If you’re anything like most IT pros, you likely spend your days answering emails and phone calls, even if you haven’t worked in a help desk position for years. Let’s face it: IT admin requests are a seriously frightening black hole for workplace productivity.
A study of American workers in The Atlantic found that the average person spends 14 percent of their work week dealing with emails. An additional 40 percent is spent on meetings, administrative tasks, and interruptions. Unfortunately, many IT pros are probably above average when it comes to dealing with annoying and common interruptions.
Here are the most common IT admin requests that make us shudder with terror, resentment, and intellectual superiority.
1. “Can you help me with my new smartphone?”
Your manager’s boss calls. They want help with a shiny new smartphone—which was purchased with their own money for the express purpose of personal use that has nothing to do with you. Walking someone through a new personal device is well outside the scope of your job, but how do you tell the CFO to RTFM?
Many IT pros get stuck helping high-level colleagues with unrelated tech questions. It’s not like you can internally bill your CFO for wasted time or shuffle an executive’s request into an automated phone system—unless you’re quitting, in which case, that’s cool.
2. “Why is my computer so slow?”
Sometimes, a “slow” computer is a side effect of user activities, which is a nice way of saying the user is dumb and broke something. In some cases, it’s a thinly veiled request for a newer piece of equipment. Unless your company sponsors BYOD, you probably spend a lot of time explaining that you’re not exactly sitting on a stack of brand-new, super-powerful computers.
3. “Can you resend my password—again?”
How many hours, days, or weeks of your career have you spent responding to requests to reset a password the user just “forgot”—again?
Remember, it could always be worse. The users who aren’t asking for help resetting their forgotten passwords could be guilty of one of the worst security sins: writing down their login credentials.
4. “Can you show me how?”
In a Reddit thread about the worst cases of computer illiteracy IT pros have encountered in their careers, one user posted that he once spent 15 minutes showing a coworker how to log into a workstation with the finger gymnastics known as CTL-ALT-DEL.
The Reddit user stated that his colleague was perplexed by the “concept of hitting two or three keys at the same time.” While this incident may be extreme, it’s a shining example of all the times IT workers are called upon to walk users through basic tasks.
5. “Why am I getting a weird error?”
In one of the most pervasive—and irritating—forms of help desk requests, you’ll receive a call, email, or ticket explaining that a user’s getting a “weird” error message when restarting their workstation or performing other mundane actions. Except this user never remembers to take a screenshot, read the error message, or remember any other salient details about exactly what’s malfunctioning.
Walking users through the process of recreating error messages is time-consuming, especially when your attempts to help unleash the predictable lie: “This is the first time this has ever happened!” Until the day comes when users remember to take screen captures of error messages, which for sure will never happen, this will be your daily nightmare.
6. “Why isn’t my computer working?”
People who don’t work in IT: Please stop trying to “clean up” your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You don’t know how. You’re going to delete something important, like important system files or other needed information. Depending on the extent of the damage and your restore capabilities, rescuing the deleted files will prove tedious at best.
7. “Can you help me with this spreadsheet?”
Unless your job title is “applications trainer,” your work duties almost certainly don’t include helping other people format PowerPoint presentations or email signatures. Unfortunately, much like the frequent requests to help an executive set up a new device, these tasks can be extraordinarily hard to decline.
Even if your middle name is “Excel Guru” and you’re a major fan of fiddling with photo-editing tools in PowerPoint, there’s no denying that basic applications support should be handled by Google or Bing, not your department.
If you shudder over the memory of these all too common and genuinely scary IT admin requests, which may roll in on a daily or even hourly basis, you’re not alone. These candidates for IT Creepypasta stories may haunt your dreams tonight, but the truly scary thing is that they’re sitting in your inbox right now.