Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Have Problems. I Can't Tell You The Details But Could You Fix Them?

We have a sales director where I work that insists on sending an email to the company president about how much GroupWise (an email system) sucks. He usually waits until something goes wrong (yesterday I didn't get 20 messages), polls his people for their problems (without any detail) and then sends our president an email. He makes no effort to tell the IT department any details about the problems. His emails contain such helpful statements as (not exact quotes ... just examples):

"This thing simply isn't working."
"GroupWise sucks."
"Why can't you get this thing working."
"I didn't get 20 messages that I was supposed to get yesterday."
"If we were running Microsoft Exchange Server it would work."
"It's working great now but yesterday it wasn't working right."

An average user might find the above statements helpful. Let me tell you why they aren't:

  1. There are no details. If you can take the time to copy the company president you think you could say what messages you didn't get giving details such as email address, time it should have been received.
  2. Saying something sucks is not constructive. There is usually a reason why a business has chosen a particular product to use (cost, ease of use, fit with business objectives). Until you know the reason why a product has been chosen just saying it sucks is not what I would call "constructive criticism".
  3. The comments lack evidence. Simply saying that another product would work better without evidence is like saying a certain make of car is better without looking at crash, safety and maintenance statistics.
  4. You went above my head without giving me a chance to fix your problem. This sets the tone of the conversation. I'm already on the defensive and I probably am not feeling like having a constructive dialog with you.
  5. Saying things like, "Why can't you get something working?" immediately puts someone on the defensive. They are no longer in the mood to talk with you ... much less solve your problems.
  6. If you tell me that it's working great today but you didn't contact me when there were problems will NOT help me solve your problems. When you have issues ... COMMUNICATE. I probably could help you at that point. Now it is too late.
The upshot of this is there are two types of conversations we can have ... constructive and nonconstructive. By communicating with your IT professional in the manner you are setting yourself up to not be helped. There are limits to what someone will do for an individual that treats them in this manner. It may not be right but let's face it, you will go the extra mile for a person that treats you with respect and professional courtesy. For everyone else ... you're just going to do the bare minimum required to keep your job. Having any other kind of expectation is as silly as expecting someone to solve your problems without any supportive details.

1 comment:

mjb said...

GroupWise sucks. If you used Exchange everything would be perfect.