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Do I look like the Xerox repair technician?

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Question: “How do I deal with three ‘Field Crew Leaders’ who use the office equipment (e.g., copier, fax, printer) but walk away without adding paper, let the machine jam and run out of toner. They never try and fix the problem or let anyone know that there is a problem. I need to send an e-mail to address the situation. What’s the best approach?” — Becky Jones


When I approach my role as an administrator I always try to approach it from a position of compassion, generosity and kindness. There are tons of people in my area that don't fix or help with the copier; that leave the kitchen a mess; that leave the common work area a mess; that don't clean up conference rooms, etc. My approach to this is to simply do the work myself. I know I'm busy and may not have the time - but what's 3 minutes to load the copier, or 2 minutes to clean the kitchen? The area is a reflection of my care and it really helps me to stay calm and centered.

I tried the "I need your help" approach to this problem. It worked! I asked for staff help in making sure that things were restocked, cleaned up, etc. via an e-mail message. I stored this message and pulled it out from time to time (quarterly seemed to work best). I always made sure I included their respective bosses, because it would not work if I did not have their support. This did not always guarantee that I would never have to do those things, but it did guarantee that I would not have to do them all of the time.

I agree with Alec. Also, posting notices to fill the paper or clean up the coffee mess don't seem to work. I find it's easier and less frustrating for me to just spend the few minutes to take care of it. When I'm finished fixing the copier, usually with someone watching over my shoulder, I ask them to just let me know next time it needs attention. Smile and walk away.

Don't let the small stuff get you down.

Way to go, Alec! Great attitude! And you are right - sometimes, it's just easier to do it than post silly signs such as "Pick up after yourself!", "Please clear your paper jams!", etc. that no one even sees. I've always believed that people who don't normally do those things are not going to be changed by a sign.I doubt an email to offenders will help much either. Unfortunately, today's world is made up of a lot of selfish, inconsiderate people who always look to someone else to do what they don't want to do.

The only alternative to doing it yourself is to do nothing. When someone comes to you to announce that the copier is out of paper, out of toner, jammed, etc., you can either take care of it or suggest that the messenger do it! Some people think only admins (who as every knows, can do anything!) are capable of unjamming a copier. No matter how big or how small, all offices have this problem.

I have assigned these type of duties to our receptionist. If she is not in the office that day I do it myself. It's not worth the headache worrying about it.

Try putting a nice note near the machines and ask everyone to help tidy up and restock the area! That worked for me!

I actually prefer to do it myself! That way I know things are done the way the professional technician taught me to do them and whether I need to order supplies. There's nothing worse than running out of toner in the middle of a deadline job and finding out someone else put the last bottle in some time back and didn't mention it.

these are the same people who do not make coffee when they take the last cup, the same people that have to run the red lights and the same people that have to wait until the last minute to merge. "all about me" rude people. However maddening it is, I just shake my head and realize I can only control my actions, and do it myself and hope that someday they will get a clue.

Depending on your organizational structure, would depend on how I would handle this situation. If it is an office suite or area that has regular staff using the office equipment, I would propose that you coach them on how to do the simple tasks, i.e., add paper, even toner isn't that difficult and fixing paper jams. Your approach to this will determine how successful you are at pointing out a desired behavior and working together as a team. This really becomes beneficial when you are not there to "fix" these problems.

I agree with "Fed up with rude people". These people are not only rude and selfish but they also lack common sense. They think that someone else will fix the copier, wipe out the microwave, clean the refrigerator, make another pot of coffee, etc. For those of us who do these things, we should pat ourselves on the back for having the common sense to know what to do. I posted a sign in our office that says: (It's been said that character is defined by how we behave when we think no one is looking and strengthened when we act as if everyone is looking.) It has actually helped.

WhooHoo Lisa Owens, if I ever create a sign that would be a great one!! It is true those people won't ever change, imagine how they behave at home. It does frustrate me but when I see it I do just take care of it because I am thinking of the next person, and I'm better than that. It feels better to take care of it then to leave it for the next person. Making a sign will not solve the entire problem but it does improve a few and that's better then nothing.

As Office Administrator, I do these "little" things myself. I am support staff. I've had "staff" attempt to clear the copier of jams only to find they've created a bigger more costly problem -- like a broken corona wire (OUCH!) Everyone calls me. By the time I'd spent sending emails and complaining (not to mention creating bad morale) I could've had it done. AND, on top of that, everyone thinks I'm Great for doing it! My performance raises the bar, now other staff are beginning to take care of their own stuff.

I understand that this can get very frustrating, but you shouldn't have to send an email or leave notes by the machines. Chances are, the only reason these folks aren't helping out now is because they don't want little notes probably won't change their attitude about it; so, you have to change your attitude. Remember, you are the only person that you can control.

I understand that this can get very frustrating, but you shouldn't have to send an email or leave notes by the machines. Chances are, the only reason these folks aren't helping out now is because they don't want little notes probably won't change their attitude about it; so, you have to change your attitude. Remember, you are the only person that you can control.

I'm with Alec. As a support person, I support the office and part of that support is making sure that copiers, Fax machines and printers are "ready to go". I check paper trays and paper drawers every few days and restock as necessary. Ditto for toner. I also "fix" the jams, even though the copiers, printers and fax machine are almost idiot-proof. I take a several weeks vacation every year and prior to departure I stock up on paper & toner. I send an e-mail to the office telling them where everything is located and I designate one person to be the "guru". I simply can't be bothered by staff who choose to be helpless. It's their problem, not mine.

When the paper is out, I direct the complainant as to where they can find paper. When I am told the copier is jammed, I ask questions and direct the complainant about each step you go through to see where the jam is and correct it. It's the philosophy of "if you give them a fish, they eat for a day, if you teach them to fish, they eat forever." Most people I work with have caught on and appreciate knowing what to do for themselves as I am not always around and they don't like waiting around.

Becky, put a sign by the office equipment asking people to call you if the machine jams or needs servicing because as stated above, untrained individuals can sometimes do more harm than good when trying to troubleshoot equipment failures. As far as supplies are concerned, I've found that it helps to refill the copiers and check paper supplies at the beginning of each day. I always make sure I have at least one spare toner cartridge for each piece of equipment on hand and check those supplies on a weekly basis. Sending your co-workers an e-mail may help for a short time, but I'm guessing they will soon return to their old ways.

I've found that sticking a note on the toner box "please let XXX know when you use this toner" helps a lot. That way you know when you need to order another.
Personally, I have no issues with people leaving the copier nonfunctional. I am fortunate to work with a great bunch of people that will refill the paper as needed. Some will also replace the toner or work out a jam, but that usually falls to me. I don't find it a big deal, and, let's face it, some people are just more mechanically inclined than others.
If you still want to send an email out, I'd suggest just asking everyone to contact you (or a designated person) if the copier stops working for any reason. I'm not sure how you could word asking people to fix their own jams, replace toner, etc., without sounding like you're scolding.

When someone comes to me telling me that the copioer is out of toner, etc. I tell them that I would be glad to fix it but I also ask them to accompany me so I can show them how to do it. My explanation to them is that if something happens while I am not around or if they are working late or on weekends and need to get a project done they will be able to fix the problem themselves. I have had only positive reaction to this and several times people have approached me on a Monday and told me how glad they were that I showed them how to take care of the copier because they were able to get their project done.

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