Tough truths on the service desk

5 Tough Truths to Face When You’re Promoted on the IT Service Desk

Working on the IT service desk is an excellent way to test the waters to see whether a career in IT is what you want. It’s an entry-level role that can be used to leap into various other positions within IT. For example: problem analyst, change analyst, and security analyst, to name but a few. However, a popular career-path choice for service desk agents is a promotion into an IT service desk leadership or management role.

Being promoted on the IT service desk is a huge achievement and one that you should be incredibly proud of. The promotion is evidence that you’ve worked hard, are respected within your organization, and deserve to be where you are. However, the joy of your promotion can be dampened pretty quickly if you’re unprepared for what might lay ahead.

To help, I’ve put together five “tough truths” that you might face when you’re promoted on the IT service desk. This isn’t written to put you off, it’s to prepare you – and the more prepared you are, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the situations thrown at you.

1) You probably won’t get a parade

If you’ve applied internally for a leadership role, chances are that one or more of your service desk colleagues will have done so too. It can be natural to assume that your work friends will be as stoked about your promotion as you are. However, if they’ve applied for the role too, you can bet that they feel like they deserve it as much as you do (after all, that’s how you feel isn’t it? That you deserve it?).

So, try not to be disheartened when your team don’t throw you a parade or they don’t wish to celebrate your success with you. It’s not about you, it’s about them; they’re unhappy because they didn’t get the role and you should be able to understand and respect how they’re feeling.

It can be disheartening, but save the celebrations for your family and friends outside of work, and acknowledge your colleagues who did apply and weren’t successful. But then move on. In time they’ll get used to the new arrangements but it’s likely to be a bumpy road at first.

Finally, if you have real trouble with any of your former colleagues, then talk to them individually about it as soon as possible. It’s always best to “nip these situations in the bud.”

2) Your work relationships will change

Up until now, you’ve been one of the “gang” – you all moan about “Betty” who pesters the desk every day with her unrealistic demands; maybe you complain about some of the management decisions being made; you share in-jokes, and generally, have a good time working together. All on the same page, completing the same tasks.

Not anymore though. Now you’re on the other side. You’re the one who has to make decisions (and sometimes they might be unpopular). You can’t moan about “nightmare” customers anymore like you once might have, and you won’t be doing the same work which means your close-knit relationships are going to grow further and further apart.

Recognizing that your relationship with your team members cannot stay the same is essential if you don’t want to let it get to you. It’s easy to think that nothing will change, that your team will immediately respect you because you were friends before, or that you’ll be able to stay inside the circle. But things are different now and it can be alarming how quickly everything changes.

So, prepare yourself for this potentially happening and know that, in time, you’ll adjust to this set of relationships.

3) You will have to show “tough love”

Now that you’re in a leadership position, you’re soon going to have to provide feedback on performance both individually and as a team.

The easy thing to do is to tell everyone that they’re doing fine and to let them get on with it. But it’s highly unlikely that everyone on your team will be doing an incredible job all of the time – they’re human after all.

You’ll need to motivate your team continuously if you want to see results, and you’ll need to push them to get the best out of them. How they respond to this will depend on each individual, but if you push them and they start surprising themselves with their output they’ll begin to respect to you more.

Plus, in my opinion, praising someone for a job well done when actually what they did was pretty mediocre will only show that you don’t have high expectations so they might not bother trying too hard in the future.

Tough love can be hard to deliver at the best of times, but it’s particularly difficult to do with former colleagues. Give it time though and you’ll soon begin to see the benefits. Again, you need to understand that the path to success is not going to be smooth and that patience and perseverance will always pay off.

4) You’ll get things wrong

In your new role, you’re going to want to change things, you’re going to want to make your mark on the service desk, and you’re going to want to make it the best place for your team to work.

Because of this passion, you’re going to do amazing things. But you’re also going to get some things wrong too, particularly if this is your first taste of leadership/management.

And do you know what’s worse? You might even feel that those people who applied for the same position, and didn’t get it, are gleeful when you do mess up. Your teammates aren’t horrible people, this is just sometimes human nature.

So, don’t beat yourself up when something doesn’t go to plan, be honest with your team, and remind them that you’re new to this. Ask them for their patience and support and ask them for their involvement and ideas too. It can be lonely in the new position so don’t isolate yourself further. In my experience, people will respect you more for being honest than for trying to hide how you feel and trying to get everything done by yourself.

5) Everything will change from now on

If you haven’t already worked this point out for yourself, I’m here to drive this one home for you.

Everything is going to change: your workload, the type of work you do, your relationships with colleagues, the expectations on you, absolutely everything. When I was promoted I was pretty naïve, and I didn’t expect these kinds of changes. I had a great relationship with my team and I thought they’d be happy for me. I thought it would be easy to lead them because we all just got on. The changes happened overnight and the first few months were a real struggle because I hadn’t prepared myself for, or been made aware of, what was to come.

So, accept that changes like this can, and probably will, happen so you can deal with them head-on. Always remember that you worked hard to get this promotion, and no one can take that away from you. The early days might be tough, while people get used to you in the new role and while you get used to all of your new responsibilities.

It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes, to be consistently open and honest with your team, and to show that you’re friendly and want the best for them. But don’t let them get away with mediocrity.

The relationships you have with your team are incredibly important, and just because you’re their manager now doesn’t mean that you can’t still be their friend. You just have to accept that the kind of friend you are will probably need to change.


Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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