I broke my co-worker's personal computer.

A few weeks ago my co-worker came to me for help with her computer. She uses her personal computer for work and it is in bad shape. The computer is cracked and is about seven years old. I write my boss and ask him if we could replace it. He said we can't because she already has a desktop which she dose not like to use. Last week she came back to me and said that my co-worker said to install our copy of the new OS on her computer.

Her computer hard drive died when I was installing the OS update. I tried for three hours outside of work to restore her hard drive. I was able to make a back up of her hard drive before it totally died. I lent her one of our computers and she gave it back to me because she didn't like it. I told her that I am done helping her and that she needs to pay for a new hard drive.

Today she ate lunch with us. She started crying when she was talking to my department about how I her computer broke and I didn't even notice. My boss talked with me and I told me that I need talk with her about how I handled myself. I told him I will talk with her and I don't need him to be there.

How should I have behaved?




BLUF: cover the disk cost, apologize to the lady and move on.

What, exactly, are the computer, security and network access policies at your employer? How are change management, incidents and work requests/orders managed in your environment?

My issue, as an IT manager, is that you have made several errors:

  1. you accepted to perform work on a non-standard piece of equipment lacking a support/maintenance contract
  2. you have accepted to deploy a "copy of the new OS" to a machine that is most likely not covered by the licensing agreement your employer has with the supplier
  3. you have accepted to perform those things outside of a sane process (she "said that my co-worker said to install our copy of the new OS on her computer")

In many places, each of those three errors would be professional misconduct and at least cause for a large amount of feedback... up to disciplinary action. 

Now that this is out of the way, on a personal level the responsibility became yours the second you accepted to perform the work... the computer was "working" when brought to you and "broken" when you gave it back. The most effective and ethical action is to pay for the disk out of your pocket, apologize to the user for the trouble caused and clarify the policies/regulations questions with your management (not necessarily in that order).

Don't sweat it too much, it is a very common error in the technical career... we are firm when we should be flexible and we are flexible when we should be firm. Learn your lesson and move on.

Hoping this answers your question,


I think Michael's post sums

I think Michael's post sums it up. Your co-worker should have been more understanding given the age of the computer etc and you got your hands burnt. I don't think it is fair but then life isn't fair and the best way forward might be to do as suggested above. 

Also... No way would our company like us using our personal computer for a massive list of reasons. Heck we have to use a 'special app' on the iPad!