Are people in IT afraid to say "I don't know"?

thedudeabidesthedudeabides Member Posts: 89 ■■■□□□□□□□
I'm curious about other people's takes on this. From what I've seen, it seems like people are often afraid to ask questions (fear of a RTFM reply?) or admit they don't know something, whether it be terminology or process.

Also, as an extension, do you feel it's sometimes necessary in IT to put on a front that you know what you're doing even when you don't?
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Comments

  • EANxEANx Member Posts: 1,078 ■■■■■■■■□□
    There are a lot of people in IT that are afraid to admit they don't know an answer. I've seen too many people willing to make up answers or answers they "feel" are correct that later turn out wrong. I've never run into anyone who objected to "let me do some research and get back to you". When I've heard of them objecting, it's usually been because they've been burned by previous techs with fragile egos.
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,103 Mod
    yes, some are, some aren't. I've worked with both types. I'm inclined to say there are more fragile egos in IT than the opposite unfortunately, but I think this exists in other fields too not just IT.

    Let's look at the positive side, I've met incredible characters in IT so it balances itself out somehow.
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  • BlucodexBlucodex OSCP, GCIA, GCIH, GMON, CISSP, CEH, CHFI, CCNA CyberOps, Security+ Member Posts: 430 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I say "I don't know" multiple times every day.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,164 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I typically answer "let me do some research on that" because the fact is a lot of end users don't understand how complicated our jobs can be. In my line of work, especially, what you tell someone could sink a case if you aren't careful. In essence you are saying you don't know, but at the same time saving yourself a headache. I've known many an end user who will spread rumors that "so and so isn't good at their job he/she said he didn't know".
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  • Node ManNode Man Member Posts: 668 ■■■□□□□□□□
    i stand on what i've figured out, not what i know. i say i dont know or need to figure it out all the time.

    When interacting with people that dont know me, i love to say "This is still in the discovery phase".
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 899 ■■■■□□□□□□
    There are lots of ways to communicate with someone else. Some are better than others. But, no one calls for help and is looking to be told,"I don't know." call it being afraid, putting spin to it or a better choice of words, but it is better to be communicating that your helping them solve their issue.

    probably why people who work on computers get the knock of having poor communication skills. they only think about fixing the problem. And, not communicating with the person who has the issue. But, then their management counts how many problems they solved in a given time frame and not how well they communicated with the people who called in.
  • Todd BonzalesTodd Bonzales Registered Users Posts: 3 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I'm curious about other people's takes on this. From what I've seen, it seems like people are often afraid to ask questions (fear of a RTFM reply?) or admit they don't know something, whether it be terminology or process.

    Also, as an extension, do you feel it's sometimes necessary in IT to put on a front that you know what you're doing even when you don't?

    First job interview I ever had for an IT job - the interviewer asked what I would say if I didn’t know the answer to a customer’s question. Correct answer is to say “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out and get back to you with a solution (or escalate the case as necessary)”.

    In reply to your second question, don’t ever bulls**t the customer. In most cases the customer will respect you more for your honesty... ��
  • shochanshochan Member Posts: 905 ■■■■■■□□□□
    When I worked for an MSP for over a decade, I have to say that I used that term quite often. The reason being is that every network was setup similar, but configured differently. It's because many different engineers were touching/configuring these devices/OS/etc...So, whenever the question would arise, yeah, I would say, IDK, but with confidence stating I would research a fix for it & usually the client would be fine with this. Now, I have come across a few new clients that would frown upon this & then lose confidence in me & possibly our company. Then they would complain by wanting a different engineer out there or sometimes we would lose the client. I suppose it really depends on how you present the issue to the Client/CIO/CEO/Office Mgr because YES, they want to be "in the know" about everything you are doing/configuring usually. I always had to thoroughly document so it would explain my billable time on a project & justify paying for my time. However, whenever there would be a "learning curve" on a technology that I wasn't really familiar with (believe me there are A LOT of 3rd party software/hardware devices) that would be thrown at me & I would have to "learn it on the fly" w/o any training. I guess that is why I left that MSP company, it was too stressful. CHEERS!


