In case of IT emergency, break out the chocolate

On good days in tech support, users' kind words can sustain you. On the bad days, you need a different kind of boost

We all have ways of coping with our jobs. Mine is chocolate. You see, I work in IT support, which often means I'm the proverbial punching bag for frustrated users. People only call when there's a problem, and every incident automatically escalates into an emergency that's all IT's fault. After so many negative encounters, these blowups can be difficult to shrug off.

For example, did you know IT is responsible for changing fundamental Microsoft code? According to an associate who came in one time, that was all on us.

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It was a simple problem: His system asked him for a password and he couldn't figure out why. He brought his laptop over to show me this issue, demanding to know what was wrong -- his password had worked just fine the day before. I took a look and informed him that his password had expired, and he needed to change it.

I figured he was a seasoned laptop user and would know how to change his password; he'd feel insulted if I helped him, so I stepped back. He got into the interface, entered his old password, clicked in the New Password box, typed his new password, and hit Enter. His computer didn't like that and said the passwords didn't match -- which of course they didn't since he only typed the new one once and had ignored the place where he was asked to type in his new password a second time to confirm it.

He tried it again. And again. After the third failed attempt, I gently reminded him that he had to type the new password twice before the computer would accept it.

"Well, when did you all change that?!?! It never asked me to do that before!!! Why didn't you send out a memo that we now had to do that?"

Yep, that's what he said. I stood there, dumbfounded. Microsoft had been requiring a confirmation of a password change for years, and this was Windows XP. Finally, he successfully changed his password and departed, but not before huffing and puffing about how I didn't know how to do my job. I'm just glad that it was long enough ago that I can laugh about it now.

I hit the chocolate that day and many other times. Then there are those interactions when I'm reminded why I'm in this profession in the first place: I enjoy working with technology, but I also like helping people. At those times, the chocolate stays in the drawer.

A little gratitude goes a long way

One day, at 10 minutes before quitting time, I got a panicked call: "Are you still at work?" That question in itself was unusual, since most users don't even think to ask.

The user explained that he'd spent most of the day working on a very important Excel spreadsheet and had even saved it periodically through the day. But now all his changes were gone, and he was growing more panicked and frustrated every minute.

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