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10 Things Your IT Guy Wants You to Know

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on May 31, 2009 · 43 comments

in Humor

1. If you come to me to ask technical questions, please don’t argue when you don’t like my answer. If you think you know more about what you’re asking than I do, then why even ask? On that same note, if I am arguing with you, it’s because I’m certain that I am correct; otherwise I’d just tell you “I don’t know” or perhaps point you somewhere that you could look it up. We don’t argue just for the sake of arguing.

2. When you start a conversation by insulting yourself (e.g. “I’m such an idiot”), you will not make me laugh or feel sorry for you; all you will succeed in doing is reminding me that yes, you are, indeed, an idiot, and that I’m going to hate having to talk to you. Trust me, you don’t want to start out this way.

3. We’re okay with you making mistakes; fixing them is part of our job. We are NOT, however, okay with you lying to us about a mistake that you made. It just makes it that much harder to resolve and thus makes our job more difficult. Be honest and we’ll get the problem fixed and both of us can continue on with our business. Lying to us and, therefore, costing us twice as much of our time will not win you any brownie points with IT.

4. There is no magic “Fix it” button. Everything takes some amount of work to fix, and not everything is worth fixing or — gasp! — even possible to fix. If I tell you that you’re going to have to re-do a document that you accidentally deleted two months ago, please don’t get mad at ME. I’m not ignoring your problem and it’s not that I don’t like you, we just can’t always fix everything.

5. Not everything you ask us to do is “urgent”. In fact, by marking things as “urgent” every time, you’ll almost certainly ensure that we treat none of it as a priority.

6. You are not the only one who needs help, and you usually don’t have the most urgent issue. Give us some time to get to your problem; it will get fixed.

7. E-mailing us several times about the same issue is not only unnecessary, it’s highly annoying as well. We record issues in a database so that we don’t lose track of them (remember how we ask that you create a ticket? That’s why.) We will typically respond as soon as we have a useful update to make. If your problem is urgent, please do let us know (but see number five).

8. Yes, we prefer e-mail over phone calls. It has nothing to do with being friendly or anti-social, it’s about efficiency. It is much faster and easier for us to list out a set of questions that we need answers to than it is for us to call and ask you them one by one. You can find the answers at your leisure and, while we’re waiting, we can work on other problems.

9. We may, at times, seem blunt and rude. It’s not that we mean to, we just don’t have the time to sugar coat things for you. We assume that we are both adults and can handle the reality of a problem. If you did something wrong, don’t be surprised when we tell you. We don’t care that it was a mistake because, honestly, it makes no difference to us. Please don’t take it personal, we just don’t want it to happen again.

10. Finally, yes, I can read your e-mail, yes, I can see what web pages you look at while you’re at work, yes, I can access every file on your work computer, and yes, I can tell if you are chatting with people on instant messenger (and can read what you’re typing, as well). But no, we don’t do it. It’s highly unethical and, perhaps more importantly, you really aren’t that interesting. Unless I am instructed to specifically monitor or investigate your actions, I don’t do it. There really are much more interesting things on the Internet than you.

I hope this didn’t come off the wrong way because, even as much as us IT guys refer to “users” as “lusers”, we do like (most of) you. Just like you, we’re here to do a job and we try to do it the best that we can. It’s easiest to do that if we all work together, stop pointing fingers, and give other people the space that we would like to get as well. If we can do that more often than not, things will go well and work out for all of us.

P.S. IT guys are easily bribed with food and/or beer (personally, I prefer the latter). That’s a sure way to get your problems moved to the top of the list. *grin*

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric June 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Are you taking applications for number 11?

“No its not the network, just because your email suddenly gets a little slow doesnt mean the network has gone down in flames. In all liklihood its something you did or its the application.”

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jlgaddis June 1, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Nice one! And yes, feel free to add to the list!

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Angela June 4, 2009 at 9:06 am

To #4 you could add that in order for your issue to be resolved, you might actually have to let us sit at your desk.

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mubashir September 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm

appreciated

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MiniMage June 6, 2009 at 9:35 pm
  1. When we’re working at your desks, asking us if we’re done every five minutes doesn’t just have the potential to annoy us, it also has the potential to distract us and slow us down. Think about it for a moment; if we were done, why would we remain at your desks?

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MiniMage June 6, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Your IT guy may not be a guy. If I call and ask you if this is a good time to come look at your problem, I’d appreciate if you didn’t say, “Sure, he can drop by any time.”

