Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Down In Flames

This story problem had me overheating my few precious brain cells. You're in a car, going a constant speed. To your left, there is a 2' dropoff. To your right, there is a fire truck, going the same speed as you. In front of you, there is a galloping horse. You cannot overtake the horse. Behind you, there is another horse, also going the same speed. How do you get out of this situation? (you may need a pencil) Get your drunk ass off the merry go round. Shamelessly ripped off from Bob and Tom this morning =============== Go check out the Shrinking Piggies site, if only for the cool diminshing mascot. Show your support, we shrinkers are chugging along! =============== A discussion th'other day about fired people generated some very interesting tales. Anyone who has been in the workplace any length of time knows of someone who either quit or was sacked. Sometimes it's exceedingly sad, and sometimes it's spectacular. Now, I've been reassigned/ downsized/ upsized/ recruited/ laid off/ fired/ rehired many times in my long and storied career. I've never gone 2 weeks in a row without working since I was 17. Ever. It was a milestone to reach a point where I get two weeks' paid vacation; to date I've never put 'em together in one clump. I like to sprinkle short trips on long weekends throughout the year. But that's beside the point, which I think is this: I don't tend to panic, for there is always work to do. I know how to exit a company somewhat gracefully, because burning bridges is generally bad for one's career path, especially if you have a lot of water to cross. Before I put more metaphors in a blender and hit 'puree,' let me get to the stories. One employer is rich with stories of tumultuous turnover. As an industry leader, it has been growing steadily since the company was founded. You would think in a high-unemployment state like Michigan, one would be able to find high quality, highly qualified people. You'd be wrong, because the good ones are usually taken. We had one guy that came from a lifetime of field construction to work in the office. He used the first 6 months as 'learning curve' time, as he barely knew how to work a computer and keep track of things. He'd come in, prop his feet on his desk, have the office assistant fetch files and coffee, run back and forth making single copies, and make an occasional phone call. Sometimes he'd just stare out the window for hours. When the 6 months were up, he began becoming belligerent, and it seemed he would try to piss off the boss. He'd get into shouting matches, march around trying to create alliances in the cube farm, and go to the president to complain about the VP. The office pool had him being fired a full 3 months before it actually happened. On the way out, he hugged everyone. Even me. It was hella weird, as he and I were cordial coworkers, but not hugbuddies. Ever. Soon after the door clicked shut behind him, I began to realize some of his files were missing. No, wait. All of them. He had deleted his entire network file system. It took 3 days to recover most of the information, and months for his projects to quit swirling around the bowl and settle down. The VP he had locked horns with was a brilliant accountant, great with numbers and analysis, but a bit awkward with people. He was promoted from Controller to VP of Operations after several successful years with the company. One time we were chatting in the common area of the cube farm and I commented that the place ran far better while he was out on vacation, and when would he be leaving again? The gasps from adjacent offices were audible. His face scrolled through various expressions like a slot machine, trying out which reaction to choose. I suddenly realized I may have started my own Doomsday Clock. He laughed insincerely and went back to his corner office, I'm sure to draft my pink slip. In a grand and surprising twist, it turns out he was sacked soon after that (much to my relief). We had a guy in management who was there for years, but one day he simply wasn't. Normally there would be a staff meeting to announce personnel changes and plans to keep projects flowing. Not so this time; there was a vacuum of mysterious silence. The only explanation anyone could get was, 'He did something we couldn't tolerate.' Months later at a project managers conference in Florida, the boss and a buncha guys were at a bar into the wee hours. He had been gulping wine all night, and was decidedly more animated than usual. A few of us sidled up to him and asked, "Whatever happened to old Harry?" He did a spit take, spewing red wine across the bar. As soon as he recovered, he recounted the tale. "One day I was checking on why the mail server was bogging down. I noticed his account had lots of massive files, so I opened one. Let's just say (he said in a loud, conspiratorial drunk-whisper), he was emailing his girlfriend. I saw his wiener." He was mortified, and immediately escorted Harry out the door. Harry's explanation? He was bored. The most spectacular stomping-off-the-job I've ever witnessed came from a guy I replaced as an estimator. He was with the company for years, and frequently complained that his pay was too low. The boss would tell him that he was being paid all the company could afford, and the guy would grudgingly accept the answer and go back to work. One day, he walked by the fax machine and, as was custom at this office, picked up the faxes to deliver them. Right on top was a statement from the company's IRA manager. It listed each employee's salary, including the boss. Now, I have no problem with the boss making lots of money - it's the reward for starting and keeping a successful company. But this poor schmuck found that not only was he at the bottom of the pay heap, but the boss was taking in more than the combined payroll of the entire staff every year. Suddenly, the 'we can't afford to give you a raise' argument seemed, well, a little weak. In his bitter rage, he went to his office and crashed the hard drive on his computer. He then made 50 copies of the document, and distributed it to all the employees, and even faxed it to vendors and customers. He stormed off in a huff, never to be heard from again. When I was running a new network cable in his former/ my new office, I discovered all sorts of treasures. Turns out the boss had his reasons for keeping him at a humble salary; I found dozens of empty liquor bottles in the drop ceiling, as well as virtual stacks of porn on the recovered hard drive. How about you? Any juicy meltdown stories?

No comments: