Shame of computer illiteracy - help/advice needed

My boss is suffering (and making us suffer to) from his lack of computer understanding.

He is 49, he came to computers during his career rather than at college/school, so didn’t grow up with them like many of us do now.

I know he is capable of learning because in past jobs he has been a “super user” (like admin but not quite that high) on quite sophisticated and complicated newsroom software.

The thing is, those computers were basically terminals, it was in the days before email, and since then he is struggling. He doesn’t understand the concept of an OS vs an application/program. He doesn’t get the difference between webmail, Hotmail, and an email program like Outlook Express. The IT guy at work is desperately trying to wean him off Hotmail because the inbox is so small messages keep bouncing, but he just won’t budge.

When ever I broach the subject of maybe taking lessons, getting help, whatever, he gets hugely irritated, angry, defensive (I’ve tried every approach). He refuses to admit he has a problem, even though it is clearly affecting his productivity and mine. Getting up from my desk every five minutes to help him open an attachment isn’t fun.

I know that illiterate people (in terms of reading and writing) are very defensive and often secretive about their knowledge gap. I think he is suffering from the same shame and self-denial. It’s a vicious circle also of always being too busy to address the problem, because his lack of skill is making him take ten times as long over things, miss important emails from clients, fail to open attachments, etc etc.

We are a very small company and don’t have secretaries or secretarial support, people do their own correspondence.

Anyone have any advice or help for what I can do for him?

Yeah - Gaudere’s Law for the typo in the top line - should be “too” not “to” - of course the post had to be about literacy didn’t it?!

I’m dealing with a client like that right now. She doesn’t get computers and will not listen to what I’m trying to teach her on their basic use.

So what I ended up doing is making a very simple help sheet she can follow to achive tasks. Like:

  1. Log in

  2. click on such-n-such and click the tab marked such-n-such

  3. etc-etc

After that when ever she asked me how to do something I just tell her to follow the sheet I gave her. After a few times she quit asking. I don’t know if she started asking someone else or just found herself completely lost but I don’t care. I’ve not been hired to train her in the use of e-mail.

You might want to take this approach if you find yourself showing him the same things over and over. Write it down for him and when he bugs you to show him just refer him to the cheat sheet.

Thanks for that advice I will try that and see how it goes. Complicating his problems is the fact that he’s mobile - we all are - but the internet access in terms of smtp is very different at work and at home. At home it has to go through a government telco proxy, at work it’s in a free zone so just goes straight through.

So webmail works at home, but not an email app like outlook. It can download, but not send.

Quick, shift to another e-mail client when you are at it.

you ideally need to get him on a course - i do a lot of work with companies who have similar problems with execs and refuse to go on “basic” training.

The trick is to not market it as a “basic” course, which obviously has negative overtones - convince him to go on an “essential skills” course. You are bound to be able to find a training company that uses that kind of terminology.

Its all about getting him to agree to go on a course without him percieving it as an insult to his intelligence.