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Petri Lopia June 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Sounds way too familiar :-)
I’m working as a IT guy and I could wrote exactly same kind of list.
I guess that working as IT guy is same kind where every you live.

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AnotherTechie June 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Numbers 5,8, and 9 are so very, very true. Also, if I say “Please email me back as to whether or not my suggestion worked,” please, please don’t call me. I probably won’t answer.

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Zinob August 1, 2009 at 4:51 pm

While I agree with many of your points I must tell you that I strongly disagree with quite a few of them. I have been working in Tech support for 6 years and done the usual freelance stuff, (some free for friends, some paid, the usual stuff) for at least 12 years. From what you write I assume you work in a small organization or a big organization that is managed like a small one (in that case I pity you). If you want to advance in support, either to get a better job or just to be more efficient so that it takes up less of your time. Let me give you a few friendly advices.

First, itisallaboutattitude Keep a positive attitude to the user no matter what. Some times when I see an incoming call and I recognize the department or number and I just know it is going to be horrible I still answer with a smile. First because me sounding grumpy is not going to help the users attitude. Second because if I am more open to actually listen to what the user says I will probably solve it faster and be off with it err I mean him.

Here I have a few remarks about your points:
2: Yet again, Listen. What the user rely says is “I am scared of this, hold my hand, show me that you are not” . If you just sound reassuring (“oh, you are not worse than most” or “Don’t worry, We will do our best to help you. What was your problem?”) the user usually calms down and you can have a normal conversation. This is also a user that usually does as you tell them and tell very few lies, if you just get them to trust you.

(4) Just a small advice, yet again attitude. If it is not your fault, don’t try to excuse your self, in any way, ever. Tell the user that you feel for them, or even feel sorry but DON’T EXCUSE. More than 99% of the users will accept “I am sorry, but that is impossible”. If you how ever put it like “I can not do that (Dave)” the user is more likely to assume you are incompetent, lazy or bound by weird rules (avoid it even if you are bound by weird rules).

5: Yeah, you got to hate them. And as much as I want to say “I realize that people might get pissed at you for not being able to play minesweeper and pestering your colleagues instead. But we have people of less statue, with less than half your salary, that still are more urgent”. How ever you have to let the user know that you realize it is urgent TO HIM. Yet again sound reassuring and half of them will calm down.

8: This I don’t understand, most emails are horribly written “I can access my ${data}. When I open ${software} I get an error message.”, if you talk to them over phone you can ask them right away and not having to bounce messages back and forth. Further more pretty much every one I know (my old, old, old teacher that did stenography excluded) types slower than they speak.

9: Yet again, attitude. Speaking slower and using more words quite often makes things go faster. Next time some one calls, try answering with just your name. Then try answering with “Welcome to ${departmentName:-$companyName+” IT”}, my name is ${yourName}.” Most users will get confused and sometimes annoyed if they don’t have time to get used to your voice before you say your name or try to get some kind of information to them.

“P.S.”: No we are not, no matter which threats or treats you offer me I will make sure your case is prioritized appropriate for the company/department/person/my own liking, in that order. Being rock solid on this creates trust in the department and make people stop trying to get you to reprioritize cases by pestering you. And it is unethical, both coaxing stuff from people dependant on your work and to the people that get shoved down your list.

These are just based on my own very personal opinions and experiences so don’t take it as gospel, or “the wrong way” for that matter. But it is what I have learnt through the years and my style seems to work.

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Jeff Biesiadecki December 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Lighten up, Francis. 

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Sjaaktrekhaak January 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

wtg looking at this as if it’s a way to tell people how to do their job

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Rob Routt October 29, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I am pretty sure this was just supposed to be funny and cute, not so serious Zinob :) I don’t think anyone really subscribes to everything above, but it is funny and sadistically realistic.

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Jeff October 30, 2009 at 12:23 pm

My personal favorite is coming to me with the solution, and not the problem. If you KNOW how to fix it than go ahead. But if you’ve gotten to the point of needing assistance, it probably ISN’T what you think. Just tell me the symptoms and what you’ve changed so I can fix it.

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Ben Hanes February 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Quite often I don’t have the permissions to fix the problem, but know how to fix it…

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Doug January 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm

This happened to me a little while ago.

them “Hey are you The IT Guy?”

me “Yip, how can i help you”

Them “Do you know what you are doing”

Me “No, I was the only one left in the office so they sent me”

them – sense of humour failure of note.

