What's your Problem?

My boss treats me like the IT helpdesk...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: My boss treats me like the IT helpdesk just because I know how to use a computer and a mobile phone. I keep showing him the basics but his reluctance to learn is starting to get on my nerves. I've referred him to the real IT helpdesk, but he still badgers me daily. What should I do?

A: You should be a little more understanding and a little more indulgent. My guess is he's quite a bit older than you are and didn't grow up as you did, finding all things digital as natural as riding a bicycle. The rise and rise of personal computers and mobile phones (and digital cameras and on-line banking and even complicated clock radios) has created an unprecedented gulf not just between age groups but also between different types of mind; as baffling to those on the wrong side as if they'd found themselves in a strange land with no word of the local language.

This is not good for the self-esteem - particularly if you're a boss. Your manager is almost certainly a bit sheepish about his own ineptitude - which is precisely why he prefers to ask help from you rather than from the official IT helpdesk; he just imagines them rolling their eyes and exchanging meaningful glances every time he calls them with some kindergarten problem.

So try not to see it as badgering; see it as just one of the things you're paid to do - and happy to do - to help your boss. I can quite see that his reluctance to learn, leading to repeated calls for help over the same basic problems, can get a bit tiresome; but rather than display your impatience, see if you can devise some simple, low-tech tricks to help him learn.

He may be your boss - but when it comes to IT, you should probably be as patient with him as you would be with a child. Not that you'd need to be, of course. That's exactly the problem.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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