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Users Are Not Stupid

Working in IT for 20 years you can’t help but make fun of some of the stupid things users say. My own favourite story is the one about the woman who needed to press ‘*’ to activate some function of the application she was working with. The conversation went something like this:

Woman: How do I get a star?
Helpdesk: You just press SHIFT and the 8 key.
Woman: (pause) But won’t that give me a capital 8?

IT departments often have their own acronyms for this sort of situation, such as the famous PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair). One we used to use was RUS (Rank User Stupidity) but there are plenty more.

However, what we IT people often forget is that it’s not the user’s fault. A user does not start work each day and thinks about how they can make their computer work for them. All the user is interested in is doing their job, their particular function that makes the organization tick and generate some income. The computer is just the tool, the facilitating weapon of choice but it’s a means to an end. For IT people the computer is the end but not for the user.

Therefore, IT people should see every ‘stupid user’ as just another user that needs help. If IT fixes their problem the user can go back to doing their job. Some times we forget that IT Support is a business support role and the whole purpose is to get people working on their assigned tasks.

IT needs to engage these people more, understand their problems and actually work with them. Maybe they need more training, some formal or informal guidance or they need better software or hardware that’s more intuitive.

The next time you get a stupid user, you shouldn’t think of them as stupid when it’s actually you. You’re stupid for not educating them, training them or giving them software or hardware that doesn’t support them in their daily duties. You’re the stupid person, not them. After all, if they weren’t stupid and knew as much as you did you’d be out of a job.

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