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Jim September 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I’d elevate this threads priority, personally.

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Kyle December 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

This document needs to be given to all people who own a computer. I’m serious.

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ReeG February 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Amen

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Helpdesk_Guy February 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm

This requires an a “Like” button with an infinite loop :D
 

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Alex Devlin February 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I made the mistake of mentioning that some files that have been deleted can be recovered by certain software. I also mentioned that a full scan of their drive will take several hours and would be best scheduled overnight. I then had a 20 minute “discussion” shall we say about what would be the best way to do this. Either run the recovery software overnight in hope that I can find and recover the said file…. or should the user just type out that 2 page document again that was just guide notes for the new microwave that had programs in it for the regular things we used it for on lunch…

I also learned to ASK what the document /file was they had lost and how big it was.
Needless to say, that became my opening question when I was called to “find a lost file”.

Plus you also find out quickly that the “lost file” was actually a folder of porn / illegal music / illegal software the user had been collecting on work time. And that the sys admin had wiped clean during a system sweep. And had THEN emailed the user to remind them of company policy regarding the use of our equipment.

Apparently, us IT guys can be bought and used as pawns to turn on each other as we hate working together. For as little as a large pizza we will do your bidding and not tell our sys admin anything that you do.

Oh, and no pineapple on the pizza, our sys admin doesn’t like it. :)

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Eric Lortie February 3, 2012 at 9:25 am

9. We may, at times, seem blunt and rude. It’s not that we mean to, we just don’t have the time to sugar coat things for you. We assume that we are both adults and can handle the reality of a problem. If you did something wrong, don’t be surprised when we tell you. We don’t care that it was a mistake because, honestly, it makes no difference to us. Please don’t take it personal, we just don’t want it to happen again.

I disagree with this one. I’m more than capable of dealing with even the most ridiculously incompetent person professionally and in a friendly manner. 
If we want other people to admit the reality of their situations, much of which is validly expressed in your list here, we must also admit the reality of our situations: sometimes we’re just awful. sometimes it seems like the only field more likely to result in someone developing a God complex than an IT field is as a CEO of a major company.

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James Garr February 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

Not a bad article, but I’ve been an IT professional for 24 years and disagree with a couple points.  

#9:  There is no excuse to be “blunt and rude” to a customer.  Here’s a tip, if you have a disagreeable customer, focus on the technical problem, not the personality.  Not only will you do a better job, but it makes your life in IT easier.  Let HR or supervisors deal with the people problems; if you’re in the trenches always focus on the technical side of it.#1 makes me think you’ve got the same problem a lot of us IT people do: an overinflated ego.   We’re not always right, even when we are “certain” we are.  Technology is complex, and no matter how smart you are, you can’t be right all the time.  Always have some sense of humility.  The worst IT people always think they are right (not saying you’re one of those, just that it is a trend.)On #10, while I’m glad you are ethical, unfortunately not all IT people are.  I’ve seen IT directors read customer e-mail just to be nosy; it happens.  It’s bad IT people like that that make it hard on the rest of us, because it causes customers not to trust us.  That’s where the lying that you talk about comes from, a lack of trust.

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IT Dude! February 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

It’s like Jeremy Gaddis has peeked into the very depths of our souls.   

To those who took this literally, yea 99.99% of it is true.  Do we really talk to our EU’s that way? Mostly not.  Do we all wish we could act like Nick Burns? Hell yea.   Get over yourself; stop being  a contrarian.  You either secretly agree with this article or your arteries probably aren’t very healthy right now.  It’s not meant to disrespect users, or fuel our lust for a God Complex.  

At the end of the day most of us love being in customer service because having the power to help someone in what they believe is a critical time of need is a reward that compliments the underpaid, overworked, thankless, complaint riddled field that is IT service. 

Chive on. 

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Guest February 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Why is it most IT guys are so pompous?!

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Dave August 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Because some (not all!) IT people spend more time growing up learning technology rather than learning social skills.

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guest May 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm

so calling an idiot idiot is now pompous? Right.

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Anonymous February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am

While this article is funny to read, it is actually dangerously misguided. It falls into the biggest fallacy of IT departments: that it is about what IT wants, not what people need.

