back to article Sysadmin's £100,000 revenge after sudden sacking

Here we are again on a bright British Friday morning, which means it's time for On-Call, in which readers recollect their ramblings into the real world to fix things up. This week, reader "James" has shared a story “from my days as a Sysadmin, at the dawn of the broadband area, when I worked for a very well known company …

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  1. Grikath Silver badge

    a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

    in which Edition? :P

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

      Regardless of the edition.

      I bet it is the same fantazy wargaming company which tries to explain that people (the permies) there work not for the money and because it is kewl. They also run 1 day long team pseudo-interviews on all candidates to ensure that any marks are gullible enough to be locked into the Ponzi scheme.

      My discussion with them ended the moment it became clear that I am neither gullible, nor willing to take a 50% pay cut. They are located in the local swamp near the sewerage works. Traditional place for fantasy characters (in most fantasy games I have played the liches and other unded scum).

      1. Wilseus
        Headmaster

        Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

        "near the sewerage works"

        Ah so NOT a UK company then? ;)

    2. Mog_X

      Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

      No wonder their figures and kits are so expensive in the last few years - they are still trying to recoup their losses.....

    3. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

      Having been involved in the "Space Marine" incident of a few years ago (I was one of the bloggers that helped break the story and show that said "gaming company" didn't have a leg to stand on) I have zero sympathy for them. Heck, the Space Marine incident meant they even got slated by ex-employees, didn't help that one of the old White Dwarf artists happened to be friends with the author of "Spots..."

      1. Super Fast Jellyfish

        Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

        Alien8n - Space Marine incident? Got a link to share?

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

          Company claimed "Space Marine" was it's IP.

          World points out that the term and idea existed long before said company.

          1. moiety

            Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

            Here's a space marine link.

            <arse covering>NB: May be completely unrelated to the "large phone bill" story</arse covering>

            1. Alien8n Silver badge

              Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

              Yup, that was the one :)

            2. Super Fast Jellyfish

              Re: Space Marine Link

              Thanks Moiety and co, have an upvote!

      2. ps2os2

        Re: a very well known company supplying fantasy wargaming products

        Can't help but to remember recently several items on Disney hiring foreign workers to replace local help at a cheaper rate then getting rid of local workers (after having to train them). Talk about chutzpah.

  2. Mage Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    So when he put the phone down?

    schadenfreude?

  3. Martin Milan

    James is a dick...

    Yes, it would be satisfying to leave knowing what was coming, and yes, technically this is the fault of management for not handling the exit process very well - had the same thing happen to me earlier in the year...

    But here's the thing - I would have called / emailed them and said "You need to be aware of this...". True, my plans for revenge would be scuppered, but my former colleagues whom I presumably would have cared about would be able to continue to eat.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: James is a dick...

      He was fired... he had no obligation to tell them AT ALL...

      And since his IT director was being a bag of dicks himself and all...

      Yeah, I would have done exactly the same, not my problem...

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: James is a dick...

        I rather expect that the sudden redundancy was the result of the IT Director taking credit for the solution.

      2. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: James is a dick...

        The phrase that, I think, best describes that situation, is "Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy." Or to translate that, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

        They kicked him out of the circus before he could wrangle the monkeys. As a result, they wound up covered in flaming poo.

    2. Harry Kiri
      Flame

      Re: James is a dick...

      Nope.

      Once a company kicks you out, you have no ongoing responsibility to function or plan for them. If a company kicks you out then its up to them to replace your skills or accept they don't need them.

      And presumably he had better phone calls to make to ensure he could 'continue to eat'. I suspect they wouldnt pay him for any information he had.

      1. Natalie Gritpants

        Re: James is a dick...

        Further to this - the second they stop employing you they become the competition, you will work for someone else (probably in the same market segment) and the last thing you should do is reduce your new employers chances of success by helping the ones that fired you.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: James is a dick...

        If a company kicks you out then its up to them to replace your skills or accept they don't need them

        Unless they request verbally or in writing some form of transition support and agree reasonable terms which will not be shot down in court on a non-compete or contract law. These idiots (and I think I know which ones too), did not agree them. Well, tough.

      3. Triggerfish

        Re: James is a dick...

        No he wasn't he solved a problem for them and then they made him redundant not even notice to find time to sort himself out with a new job. If the IT director had phoned me I wold have said "yes I do know", and then told him naff all else unless he paid me or possibly just hung up at that point with a little chuckle.

        1. peter 45

          Re: James is a dick...

