Have you ever referred to the ID-10-T error? How about the PICNIC error? Or, the PEBCAK error? If you’re not familiar with them, ID-10-T spelled out looks like the word idiot. PICNIC is an acronym for “Problem in chair, not in computer.” and PEBCAK is an acronym for “Problem exists between chair and keyboard.” Many of us, maybe even most of us, have used those terms at one time or another to describe an end user who was struggling with a computer and making mistakes which, from our perspective, looked kind of dumb. The thing is, no one is an expert on everything and some people just don’t get computers. The use of such acronyms is a sign of condescension and arrogance which can prevent us from delivering great IT customer service.
No One is Perfect
I’ve worked with IT staff who supported brilliant researchers, physicians, and scientists, some of whom had multiple advanced degrees, and who didn’t really get computers. There are highly successful business owners, attorneys, clergy, accountants, musicians, airline pilots, and even military leaders, people who are at the top of their field, yet struggle with computers. Sure, it’s funny at one level to mock people who struggle with computers until we, in IT, realize that we, too, have areas in which we struggle. Not one of us is perfect. We need to be very careful about being condescending or arrogant. Some of us struggle with unhealthy behaviors which could make our doctors sigh and roll their eyes (but, they don’t), some of us forget to change the oil in our cars which could make our mechanics sigh and roll their eyes (but, they don’t), some of us can’t balance our checkbooks which could make our bankers roll their eyes (but, they don’t). The point is that we all need each other.
Everybody Supports Everybody: Condescension Can Come Back to Haunt You
In the past, we’ve talked about the functional theory of sociology in which every part of society support every other part. Our jobs, in IT, are to help our end users, our customers, work more productively, creatively, and efficiently. There’s really no need (or room) for condescension. Let’s lose the condescending acronyms and remember that we’re dealing with our fellow humans, our brothers and sisters. We’re not here to judge them or mock them, we’re here to use our technical skills to help them be great.
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