back to article User rats out IT team for playing games at work, gets them all fired

Welcome again to On-Call, our weekly review of readers' tales of jobs gone awry. This week, a different perspective from “Gordon”, who doesn't work in IT. But one day, about a decade ago, he “had to walk through our IT department to pick up a projector”. “Our IT department consisted of over 75 people at that time,” Gordon …

Anonymous Coward

Yes. He was.

If you're going to mess about gaming at work then at least try and hide it from the civilians...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes. He was.

of course he was. And IT people who "rat out" beancounters who make cuts without understanding implications are also right - except the beancounters tend to control the overall process of "ratting out" waste ...

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Re: Yes. He was.

And at least make sure the backups are done.

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Re: Yes. He was.

Yes, he was absolutely right.

I might be inclined to cut the IT staff some slack *IF* they had everything done to absolute perfection, were massively exceeding expectations and were then spending a few hours doing some "team building" in a properly managed manner in time that would otherwise be spent doing "make work" with the blessing of their management.

But they clearly were fucking around instead of doing their jobs if the backups weren't being done.

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Re: Yes. He was.

Nobody (well... close enough) cares what I do - if I get the job(s) done, that is. If I write and maintain a set of scripts that do the monkey work for me and I'm done early then I can get away with many things. On the other hand: If the scripts bork, I did not check the results, stuff breaks down and I goofed off instead of checking stuff bloody works as it bloody should I will reap the whirlwind - rightly so, should not complain.

Thus: check your work. Double check it. Make sure you really are done and stuff really works as intended. Oh, that's a lot of work you say? Yes. It is. No, then you cannot play WoW or whatever.

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Re: Yes. He was.

Absolutely right.

I working in a call centre doing night shift for a few years some time ago, the lan gaming between team members was definitely a highlight. But we made sure that the queues were cleared and our work was done before we started. The argument our boss had was that the gaming provided an incentive to ensure that all the work was completed promptly instead of being dragged out to the end of a shift.

On the other hand much amusement could be had when someone got a call and was therefore no longer in game to protest what was to happen to them. Pausing only works when noone else can unpause ;)

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Silver badge

Re: Yes. He was.

Yeah we used to game at some places as well, or sometimes get to bugger off early. But only because everything was done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes. He was.

Some years ago, I was working in the computer team for one of the parties in a by-election. In the (late) mornings, there wasn't much to do until the canvassers started returning - at that point, we'd be up inputting the results until gone midnight - so we played PGA Golf.

In comes the party's Chief Exec. He sees us playing and starts going on about having us thrown out of the party... only to discover he was the only one in the room who was actually a member.

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Re: Yes. He was.

While on shift, we used to play Axis and Allies (the original Milton Bradley one), with full battle sets, little plastic planes taking off from little plastic aircraft carries, lots of die to roll to determine battle results, etc. If we didn't set up the board that day, you better believe a good game of Spades or Bid Whist was in action. But our backups were always good, our jobs checked, and everything was dress-right-dress. When it wasn't nobody was even thinking about a game. The shit had to be done.

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Silver badge

Re: Yes. He was.

I fuck off at work as much as the next guy.

But, I also ensure that I also do my frigging job.

You know, earn your pay!

Work when you have to do your damned job.

Would that I had a list of these turdballs, to submit to HR as blacklisted...

And I'm one who loathes blacklisting.

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Silver badge

Re: Yes. He was.

"But they clearly were fucking around instead of doing their jobs if the backups weren't being done."

I have a manager who watches assorted metrics, ranging from logon times to

I got into the doghouse for logging in a tiny bit late. I'm further into the doghouse for another metric, low number of generated tickets.

In that, I'm squarely there, low tickets. I refuse to provide false alarms, to be ignored by other projects. When I send an alarm, it's real.

Upside, while I'm an analyst now, I was previously a BOFH, having taken a five year break to care for an elderly father. He was also a BOFH type, prostituted into management.

As my experience base is far more current, I suspect he worries about what kind of laser my sharks carry.

And my security androids.

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Silver badge

Re: Yes. He was.

"On the other hand: If the scripts bork, I did not check the results, stuff breaks down and I goofed off instead of checking stuff bloody works as it "

Indeed!

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Silver badge

Re: Yes. He was.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8_Kfjo3VjU

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Re: Yes. He was.

