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a blog by Don R. Crawley

Keynote Speaker on
IT Customer Service and Compassion

Bringing humanity into the world of technology

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Some people in the IT industry have a reputation for being arrogant and difficult to work with. Arrogance is the belief that you’re better than other people and it leads to cynicism and condescending behavior. Arrogance can undermine relationships and even lead to job loss.

I was leading a customer service seminar at a large university once. During the seminar, there were three guys who sat in the back of the room with their arms crossed and glaring at me. During one of the breaks, I spoke with them to find out what was going on. They told me they were system administrators and they didn’t care about what other people thought, they didn’t feel the need to build good relationships with their end users or co-workers. They explained that they were union employees who couldn’t be fired. They were smug, arrogant, and generally disagreeable. I later heard that the university had gone through budget cuts and, as part of the process, had eliminated all of their positions. It may have been true that they couldn’t be fired, but they were so difficult to work with that the university found a way to get rid of them anyway. My guess is that none of them recognized what was really going on was that they were so difficult to work with that the university was just waiting for a chance to get rid of them.

At another client’s location, I walked into the seminar room early in the morning to lead another customer service seminar. One of the students was already in the room and I offered the usual early morning pleasantries. His response was cynical, sarcastic, and profane. (Bear in mind that he hadn’t even met me yet. These were the first words we exchanged.) He then explained how he used such responses to test the sincerity of other people. I later found out that, although he was a very talented and knowledgeable system administrator, he was considered so difficult to work with that his job was at risk. Sadly, he may not even realize his arrogance and cynicism, really just downright meanness, is killing his career.

I have a friend who’s a technical recruiter. He shared an email exchange he had with a prospect who had approached him about a position. In this email exchange, the prospect came across as conceited and arrogant. He even dropped profanity and was downright rude to my friend. His resume indicated that he had never held a job for longer than a year, which in his case might have indicated problems in the workplace. The thing is that his behavior was totally unnecessary and will limit his ability to get hired in the future. As with the previous example, this person may not even recognize that he’s torpedoing his own career.

How to Tell if You Might be Arrogant

Here are eight warning signs that you might be arrogant:

  • Labeling people
  • Not listening to people with differing points-of-view
  • Putting people down
  • Interrupting others frequently
  • Name-dropping
  • Always having an answer for everything
  • Blaming other people
  • Engaging in one-ups-man-ship

What to do About It

It’s not difficult to learn basic people skills and it’s easy to use them. If you think you’re better than other people, you’re not. Get over yourself. Learn some humility. Be polite, say please and thank you. Act in a respectful manner. Be kind. Instead of complaining about other people, focus on making yourself as good and decent a person as possible.

I once had a friend whose daughter was the receptionist at a competitor’s company. Whenever someone would apply for a job at our company, I would call her to see if they’d also applied at her company and, if so, how they treated her. If they treated her poorly, I wouldn’t hire them.

Remember that people have long memories and lots of friends. Our behavior toward our fellow humans today will come back around tomorrow. We might as well be nice and decent to everyone. It just feels better and it works better.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

Bring my one-day IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.

Customer service book for IT staffPick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.

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