IT is a service, you are a service provider. That means the burden is on you to adapt to their needs, not the other way around. Some examples:

Writing an email is a horrible time suck for the users. Calling you and having you stop by is a win for company productivity. And you’ll get more done as well; there is no way that typing out a bunch of questions, having them answer them, you following up to clarify some of your questions to incomplete answers to your questions or tell them what you meant is faster than walking over and asking.

Next, IT departments tend to suck at transparency. In no way is “give us some time, it will get fixed” sufficient. One of the things I have always urged at IT departments I have headed or worked in is to make the queue visible. If people can find out for themselves when they can expect their problem to be resolved, you’ll get fewer phone calls and emails. They will also see what “the most urgent issue” is. Every IT department fights this tooth and nail. God forbid that they are forced to let people see what they are doing and have to defend their decisions.

Which points to the biggest problem with this article: no where do I get a sense that IT has to do anything different. I’m sorry, most IT departments operate as if everyone else in the company revolves around what they want.

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bob@bob.com June 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Writing an email is better than calling 15 times is a row. What’s the time real time sucker – annoying your support person and stressing her out or sending an email with a LCLEAR head?

IT people are intelligent and can be on con calls and email a user back while eating lunch.

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jrlenz December 17, 2013 at 7:50 pm

This is a middle-management beancounter answer. This is not the answer of someone who actually works in the trenches in IT.

Transparency is a joke, because explaining WHY technical things occur to a beancounter or management type is often more trouble than fixing them outright. Management and accounting are generally not up to date on the technology being used; explaining to them the technical details behind a temporary network slowdown or a cookie problem caused by a code change that goes away when you click refresh is wasting precious time that the average IT person doesn’t have to spare.

IT people, by nature, are largely results-oriented rather than process-oriented. This conflicts with management and beancounter working styles, and therein is your problem.

And the IT department IS an integral part of what the company does; try working an entire day without one of us.

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NorthVandea June 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

“Every IT department fights this tooth and nail. God forbid that they are forced to let people see what they are doing and have to defend their decisions.” So then why is it that IT has to be an open book for any user to see whatever they want to see behind the scenes? Other departments are under no such requirement. I’m pretty sure if I asked Accounting to reveal the inner workings and decision structure/workflow of their department to me they would laugh and say it’s none of your damned business. I requested some company logo editing from Marketing for an IT webpage and it’s been a few weeks with no word, should I demand to see exactly what projects they’re working on and why my request hasn’t been handled yet? Absolutely not, because it’s none of my business. This statement is very hypocritical in my experience at least.

Also, “IT is a service, you are a service provider.” this logic applies to EVERY department in a company, they are service providers to other departments and to the company as a whole, there is no reason I should accept unreasonable verbal abuse from an end user, because they wouldn’t accept it from me if the complaint or request was going the other way.

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Smartin108 February 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm

I understand this is posted as humor so I take it with some salt, but for the IT fanboys  overrun with Me2! empathy, know there are a few lusers that actually know what they’re talking about. Beware the tail wagging the dog… IT serves the business, not the other way around. Stick to the script and fail.

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Anonymous February 21, 2012 at 10:31 am

in any new workplace, the two people to gift are IT and mail guys.

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IT Crowd March 7, 2012 at 4:26 am

This is why you don’t own the business, you just work in it. Whilst some of your points may be valid, none of it will bring around voluntary compliance from your users. You asked them not to claim they are idiotic, but you have addressed them as such.
By the way, just because it isn’t urgent to you, doesn’t mean that you aren’t stopping them from achieving the goals of the business and that is the whole point of IT, to support businesses achieving their goals. If IT cannot keep up in a timely manner then perhaps review the processes in place or look at the human resources assigned. 

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d katoola December 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I’ve worked in IT for over 15 years, mostly as a senior UNIX admin. In my opinion almost all the help desks employees i have worked with are morons that are a shade above what the user knows about general desktop computing. Usually they have one or two that understands stuff, and ironically he/she is not rude. It is the clueless ones with the yellow hacker glasses that have the attitude. Also, in technical environments where the customer is an engineer etc. the end user usually is smarter, and has the troubleshooting and general situational awareness to realize bullsh!t when they see it, or expect misconfiguration crap that caused the problem in the first place to be fixed so that they don’t have to call the help desk.