I had my laptop and 3g dongle for some light gaming on the night shift. starting shift at 10pm, by 1230, i'd have emails emptied\jobs followed up on, but not many people respond at this time and no other assigned tasks.

So with Queues empty, SLAs met, out comes tha laptop and some nightly mining in Eve. What really annoyed me was coming in on the early shift and seeing a dozen emails left in the inbox. I know how "Hard" i was working on night shift, what was this guy doing.

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“The next payday everyone of them was told to box up their stuff and get out”.

Without 'half' an IT dept, how did the company get by? Did the management try and run it themselves, like the time Mr Burns and Smithers tried to run the power plant? 100% loyal robot workers?

To answer the question, 'no' : Gordon is an oily tick and a tattle tale. He should be tarred and feathered.

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yeah, exactly. This story is made up BS. Would never happen. What about following due process? You can't just fire people like that.

Mind you it does say "C-suite" so perhaps it the good ol' US of A, you can.

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Silver badge

You can't just fire people like that.

You can in the Land of the Free to go and find a new job.

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"Without 'half' an IT dept, how did the company get by? "

Maybe the other half of the department simply carried on as normal with less gaming?

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Silver badge

Without 'half' an IT dept, how did the company get by?

With half of them gaming all day how did the company get by? Why would it make the situation worse when they left? All it did was reduce load on the network.

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Anonymous Coward

>You can't just fire people like that.

>

>Mind you it does say "C-suite" so perhaps it the good ol' US of A, you can.

Yes you can - at least in California. It was a real eye-opened as a UK employee seconded to a project in the US based in offices of a partering company when one day they annouced at 9am that head office had instructed them to reduice headcoutn by 10% and by lunchtime 10% of the staff were gone.

However, it works both ways - it was also instructive to see the way as the project progressed that on a regular basis team members would announce towards the end of a week that they wouldn't be in work on Monday as they'd just got a new job (this was mid .COM bubble and the company where we were didn't have the potential gains from start-up share options that everyone assumed would make the millionaires this time next year deom thei new job)

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Yes, you can

"What about following due process? You can't just fire people like that."

Of course you can, even in the UK, if you use loopholes. Simply make the staff "redundant" and hire replacements with different job titles.

It happened all the time in a company I used to work for...

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Re: You can't just fire people like that.

I once worked fora a US company where many of the permanent staff were on 12 month renewable contracts. It meant that every year the boss had to make a decision to continue your contract, or you were out the door.

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i saw similar, working in the UK arm of a US mid size. Embarking on a huge global project, a us morning team conf call led by the instigator of said project who had been moved into a special position 8 months earlier to have more control of delivering that project, my colleague leans over to me and tells me this guy is out the door. Sure enough by UK after lunch he had gone. No good bye, nothing, just gone. Took another 2 years to deliver that project, especially as we where hindered by decision choices the ousted man had made which intern where made to satisfy the boards desire to save money.

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Meh

Re: You can't just fire people like that.

Depending on the precise terms of their contracts, I can think of a number of grounds for short notice dismissal. "Misuse of company property" being just the warm-up.

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Without 'half' an IT dept, how did the company get by?

Quick answer - at least as well as it got on before.

Long answer - it doesn't say how long it was to the next payday so there may well have been time to set up an outsourcing contract.

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> Maybe the other half of the department simply carried on as normal with less gaming?

Had an early experience of this in the 90s. It's soul destroying when you're trying to do a decent job but your colleagues seem to have markedly different values. Like this anecdote, a little later, without those colleagues, things were a lot better.

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"You can't just fire people like that."

You think not? When working in an only slightly foreign place (Lancashire) one of the salesmen asked me for a report. I had to work out how to get the data, code the query and format it. By the time I'd done that and printed it out I walked over to his desk at the other end of the office with the result. He wasn't there. I asked where he was and was told "he doesn't work here any more".

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TRT
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1/2 the IT department...

WoW is like an idle process for IT techs. That capacity is not immediately needed, but it's there for when you want it. And besides... they were testing the bandwidth. *cough*

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"You can't just fire people like that."

Yes you can. It's called gross misconduct.

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Silver badge

Re: Yes, you can

Of course you can, even in the UK, if you use loopholes.

