Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just like Denis Leary, I'm an asshole

The other day i got to the office, the first thing i said to one of the users made her cry. I don't normally make people cry during my morning greetings but i really felt like this particular user deserved it.

That morning i was riding my bike to work when i felt my phone vibrating in my pocket, this is not a particularly unusual occurrence, especially seeing as i normally head into the office when most people are already working. Obviously answering a mobile phone whilst riding a motorbike is near impossible so i did what i always do, keep on riding. A minute or so later my phone rings again, once again i ignored it. Then again, and again, and again. The thought crossed my mind that this must be an emergency, i didn't want to get to the office to find out that a family member was in trouble so i pulled over on the side of the freeway and got my phone out. As i took it out of my pocket i had just missed another call. To this stage i had 7 missed calls, all from the same number ... a very annoying user.

Tip to the wise, as a member of the IT department you'll probably be one of the few employee's in an organisation that at some stage or another has contact with nearly everyone in your company, I generally like to know who is calling me before i answer but putting hundreds or thousands of mobile numbers into my phone is out of the question. What i like to do is put a few key people in. CEO, CFO, Managers etc so i don't miss out on an important call, on the flip side i also enter the phone numbers of the most annoying users who i work with. This way i can easily ignore what i know is going to be a call that will lead me to want to stab myself in the face, with a .. um ... lets say... shovel.

The person who was calling me that day was just this kind of user. More annoyingly than the borderline insane repetition of the calls was the fact that on not one of these calls had this user left a message, so i had no idea what kind of issue she was having, if it was something that i could have helped her with over the phone, if it was something i could call another member of my team to help her with etc etc. Also, in our company when someone has an issue they need to lodge a request via an online form. They are all told that if they have no access to their computer, or cannot load the form that they need to ask someone else in their office to lodge on their behalf. The main reason for this is that there are always a few people watching the helpdesk so calling me with "crazy lady" repetition when I'm unable to take the call will generally lead to longer wait times than if they had just lodged a bloody request in the first place.

I decided not to take this call because i most likely would have said some stuff that could have lead to me losing my job. I put the phone back in my pocket, jumped back on the bike and continued my journey towards the office. In the time it took me to ride the rest of the way she called me another 3 times. That's right ladies and gents... 10 in total. If i could also add, depending on congestion and traffic lights it normally takes me somewhere between 15 - 25 minutes to get to work, that day it would have been no more than 20. Meaning that she's called me on average, once every 2 minutes and not once did she leave a message.

As i came around the corner from our reception area into the consultants cubicles (which unfortunately i need to pass to get to my office .. oh how i long for a secret passage) She was standing there in a spot that she knew i had to walk through, phone in here hand. I'm really hoping she heard me say hello to the receptionist and jumped out of her chair, as opposed to spending the whole morning standing in a spot she knew I'd pass. It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings scene with Galdolf and the Balrog "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Now i didn't swear at her, i didn't even raise my voice. This is the lecture that i gave her (pretty close to) word for word:

     "mate, when you call someone, if they don't answer the phone you should leave a message. If it is urgent say in the message that it is urgent. the person will call you back as soon as they can. As you know the best way to obtain IT support is to fill out the online form, and assuming at the moment you don't have access you should have asked someone else to fill it out for you, more than likely one of the other IT people would have taken your job and already fixed your issue"

At this point i could see that her eyes were starting to well over but i hadn't actually gotten to the bit that i really wanted to say and i knew if i went for the knock out blow she was going to lose it but at this point i didn't care. I didn't think her behaviour was normal and i wanted to tell her.

     "I can see you're upset, you're obviously very busy and whatever issue you are having is probably causing you some stress but i find the fact that you kept calling me over and over again quite rude. I pulled over on the side of the freeway to check my phone as i assumed there was some kind of emergency, and you're computer not working is not an emergency. If I didn't take your call there was a reason for it, in this case it was because i was riding a bike. What you did was very poor phone etiquette."

Once i finished my lecture she lost it. She started balling in front of a few people and ran out of the office. I had to go and explain to her manager what had happened and what i said just in case it got back to her that i had upset her staff member. I also gave my boss the run down of the morning's events in case it got back to him. Everyone seemed to agree with me that i was dealing with a crazy person.

Rehashing the mornings events in my head, it's clear to me that she's a crazy lady, but i still made her cry, which made me feel like an asshole.

What would you have done?

Sidenote: check your ITG's phone, see if your number is in there. If it is there are 3 options:
  1. you guys are good mates.
  2. you're a very important person in your company.
  3. you're a pain in the ass.
I guess 4 could be "all of the above"

The ITG.


  1. Maybe she didn't realise she was ringing your cellphone. Maybe she thought it was going to your desk and she was just checking to see if you were at work yet. I would pretty much never leave someone a phone message. They're just too likely to not get it until a week later. Filling out an online form makes sense of course.

    Anyway, even if she's crazy, you hurt her feelings. I hope you say you're sorry for making her upset and the embarassment of crying in from of workmates.

  2. Hi Doc ... firstly, let me say thank you for being what seems to be one of my very few regular readers :)

    Secondly, she knew she was calling my cellphone, she was dialing the number everyone at work has for it, also she actually sits in the same physical site as me (not more than 10 steps away) so she knew i wasn't there.

    Finally, to address your last point, I agree i hurt her feelings, regardless of the level of her sanity. Like i said .. i felt like an asshole!

    keep reading!

  3. tell her to suck it up princess

  4. Good on you champ. I often would love to say things like that, but generally they are customers. More power to you

  5. Definately loony, that one! Look, I don't know if your response was wrong or right, but she really needed to be reminded of how things work. Tears were probably not the best outcome, but perhaps your point was made. Have you found out what her 'emergency' was?

  6. the emergency was that she could not turn her computer on, it took me all of 3 minutes to fix it and it was something one of the other members of my team could have talked her through over the phone if she had asked someone to fill out the online form for her! Thanks for reading mate and i'm glad its not just me who thinks she's a loony. ITG