Here is some real wisdom here: Be humble and grateful and don’t talk shit. Support each one of these users as you would your mom and try to fix the problem from happening again. Chances are if you go down this road of fixing the source problem, you will end up getting promoted out of the help desk entirely. Also realize the power the end user has in this era of “cloud” provisioning. If they dont like you, they can outsource you much easier then ever before.

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d katoola December 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

another piece of advice. You mentioned you don’t read email unless you are asked to investigate. Even if you investigate, as an IT worker you are not at the end of that investigation. In fact IT handling data is usually so poor in chain of custody that this task is more often outsourced to accredited forensics professionals, if for no reason that the acronyms behind their title (Encase certified for example) stands up in a court. So be careful what you say; you may be asked to collect logs for a legal, HR, or compliance team analysis, but make no mistake about it, your not doing the analysis and thus should not be reading their e-mail. You retrieve. You facilitate the investigation in the same way a Starbucks employee facilitates you doing your job by dispensing caffiene for you at the start of your work day.

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Asshole Op May 8, 2013 at 8:41 am

We will still read it if we feel like it. So there ;-)

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Cochise July 12, 2013 at 4:03 am

Hi,
It is OK with you if i translate this text in french to send it to my friends ?

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Jeremy L. Gaddis July 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm

@Cochise — If you link back here to the original I do not mind… and if you do let me know and I’ll link to it. Thanks!

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blckflcn23 October 16, 2013 at 12:33 am

How about a:

If you continue to ask “when will it be ready/fixed?” I will continue adding another day of ETA.

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LarchOye February 5, 2014 at 11:54 am

“1. If you come to me to ask technical questions, please don’t argue when you don’t like my answer. If you think you know more about what you’re asking than I do, then why even ask? On that same note, if I am arguing with you, it’s because I’m certain that I am correct; otherwise I’d just tell you “I don’t know” or perhaps point you somewhere that you could look it up. We don’t argue just for the sake of arguing.”

#1: One’s “credentials”, or other forms of “qualifications” have No Bearing whatsoever on whether or not their argument is sound. The old “I know more, so I don’t have to bother proving that you’re wrong” cop-out is not a successful counter-argument, and thus- annoying co-worker has technically won this round of debate.
They may seem like the biggest retard on the planet- but seriously dude, HOW OFTEN have you seen completely counter-intuitive answers to “IT Best Practices” become absolutely viable, and/or actually proven superior (due to some component which was previously regarded as a flaw- but is now considered a benefit, etc).??

#2: Discussing with other non-IT co-workers why/how/what goes on it IT, and justifying either business cases for making such decisions- or coming up with analogies to other sectors of the company, is (in my opinion) THE most valuable time spent working- aside from actually directly generating revenue.

#3: All of us were born LITERALLY KNOWING NOTHING. Knowing this, should cause one to adopt the attitude: “Everyone’s full of shit, all conventional wisdom is bullshit- therefore critical thought/analysis of the subject at hand, coupled with rigorous experimentation and observation are the ONLY reliable sources of information. Repeating things we’ve heard ‘reliable’, ‘trusted’ colleagues mention- does not validate their claims- nor count as any sort of ACTUAL verification of any claims.”

(P.S. the #’s 1,2,3 are not referring to your #’s 1,2,3 above…)
(P.S.S thanks for the site/posts- good stuff :)

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LarchOye February 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm

“8. Yes, we prefer e-mail over phone calls. It has nothing to do with being friendly or anti-social, it’s about efficiency. It is much faster and easier for us to list out a set of questions that we need answers to than it is for us to call and ask you them one by one. You can find the answers at your leisure and, while we’re waiting, we can work on other problems.”

I’m 100% in disagreement here… I’ve been observing (over the last say, 8-10 years or so), that in fact, E-Mail correspondence is by far the biggest waste of time I engage in during the entire day. I’m even going to straight up tell you that going out to smoke ~once and hour is more productive than reading and (argh, replying to) emails- ESPECIALLY when there’s a FW: CC: RE: thread that is over 20 deep, and/or any time more than 3 people have contributed to the conversation. A chat room / white-board coupled with face to face, or at least verbal communication with those involved generally takes less time- and is easier to refer back to in the future (simply email the end result to everyone- or post it in wherever stuff is supposed to be posted, whatever).

I’m gonna run with this anti-email thing as hard as I can- and I promise you that one day in the near future, you’ll consider getting rid of email too ;)

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