Works For Me

One of the least useful responses a person can receive when reporting a problem is "it works for me" and it really needs to go away. What I have found over the years is that when somebody reports that some sort of technology — be it hardware or software — is not working as expected or desired, they'll consider it a bug or a failure. They'll (hopefully) report the issue with the expectation that a solution will be found and everyone can get on with their lives. Getting a response like "it works for me" from someone who generally knows the system far better than the person reporting the problem is incredibly dismissive and will only encourage people to not report problems.

I'm not a fan of the PEBKAC concept. It's funny as a joke, but not when it's aimed at somebody.

When I report problems with systems at the day job, there's an 80% chance that one of the IT managers will write back "it works for me" with a screenshot pasted into an Excel file just to show that they checked. There's rarely any follow up nor is there any request for further information. I generally need to do their job to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, where, and how to fix it. Because this is technically their job, there's resentment when I invest the time into solving the problem myself. By the time a solution is found and provided, emails start coming in from schools across the country reporting the very same issue. The management team then delegates the task to someone by forwarding the email with my solution, and then everyone goes back to whatever it was they were doing before I reported the issue.

This isn't to say that people should pay more attention to me, as that's most certainly not something I'd be comfortable with. Instead, there needs to be a conscious effort to determine why a person is reporting an issue. Is it because of a network issue somewhere between A and B that's not affecting C? Is someone using Netscape Navigator 4.0 Gold and complaining when the react.js-powered site refuses to load? Is the issue something that could be resolved with training, instead1?

Yes, there are times when someone may revel in their incompetence, ignorance, or both2, but the vast majority of people are competent to varying degrees. We should take them at their word that something isn't quite right and investigate it reasonably. If no issues are found, ask for more information. If there are still no issues found, dig deeper still. Who knows. Maybe there's a genuine bug that hasn't been encountered before that could get squashed before it affects someone else.


  1. I had a person scream until they were blue in the face that they couldn't use a corporate website. IT checked and said "it works for me". I checked and saw the person was going to website.com when they should have been going to website.co.jp. Sometimes the devil is in the details.
  2. I still encounter people my age who say "I don't know computers. Hehehe." and it boggles the mind. How can anyone who has been employed for 20+ years and lived in a wealthy country not know the very basics of how a computer is used? People shouldn't be expected to know how to code, but one would hope that they would know the difference between a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a browser.