Five Ways to Avoid Service Desk Emotional Leakage

First of all, what is emotional leakage?  See if some of the following scenarios sound familiar to you.

Sally Worker: “If this phone rings one more time, I’m going to throw it out the window.”

John Worker: “Can you believe that customer wanted me to make their printer issue urgent? We have 50 other printers in the building and instead of letting me connect her to another printer for those urgently needed print outs, she wants that printer fixed immediately! I told her that was not going to happen! If she doesn’t want to connect to another printer, she can just wait!”

Katie Worker: “You want to use FaceTime for your recurring Friday staff meeting with the other office? And, you want us to increase the bandwidth because your connection keeps dropping? No, we will not increase the bandwidth of that room. If you don’t want to use our very nice, very expensive video conferencing system for your weekly meeting, then you’re just out of luck. Clearly FaceTime doesn’t work for you as you say it does, or you wouldn’t be calling for help right now.”

Okay guilty. Sally Worker is really me. I’ve felt that kind of response before, had those kinds of thoughts before…but let’s be completely honest – if you work for a Help Desk or in any other service industry and haven’t at least thought about throwing the phone out the window once or twice, you might be super-human. Sally, Katie and John are all experiencing emotional leakage. It goes without saying that all of these scenarios should be handled differently than the negative examples given above. You don’t want to be called the No Help Desk, right??

Here are some tips to not let emotional leakage get the best of you:

  • Take a break and re-charge: ever feel like you don’t even have time to take a break because you have way too much to do? Breaks are essential in preventing emotional leakage. Even if you think you don’t have time, make time. The world will not come crashing down if you take 10 or 15 minutes away from your desk. Go get some fresh air. Take a short walk. Chat with co-workers at the water cooler. Clearing your head will allow you to come back with a fresh mind, make you feel better and be more productive. Your customers will be happier, and so will you.
  • Be empathetic – put yourself in their shoes: okay, so everyone is always talking about being empathetic, but it is often the thing that people forget to do. Maybe nobody has shown Katie’s customer how to use the fancy video conferencing system. Just because it’s easy for you to use, it may be terrifying to Katie’s customer. Find out why she really wants to use FaceTime. Maybe she has a reason or maybe she just feels a little silly asking for help, so offer up some training and get her up to speed.
  • Set aside time to catch up: work can be overwhelming when you have 80 service tickets in your queue and 30 of them need to be resolved right now. The calls just keep coming in, and you don’t have time to catch up. Set aside an hour or two regularly to catch up. Rotate that time through your team so that every team member gets a chance to get caught up. Not feeling behind all the time works wonders on your attitude.
  • Figure out what helps you de-stress, then do it regularly: for me, it’s the gym. A good workout 3 times a week does wonders in helping keep a low stress level. If I don’t go, I get grumpy. Read a good book, drink a glass of wine with dinner, do yoga, take a walk every evening; find what it is that works to reduce your stress level, and don’t forget to do it.  Attend a Smoky Mountain HDI event where you can share experiences with people in your industry – it helps to know you’re not alone with frustrations that are specific to the Service Desk Industry.
  • Don’t be so serious – laugh with your co-workers:  you spend around 40 hours a week with them. Keep things light, have fun, and definitely don’t point fingers. Lift each other up, help each other out, and don’t ever forget to laugh with your co-workers. My co-workers often laugh about the term emotional leakage. You have to admit, it is a pretty funny term. This keeps emotional leakage at the forefront of our thoughts, and helps us remember not to do it. However we are not perfect. If one of us has emotional leakage, as a strong professional team, we are quick to recognize this and take steps to defuse the stressful moment.


Amanda Slattery is on the Communications Committee for the Smoky Mountain HDI chapter.  Find Amanda on LinkedIn here:


Smoky Mountain HDI Chapter is a group of IT Service and Support Professionals living in the Great Smoky Mountains connecting to share ideas, grow technical skills, boost careers, and create a wide array of technical resources and connections while helping one another succeed.

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