          Too right. I had a similar situation where I had written programmes to automate a large part of my job (the job was not a programmer), but because I had now made it easier, the boss reasoned that anyone could do it and replaced me. I was professional enough to document all of the automation and to try to each my replacement as much as i could in the week handover period, but i could tell that nothing was going in.

          Several months later i got a phone call from the boss. The computer had crashed and trashed my programmes. I explained there were automated backups and that the documentation explained how to reinstate. He said that the new person did not have the expertise to do that and wanted me to come in and do it myself.....and that i should do it for free. I told him that my contracting fee was £10,000, paid in advance and was waiting for his cheque.

          I later found out he had to hire two more people just to do the job that I was expected to do on my own.

          1. Felix Krull
            Devil

            Re: James is a dick...

            @Peter 45

            The exact same thing happened to me.

            About 15 years ago, while studying, I was employed as a coolie in a small municipal institution. My job was to answer phones, type out minutes, write letters, make photocopies, that sort of stuff. Since I had very little actual work to do, I installed a network, built them a home page, designed a client database and wrote an application that presented calendars, address books and database access in a neat, personalized manner. I installed all new hardware, cured their PCs of their inevitable ailments and fixed the printer three times a week.

            It was all strictly amateur league, mostly patched together by blind trial-and-error, but it worked as long as I was there to mollycoddle it. I might not have known what the hell "TCP/IP-addresses" were, but I knew which values they were supposed to be and which parts of the operating system to poke, if the little critters got above themselves.

            Then my coolie colleague got fired for being useless (which he was) and after a couple of months of me having trained his replacement, the boss decided the coolie office was overstaffed (which it was) and fired me. I tried to explain to the one guy in the office who wasn't a useless social studies-type how the whole bag of snakes worked, but I hadn't documented anything and he didn't take notes, so after a few weeks I had my former boss on the phone: their internet connection didn't work.

            So being such a nice guy, I fixed that for two bottles of - admittedly excellent - wine, even if I found it a bit galling. Next time he called I didn't bother to call back.

      4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: James is a dick...

        Yeah, I had one job where a couple of months after I was sacked, the owner called me and wanted some technical advice. I gave him some vague, useless and sufficiently BS answers (hey, I could be a politician or IT salesperson <g>), I proceeded to send him a bill for 2-hours colsulting time (was a 5-10 minute phone call). Needless to say, he never bothered me again.

      5. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Harry Kiri Re: James is a dick...

        "Once a company kicks you out, you have no ongoing responsibility to function or plan for them....." Er - yes and no. You need to make sure you take a very careful look at both your contract and the company's legal history. The contract may include phrases making you responsible for notifying management of all potential technical issues that could cause monetary losses. The company's legal history could reveal a vindictive streak where legal means have been used to get back at employees whether they deserved it or not.

        A colleague who worked as an IT manager got nailed by the contract clause he missed - he gave advice on an equipment purchase and then left the company, only for the purchase to go bad through no real fault of his own (IMHO, the CTO took up the project and trashed it, then looked for a scapegoat). But the company sued to recover costs and settled after two years of hounding my colleague (including ringing up his new employer "for a chat"). Another friend in sales got hounded for years by a particularly megalomaniac ex-boss, who used his company's legal system as a means of hitting out at the many ex-employees that quit rather than work for him. In my friend's case there was no real legal case to answer, but that didn't stop the legal abuse, withholding of wages and commission owed (which he needed to pay his mortgage), and having to explain to his next employer why he was having to take time off to deal with a court appearance!

        My advice would be to at least to offer to document EVERYTHING before you leave a role, in excruciating detail. Depending on your employer, you may bury the information (unintentionally, of course) in tiny text as a footnote on page 30 of your document, that you have left a potential time-bomb in the works, but at least you can't then be accused of having been either negligent, professionally incompetent, nor of having not warned them....

        /mine is the coat with the very slippery shoulders!

      6. TelePom

        Re: James is a dick...

        In fact, if they make him redundant, the CAN'T replace his skills. By doing that, they'd be accepting his skills weren't redundant. There's a time limit I believe. Making somebody redundant is not meant be a way to get rid of somebody without due process, so there are strict rules about how and when it can be done. If they made him redundant, then they don't need his knowledge or skills, so he's under no moral duty to offer his knowledge or skills.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: James is not a dick...

          Telepom,

          You are absolutely right! Redundancy is a very specific thing. By making him redundant they are legally saying they don't need him because they no longer need what he does.

          What's great here is it turned out they did.

      7. ps2os2

        Re: James is a dick...

        This is why you are nice to people even though you are going to fire them.

      8. ps2os2

        Re: James is a dick...

