1. Some IT guy on the 3rd December

    So as an IT person, i’d just like to chime in and mention the following:

    Hey guys, yeah, i know you’re having problems, and that sometimes you like to blame us because your stuff doesn’t work.

    I have never understood this attitude. We want your stuff to work. We go to great lengths to make sure your stuff works. The reason we have policies in place that sometimes seem restrictive, such as not allowing you to install comet cursor, or that screen saver with pictures of cats, is because we want your stuff, and everyone elses stuff to continue to work.

    We seem beligerant sometimes, because since our job is poorly understood by people who are not as technically inclined, we often have to actively fight against our own superiors in order to be allowed to do the right thing, to keep everything running, to protect assets, and to do the job for which we were hired.

    Why not write an article about how non-technical managers of IT staff should stop trying to push through policies and “fixes” because “I really want iTunes installed on my work computer.” Let us do the job you hired us for, and stop sabotaging us!

  2. Tim on the 3rd December

    As an IT person I agree with most everything you have said. I do take a bit of an issue with one thing you said though…..

    “Sometimes you’re not going to have to have time for all this. Then it’s time to recruit a squeakier wheel – your boss. You’re going to have to let him or know why you can’t do your job. The best way to do this is to send e-mails to IT with copies going to your boss. That lets them know that they aren’t just delaying you, but a manager.”

    This should not be done just if you do not have time, and it should be done as a last resort, and very sparingly. It may get this one issue taken care of faster, but it will push you lower on that list in the future. These type of people tend to copy their boss on everything because they think it gets them preferential treatment, but in all actuality it makes them undesirable to work with. This brings the crying wolf story to mind.

    And everyone should remember. Using the correct channels to get support will only help you in the long run. If you go directly to the tech for everything instead of calling the help desk to log it, you are taking more time from that tech. That tech now has to log your call before they can continue with what they were working on. This most likely will not get your issue resolved any faster, and will just over time irritate the tech because you always interrupt them. They have a work log like everyone else and you are not the only person they deal with. Not to mention, there may be another very capable tech that is less busy at the time who can get to your issue quicker.

    I will stop, so as not to ramble…… us geeks can get that way 🙂

  3. Felipe Martyn on the 3rd December


    Thanks a lot!

    I never had read a post that asks us to have this kind of attitude towards a problem. I worked both IT and the Creative departments and I know how frustrating it is to have this situation going on.

    I hope that people will read this and incorporate this behavior now on.

    Thanks again.

  4. Tanja on the 3rd December

    I would like to add: If you have no knowledge about PCs, operating systems etc., please be careful with forum posts or weblog articles which seem to have a solution for your problem. It is possible that you do not know enough to decide if this or that solution is good for your specific problem or not. And what the IT guys hate more than people who are unfriendly are people who tried to “fix it” and made it worse.

    Nice article btw. 🙂

  5. Tony on the 3rd December

    If you find yourself at a support forum, please SEARCH the forum for similar problems first. The forum regulars hate it when people post a question that’s already been answered a hundred times. Take a minute or two to do a basic search. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, THEN post a question.

    And when describing your problem, please be as specific as possible. Include what operating system you’re using, and what version of which software package you’re having a problem with. Like the article said, you don’t want to be the person who posts “My computer doesn’t work.”

  6. Jen on the 3rd December

    As an IT worker, I appreciate this article. The reason we have jobs is to make the technology work. If technology just worked all the time, then there would be no need for IT and help desks. But lots of people take out their frustrations on the person trying to fix their problem. They treat us like we were the ones to break it. Trust me, we want (whatever it is) to work just as much as you, if not more.

    And most importantly, being nice will definitely get everyone far.

  7. Deb Waugh on the 5th December

    This is all so true. In my school division we have a formal system that works well. If a teacher has a computer problem they first go to the on-site technology facilitator (usually the librarian). If that person can’t fix it, then it’s added to the jobs list for the traveling tech who visits the school once a week. And then, only if he can’t fix it, we put the repair tag on it and send it to the IT’s at Central Office. It can take up to 3 – 4 weeks to get something fixed this way, but overall it’s much more efficient.

    We have an e-mail form we can use to request a website be unblocked when needed, although we don’t always get a positive response. And we try to keep our whining about the filtering to ourselves as much as possible.

    I always figure that I have no right to complain. I certainly couldn’t do the job that IT does even if I tried to get the training and education.

    So, to all the IT folks out there–Luv ya! And thanks for being there!

Add a Comment