11 things sysadmins love to hear (not!)

 Originally published on November 29, 2017 by Patrick Gebhardt
Last updated on March 03, 2022 • 11 minute read

Everybody who ever worked for any company knows that communication between sysadmins and non-techies can sometimes be tricky. This is usually not due to the admin, but to misunderstandings in communication. Especially for new non-IT employees, a visit to the IT department can be a difficult one – and it would be wise to observe the local language and customs – just as they would on any visit into alien territory. 

But not uncommon are misunderstandings due to lack of empathy and poor planning. Our own IT guys helped us figure this out and gave us the below-listed information – questions, wishes and requests which they’ve heard throughout their job. As our own readers are mainly sysadmins, we suggest you fish through this list and have a quick but supportive line ready for when non-techies bother you again. Right, let’s get to it:


#1: “I know it’s already Friday, but we have a team member starting Monday morning...”

If this is you, then you have earned the undivided hatred of your admin. If you’re a team manager or lead, then it’s your job to plan ahead. Setting up a workplace and adding a new team member to the system takes time and shouldn’t be thrusted upon IT last thing before the weekend. Familiar sentences like “We’ve changed the team structure, as of tomorrow…” won’t make you any more popular either.




#2: “I took some ethernet cables from the server room for my LAN Party, is that cool?”

In the spirit of a peaceful and happy coexistence, let’s just say: no, that’s not cool.





#3: “I need this server to be set up next week. Why haven’t you received it yet?”

Purchasing a server can’t just be done in a few days, so your admin and the IT department has to plan ahead meticulously. Obviously, you didn’t. Check out the back office, where a server might be hoarded for weeks until the very last minute.



#4: "Can you fix my home computer?"

This one often starts with an ominous question like “You’re pretty good with computers, right?” So you think it’s your admin’s bread and butter to fix any IT-related problem you throw at them? Well, not really. Also, telling stories from your last vacation like "I was swimming and blogging... and then I was just swimming." won't convince an IT guy to repair your water damaged mobile.




#5: “I sent an email 5 minutes ago, but it hasn’t arrived yet.”

Sorry guys, but an email system is not a messenger tool. So, calm down. And how about the more suspicious questions like “Is it possible to delete an email after I’ve sent it?”




#6: "I tried to fix it myself."

Have you? Great, because that usually means double work for your admin, at least. If you come across network and IT problems, try to solve it in a few minutes or less. If it’s still not working, open a ticket or come directly to your IT guys. This way, you won’t make it much, much worse.




#7: “I suppose the firewall is blocking me.”

This amateurish assessment is similar to “I don’t know what a firewall does but I really like the word.”




#8: "You seem to have time right now!"

Your admin’s workplace is a spot where sitting still and looking at an empty screen might be a sign that hard work is taking place, and that it would be a really bad time to interrupt (also referred to as "thinking"). So, remember, those unappreciated heroes, whose unseen endeavors make our workplace function, are busy, even when it doesn’t look that way.




#9: “I just deleted some file, could you please restore them from the backup?”

At least this one is honest and doesn’t open with “The computer just did this or that...” But sadly, our company backup runs every night at 11:00 pm. There is no backup of the files users created in the morning. Some miracles even sysadmins can't achieve. That's one of them.




#10: “This wouldn't have happened with Macs.”

Yes, Macs. Because we all miss Steve Jobs.




#11: “It would be easier if you just made me an admin.”

This “best of all suggestions” is synonymous with “I think I can destroy this laptop for my own pleasure.” So maybe not.




These were our “11 things that sysadmins love to hear (not!)”. In conclusion, many misunderstandings can be avoided and the relationship between techies and non-techies does not have to be tense. Of course, non-techies are sometimes pretty lost in the IT department and it's easy to mess with the locals. But it’s always solution-driven to be nice to each other and start with some empathy – makes sense, right?

Thanks to the guys at Naked Security by Sophos, who are also addressing this issue. Statements like "Is there something wrong with Exchange?" can be found here

Think we’ve missed something? Like those colleagues who always reply to all; or share their "funny pics" from the last company event as a full frame JPG with 20 MB? Or perhaps you have some wise words on the relationship between IT and non-IT colleagues in general? Please tell us in the comment section below!