        There was one company here in the US that thought differently and tried to get its workers to sign on the dotted line. After an up roar the company backed down. They thought otherwise.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Martin Milan

      Here's my live reaction to your comment:

      Nope.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: James is a dick...

      I would agree with the ongoing responsibility thing IF HE HAD LEFT VOLUNTARILY.

      He was made redundant - that means that the management said "we do not need you, your skills, your experience or your knowledge". So he had absolutely no responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

      I also disagree with the headline thought - this was not a "revenge" thing - again that implies some planning on the part of James.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: James is a dick...

        This is not revenge - it's just watching the boss shoot himself in the foot and having a good laugh at it.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          MORE DETAILS NEEDED

          I think we need more details of exaclty how it went down to establish if "james is a dick"

          It dosent even say why he was sacked / redundanted

        2. Fatman Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: James is a dick...

          <quote>This is not revenge - it's just watching the boss shoot himself in the foot nuts and having a good laugh at it.</quote>

          FTFY!!!!

    5. a cynic writes...

      Re: James is a dick...

      Given the company in question has shops in most large UK towns and had a turnover of £123M (~$185M) last year I think 'continuing to eat' wasn't an issue.

      Unless there's another well known Nottingham based games company...

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: James is a dick...

        It's the biggest (IIRC) company selling little pieces of metal/plastic/resin. It's generally hated by everyone else in the industry, and is very good at lawyering people into submission.

        Considering how derivative it's main product lines are, they are insanely protective about copyight infringement. Because none of their fluff is at all borrowed/stolen at all.

        They are pretty shitty to their staff too, last I checked.

        1. Esme

          Re: James is a dick...

          and ISTR way back in the mists of time they turned a once entertaining magazine into dross. I never forgave them for that.

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: James is a dick...

          > They are pretty shitty to their staff too, last I checked.

          So the first thing you do when you get home or before setting off home is to check that you have been paid properly and not stiffed over anything. After that you can settle in the murk and decide whether you are playing Ultimate Fantasy or not.

      2. sisk Silver badge

        Re: James is a dick...

        Given the company in question has shops in most large UK towns and had a turnover of £123M (~$185M) last year I think 'continuing to eat' wasn't an issue.

        Now that might be the case. Back at the dawn of broadband their stuff wasn't quite so horrendously overpriced. Though all things considered I don't think the company in question has ever been in danger of going under.

        1. Jared Earle
          Pint

          Re: James is a dick...

          Now that might be the case. Back at the dawn of broadband their stuff wasn't quite so horrendously overpriced. Though all things considered I don't think the company in question has ever been in danger of going under.

          Given that at that time, my employer (some Merkin bunch who made card games and who just bought the company that made the most famous RPG in the world), was eating their lunch, I suspect you're right; they weren't really in a position to lose that amount of money.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        @ a cynic writes... Re: James is a dick...

        I think 'continuing to eat' wasn't an issue.

        It's not the company that's wondering whether it's got enough to eat next month

        (and if you're a prudent contractor, neither do you)

    6. SolidSquid

      Re: James is a dick...

      Obviously can't know for sure, but if I were in his situation I'd have assumed my line manager was aware of what was going on with this and was going to be dealing with it. The fact his line manager was made redundant immediately after him (which he might not have been aware of at the time, and I would have to assume *also* without handover meetings) would probably explain why they weren't aware of it and he didn't think he had to contact them about it

    7. rhydian

      Re: James is a dick...

      James owes this bunch of feckwits nothing.

      First off, if the ISDN contract was for £50k a month then someone senior should have known about it. By making both James and his Manager redundant in such an abrupt/backhanded way this knowledge was lost.

      Secondly, having been marched out of the building in such a way, I would also not be in the most co-operative of moods.

      Thirdly, it sounds like the company had their own "cost management" plan in place. Wait until James and the team get the new system up and running, then bin them off to reduce headcount/save money. To see it backfire so amazingly must have been satisfying.

    8. Arctic fox
      WTF?

      Re: "James is a dick..." What part of the way he was treated in being............

      .........summarily dismissed in such a cavalier fashion leading to him having no reason at all to show that company any residual loyalty did you fail to understand? See icon.

    9. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: James is a dick...

      Personally, I couldn't approve of deliberate sabotage but:

      It sounds like it's just not something that occurred.

      Someone else would presumably have to take over his day-to-day responsibilities, someone else would be watching what was going in/out the IT budget, he wouldn't be the ONLY person to know about the existence of such a line - hell, accounting should have queried it a LOT earlier!

