Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Oct 22 2012   6:52AM GMT

Using diplomacy to manage users

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Managing technology is an easy task for the CIOs – they know once they hit the right notes, technology behaves well. Managing users, however, is not as simple an affair. I am sure CIOs try all tricks in the book to win on this front but I am not sure how often they win. However, to ensure that systems work, one has to win over the users by using whatever means that are appropriate.

We are told that users are our customers and hence they are kings. More prophesies follow; we are made aware that users are the reason why we exist in our positions. We are advised of users being the very people who pass on feedback to management and hence it is in the fitness of things to keep them in good humor. It is needless to mention that keeping them happy ensures their use of your system else you may rue the consequences of failure.

A tough call, isn’t it? So we pull our hairs in disgust not knowing how to keep them happy. Some quip that it is easier to please their wives than dabbling with unrelenting users. But sweet advice does pour in and someone whispers in our ears saying ‘use diplomacy to tackle the users’. When enquired what it means comes the explanation: Diplomacy is an art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they tend to ask you for directions..!! Clear?’

So let us put down a few ways of using diplomacy to manage users:

  • Get friendly

Why not wish him a good morning or make sure to greet him on his birthday. Pick up a conversation once in a while and show him that you value him as a friend. That will break the ice and may perhaps run down barriers that may exist.

  • Show empathy

Users have their woes and nothing could be better than sympathizing with his situation and wear a sad expression to show that you understand his plight. Users often need a shoulder to cry on, so why not offer this service. You can always extend help and ask them promising to do your best. You may be able to help or perhaps not but no harm in trying. Unless you make it obvious, users fall prey to these tactics and I don’t think it is wrong to win him over by this method.

  • Sound positive

Users don’t like to hear a ‘no’. You may say it is better to be straightforward instead of fooling around, but isn’t that foolhardy? How can you turn down a customer who has come looking for help? There are always workarounds. Why not sound positive and genuinely look for solutions and if not, you always have the choice of informing him of the difficulty in tackling his problem. I am sure he would understand and appreciate efforts you made.

  • Shower praise

We often hold back our praise or acknowledgement of users with a feel that this may spoil them. On the contrary I would think it important to be magnanimous and say a word or two appreciating his views, approach, his work or his achievements. Why not give him some importance and make him feel bigger. Even when suggesting a solution or improvement in work processes, be suggestive and put words in his mouth. He will then own the process and make it work. May be you can take them out for an official lunch or dinner and hand them a memento to acknowledge their contribution. Speak kindly of them and even praise them in front of the management.

  • Don’t react

All is not hunky dory. Users are sometimes very smart or fierce. They are at times in an attack mode and your charm doesn’t work. A normal tendency would be react and not take things lying down, but why create complications for ourselves? Better smile even if he is abusive but let him shed all the heat. After expending all energy he may cool down a bit and that could be the right time to make your pitch.

So friends, it is best to kill the user with kindness rather than picking up a battle in which no one wins. It is said a smile disarms the opponent, so why not try out this formula. Try entrapment with your diplomacy.

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