Did she at least get to say, ‘I told you so’?

Some people just hate being proved wrong.

A local beer distributor is notorious for not exactly being a Best Place to Work in IT, so pilot fish is grateful he has never worked there, but he knows quite a few people who have. One of his friends — we’ll call her Betty — is charged with keeping the company’s tablet computers up and running. The actual job she was hired for? Salaried accountant — no overtime pay.

The tablets are used for a variety of mission-critical tasks, like inventory control and planning the daily routes for the delivery trucks. They’re old, and frequently mistreated by the warehouse workers who use them. Hardly a day goes by without at least one coming in for repair. That keeps Betty pretty busy, and she already has a full workload of accounting tasks. 

Betty’s mistake was letting her boss know she’s good with computer hardware. Now keeping the antique tablets up and running falls under the “and other duties as assigned” clause of her employment contract. 

Every purchasing cycle, four times per year, she asks the company to buy modern tablets, as well as protective cases for them. Every purchasing cycle, management says, “That would be a waste of money. The current tablets are working just fine.” Every purchasing cycle, Betty presents management with a spreadsheet showing how many hours per week she spends keeping their mission-critical tablets “working just fine.” It averages out to a bit over 17 hours per week. 

None of this makes Betty very happy, but the last straw is a poor performance review from her supervisor. He has no problem with her accounting work, but he marks her down because she seems to always be working on non-accounting issues when he walks past her desk — that is, repairing tablets. He also mentions that she has a poor work attitude because she “constantly harps on the same dead issues” at the quarterly purchasing meeting. 

Betty doesn’t show up for work the next day. Or the following day. Or the day after that. 

About two weeks later, the big boss is called to the office because work has come to a virtual standstill. No one in the delivery department knows which customers have ordered what stock, no one in the warehouse knows what is in stock or where to find it, and no one is rotating stock on customer shelves to make sure the beer sells before its expiration date.   

In the accounting office, Betty’s desk has a huge pile of tablets on it, waiting to be repaired. 

“Hire a computer company to fix them,” says the big boss. 

“We’ve tried,” reports one of the wage slaves, “but every company we’ve contacted says they’re too old, and we need to replace them.” 

“Then replace them — now!” says the big boss. 

But the saga isn’t over yet. When the new tablets arrive the next day — at great expense due to overnight shipping and the need to buy something without comparison-shopping — the company discovers that no one knows how to load the antique software the company uses. 

So they ask Betty to come back. She does, and amazingly she gets the old software to run on the new tablets. As soon as stock starts flowing to customers again, the company presents her with a letter curtly saying it no longer requires her services, and ordering her to vacate the premises immediately.   

Of course, Betty had already walked out on the company in disgust, so the letter fits the company’s general pattern of worker abuse — and it makes her eligible for unemployment benefits. 

Feed the Shark! Send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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