      As such, it's a reasonable expectation that someone (maybe even the IT Manager that "left" soon after) was responsible for it and clearing up loose ends. And for that I wouldn't be able to fault them.

      Deliberately not telling them when you're AWARE it's going to go unnoticed until it hits the hundreds of thousands is being just as dick-ish as DELIBERATELY making that happen.

      But I can quite envision that this was unintentional and all those people who walked or were made to walk had responsibilities that were just ignored for the sake of cost-saving, and the accounts department were so unaware of what was happening that they didn't question anything at all. Their incompetence couldn't be his fault. But his deliberate ignorance of a potentially large problem would be. Even if it's slightly more blameless than, say, deliberately running up a huge bill before he left.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: James is a dick...

        Even if he hadn't left voluntarily the important thing was they marched him off the premises not giving him an exit interview or allowing him to talk to colleagues. So he literally had no more company time to hand over, and expecting someone who you've just thrown under a bus to have anything going through their mind beyond "How am I going to pay my rent next month" is the kind of person that fires a sysadmin without a debrief.

        1. ShadowDragon8685

          Re: James is a dick...

          It sounds like they called him into a room, had some security goons sack his desk (in the manner of Vikings sacking a village,) and throw anything they thought was personal shit (hope he didn't have any personal Warhammer figurines at his desk that they might mistake as company property!) into a box, handed him his marching orders, then frogmarched him to the door.

          So, yeah. My thought would have been "Well, fuck those guys." Certainly wouldn't have been "I'd better call that guy who just fired me and tell him how hosed he is if he doesn't get appraised of the ISDN situation."

      2. rhydian

        @Lee D

        "he wouldn't be the ONLY person to know about the existence of such a line - hell, accounting should have queried it a LOT earlier!"

        Indeed, considering you're talking about a 50k a month spend accounting should really have been on it, but that isn't James' problem.

        "Deliberately not telling them when you're AWARE it's going to go unnoticed until it hits the hundreds of thousands is being just as dick-ish as DELIBERATELY making that happen."

        Deliberately not telling James that he's up for redundancy as soon as the project's done is also rather dick-ish. If the firm wanted a proper, mature and open debrief then they didn't exactly go about it the right way.

        If I were in the same situation I'd keep quiet as well. If, on the other hand the handover was more mature and, quite frankly, pleasant, then I'd not hesitate in mentioning it.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: James is a dick...

        This seems a non-story to me.

        I agree with you: someone would have stepped in in his duties.

        What happened after he left the company has absolutely nothing to do with the fact he was fired, with or without notice, alone or not, and most of all nothing to do with HOW he left the company, and is certainly not a "revenge" nor even a reason of celebration or satisfaction for James, unless he's a petty-minded person. In other words, had he stayed, he'd have avoided that company this mistake, but that would not have been his merit: instead just merely his duty.

        This was simply the mistake of some incompetent person, most likely in accounts. The fact it happened to a company who happened to have fired him without notice, is just a coincidence.

        The implication somewhere in the article that he should somehow have told them, is nonsense: after being fired, he could quite simply, literally have forgotten about it, with looking for a new job etc: I mean he had no obligation to tell them.

        The only issue is whether he _knew_ that nobody else would have done anything about it without him, in which case he has potentially morally done a disservice to his ex-colleagues. But we don't know: perhaps all those who'd be affected were only the same who kicked him out.

        The whole thing doesn't really entirely add up, though, somewhere this story is "adjusted".

        IMHO.

        1. Crumble

          Re: James is a dick...

          In my days as a consultant, I was regularly warned about giving advice without a contract in place. I was told that if any advice was to be acted on and went sour, there was no limited liability. Even though I've never seen this happen I was always very careful after that.

          In James's place I might have been in touch offering to come and spend a few hours handover of work in progress subject to a suitable (large) fee. No obligation though. And management should already have been aware of the forward schedule for any significant actions required, so I'd expect them to refuse my offer anyway.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: James is a dick...

            In James's place I might have been in touch offering to come and spend a few hours handover of work in progress subject to a suitable (large) fee. No obligation though. And management should already have been aware of the forward schedule for any significant actions required, so I'd expect them to refuse my offer anyway.

            That is probably the best way forward. By setting a stupidly large fee you ensure you won't hear of them unless it's really a panic, yet you have defrayed the risk of them taking you to court for sabotage or whatever else they cook up to cover up the fact they did not ask for handover information.

            There's a slight segway here which I noticed others have seen as well: someone must have approved this as it involves costs and contracts. In other words, it is IMHO impossible to claim they didn't see this one coming (James cannot be expected to manage the company for them).

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