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  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,746 Mod
    I really don't know. icon_wink.gif
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • tedjamestedjames Scruffy-looking nerfherdr Member Posts: 1,111 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I've never been afraid to say I don't know. I usually say, "I don't know, but I'll find out." Then I either find the answer or refer them to someone who does know. In job interviews, I've said, "I don't know, but I would love to learn more about it." They see that as a positive. You look like a self-motivated person who is eager to learn and move ahead in your career.
  • MooseboostMooseboost Senior Member Member Posts: 775 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I think that happens in every field to a certain degree. I have came across my fair share of both sides of that equation. On one side you have people so timid and uncertain of themselves, they think they know absolutely nothing and across the isle you have the ones who would claim to be an expert on a technology that came out twenty minutes ago.

    It seems like I met more of the knowers in engineering. Since I have transition to security I noticed more curiosity in peers. In my field I am far more likely to hear "I have no idea how that thing works.. Lets go break it and find out!".
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  • SpiegelSpiegel Taco Tuesday FLMember Posts: 298 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I usually try to say "I'm not entirely sure but I can definitely find out for you." I work in the hospital so saying you don't know generally tends to instill lack of confidence in my users that need very prompt assistance. A lot of the times the managers will know who my manager and director is and will email him directly making for a very annoying conversation.
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  • mmcabemmcabe Member Posts: 58 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I just say "Let me look into that and I'll get right back to you." In my experience, "I don't know" tends to send a panicked user into even more of a tailspin, especially if data loss is involved.
  • hurricane1091hurricane1091 Member Posts: 918 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I always tell you when I do not know something, especially when it involves stuff outside of my domain. Some people have since judged me negatively for it, which is unfair.
  • PC509PC509 CISSP, CEH, CCNA: Security/CyberOps, Sec+, CHFI, A+, Proj+, Server+, MCITP Win7, Vista, MCP Server 2 Oregon, USMember Posts: 790 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I always use the "Let me look into it and get back to you" as well. It's better than I don't know. But, I guess it depends on the audience. Other IT folks? Sure, I don't know. But, I'm going to find out.

    Of course, there are some people that want that assurance from the IT guy. They don't like the "I don't know" or "Let me look into it". They want an answer to reassure them that not only are things getting better, but their IT staff knows what they are doing. So, I've definitely used some BS on those people. Yes, we are currently looking into our upstream provider to fix a routing issue that is causing our network to degrade. As long as they aren't the ones getting the post-mortem report, then we're good.
  • hurricane1091hurricane1091 Member Posts: 918 ■■■■□□□□□□
    My communication is basically 100% with other IT people. If someone asks me about our container platform, I seriously don't know. I have a vague idea. I have made an effort to work it like "to my understanding" and the like though. YMMV
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    I can not stand people that won't say they don't know something. Especially when interviewing. Nothing worse than listening to someone spew some obvious BS.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • PC509PC509 CISSP, CEH, CCNA: Security/CyberOps, Sec+, CHFI, A+, Proj+, Server+, MCITP Win7, Vista, MCP Server 2 Oregon, USMember Posts: 790 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I can not stand people that won't say they don't know something. Especially when interviewing. Nothing worse than listening to someone spew some obvious BS.

    At an interview? If I don't know, I'll say it. But, I sure would like the opportunity to learn it! That's a huge part of why I love what I do and where I work. I don't know a lot of things. But, my employer gives me the tools, training to learn it and then gets me hands on time with it.

    When I was doing some interviews along with my boss (it's really different sitting on the other side of the table giving the interview!), we had some BSers. We had some people that would be willing to go to training if it was required for the job. We hired the guy with little IT experience, but had the passion and desire to learn more. He's just an amazing employee, too. If he doesn't know, he'll say it. Then, he'll be in every meeting, training, look over your shoulder. He really WANTS to know this stuff and grow.

    I don't know, but I want to learn is 1000000x better than BSing or not caring at all.

    If you're in IT and haven't said "I don't know" in some form, you're lying to yourself. Half the fun is not knowing and learning something new.
  • DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead CSM, ITIL x3, Teradata Assc, MS SQL Server, Project +, Server +, A+, N+, MS Project, CAPM, RMP Member Posts: 2,502 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Insecure ones do.

    Me personally early on I did, but after 1 - 2 years in the business I realized who cares. Learn and move on, hope to retain.
  • tedjamestedjames Scruffy-looking nerfherdr Member Posts: 1,111 ■■■■■■■■□□
    People that have interviewed with us in the past have asked for advice. I've always told them not to try to guess the answer if they don't really know because the boss will be able to see that.
  • SquishedSquished Member Posts: 191 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Always "I have to look into it" or "Haven't seen that come up, let me research it"
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  • DojiscalperDojiscalper Member Posts: 266 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I was told very early in my career to never say "I don't know", this was a customer facing field service position. It really does cause problems for the customer when you say those words and maintaining the image of confidence and learning how to get out of those situations where you truly don't know is paramount to keeping that type of job. You can most times get around it and get help or research the problem.
  • Info_Sec_WannabeInfo_Sec_Wannabe Senior Member Member Posts: 396 ■■■□□□□□□□
    When I'm dealing with clients, I tell them that "I don't have the answer right now, but let me check and get back to you on that" not because I'm afraid of admitting that I don't know stuff, but rather, I want to learn and be of help to clients to the extent that I can. When I'm dealing with my manager and colleagues, I tell them outright that I don't know as I'm not really comfortable talking ****.

    However, I do know of a colleague at work who won't admit that she does not know a particular thing and spews nonsense non-stop just to divert or avoid the question. icon_evil.gif
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  • cbolarcbolar Member Posts: 34 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I tend to say I don't know but let me research and find out. Working in infosec you'll never know everything though.
  • TechGromitTechGromit A+, N+, GSEC, GCIH, GREM, Ontario, NY Member Posts: 1,980 ■■■■■■■■□□
    the_Grinch wrote: »
    I typically answer "let me do some research on that" because the fact is a lot of end users don't understand how complicated our jobs can be.

    Depends on who the audience is, if it's another IT professional, I'm not afraid to tell them I don't know that answer to that. If it's a User, I'll say I have to look into that and get back to them. It's usually not good form to tell a user, "I don't know". They are coming to you for answers, telling them, "I don't know" is like saying your bothering me, go away.
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  • NetworkNewbNetworkNewb Member Posts: 3,294 ■■■■■■■■■□
    TechGromit wrote: »
    is like saying your bothering me, go away.

    Mission accomplished
  • asoftasoft Member Posts: 74 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I'm curious about other people's takes on this. From what I've seen, it seems like people are often afraid to ask questions (fear of a RTFM reply?) or admit they don't know something, whether it be terminology or process.

    Also, as an extension, do you feel it's sometimes necessary in IT to put on a front that you know what you're doing even when you don't?

    I think, it's true not only with IT but with almost every technical domain such as medicine. It is more prevalent with freshly graduated (or graduating) students. Usually, experienced people do ask questions and also admit if there is something that they don't know. It's matter of time!
  • mgeoffriaumgeoffriau Member Posts: 162 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I'm fortunate to work for a company/department that has a strong culture in place. Admitting you don't know something, or asking for guidance is never discouraged. Hiding your ignorance and pretending to know more than you do, will get you in trouble quick. Fantastic place to learn and grow if you're humble and hungry.
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  • Basic85Basic85 Senior Member Member Posts: 176 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I fear that, what I usually say is "I'll look into that" or something along those lines. What I also fear is if I mess something up than I would look like an idiot. It would make me wonder if I'm in the wrong field.
  • Snow.brosSnow.bros Member Posts: 832 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I have also worked for an MSP and on our customer service training they always advice us to maintain a positive approach to problem solving and to be honest at the same time so my response on something I don't know would be, I will need to look into this for you and get back to you with a answer/solution or if I know there is someone on the team who I know can answer/resolve to something I would ask them to hold and check with that that certain team member and refer the customer to that team member.
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