In this case, you wouldn't need to use 'loopholes', just the standard clauses in a typical UK employment contract and policies (that form part of the contract of employment) such as the use of company IT assets; however, to avoid paying notice etc. you might have to get a little creative... like taking a look through expense claims...

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Re: Yes, you can

It's happening in the company I work for now.

It's not even borderline dubious, it's flat out illegal.

Offer a good payoff and threaten that if you challenge it the company lawyers will screw you over good and proper and you'll end up with a not very friendly fraction of what you'd get for going quietly.

Then 'promote' someone into a slightly differently titled position to do the same job as the poor sap that got ousted at half the price to the company.

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Boffin

Re: You can't just fire people like that.

In most States in the US, employees are what is called "at will", which means you can be let go for no reason with no notice. All they have to do is say that your services are no longer required. If they let you go like that (without a stated cause, so technically you are not fired but are laid off) then you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits. If you quit or are fired for cause, then you are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Smart employers in at will States let problem employees go using the at will method as it makes it harder for them to sue. Of course, if the person applies for a job and that prospective employer checks whether they had worked there, you have to say they were laid off, not fired.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, you can

"Of course you can, even in the UK, if you use loopholes. Simply make the staff "redundant" and hire replacements with different job titles.

It happened all the time in a company I used to work for..."

But the company has the obligation to retrain/move you to other openings.. so if you suddenly have job openings after making someone redundant and that person could have filled them, then you are in the wrong...

I know when I was made redundant, the process took a good 2 months after being given notice, with meetings to discuss options etc.... Was very fortunate timing for me as I was considering leaving anyway...

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Silver badge

Re: Yes, you can

to avoid paying notice etc. you might have to get a little creative... like taking a look through expense claims...

It doesn't necessarily have to be creative. One company I worked for summarily dismissed a salesman without notice. His mistake was not realising the (legal, in another country) brothel had no problem stating clearly what its business was on his company credit card bill.

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@Mr Rampart

I believe there are entities called 'contractors' and 'outsourced services' that could be tee'd up in a trice and be ready to take the ball so truly dropped by this IT team.

Companies work when everyone is justifying their paycheque. If IT are slacking off and not doing what they are PAID to do, putting other jobs at risk, they should be called on it. It is not tattling to say 'oh, hi, neighbour, there's a burglar climbing out of your back window with a bag of swag' so why is it oily to alert the bosses that a team are robbing them and putting them, their business, and all who they employ at risk?

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Silver badge

Re: Yes, you can

It is harder in the UK but many US companies work 'at will' and you can be taken to your desk when you arrive and take your personal stuff home straight away. Few decent companies do that without making sure they pay you off well because they care about their reputation, but you can't take it for granted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, you can

"Of course you can, even in the UK, if you use loopholes. Simply make the staff "redundant" and hire replacements with different job titles."

Nope. If the job has similar responsibilities (i.e. looks & quacks like a duck), or it was reasonably foreseeable that the staff would need to be re-hired, then that's not a "loophole", but a straightforward violation. Of course, it would require the staff to have the wherewithal, time, money, knowledge, and inclination to do something about it, which is generally unlikely.

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Re: You can't just fire people like that.

I live in Canada, and of can fire any staff member at any time for any (or no) reason. The only thing you are required to do by law is to pay severance pay in lieu of notice.

The exceptions for this would be union contracts and such which override the legal minimums because of contract/civil law.

I have run in to this same "you cant fire someone without a good reason" fallacy before, and those who think it REALLY believe it.

But hey... I live in Canada, your mileage may vary.

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You can fire people just like that.

You can't just fire people like that.

You can, even in the UK with all the employment rights, and the ones we've gained from Europe.

It's called gross misconduct, and I would suggest that not running the backups and causing a potential loss of 3 days worth of business would qualify.

If you don't believe me, go and punch your boss and see what happens. That will qualify easily.

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Mind you it does say "C-suite" so perhaps it the good ol' US of A, you can.

Worked with a few Americans, was amazing the amount of extra hours they put in so they didn't end up out the door like that in some states. You'd find them doing 12 hour days and being paid for 8.

Had a few people I have worked with just gone the next day as well, no mention they probably didn't know themselves.

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Silver badge

That's debateable. The playing games during company time would be considered misconduct. For that they'd have to go through the usual warning procedures. The failure to maintain the backups, which is a business critical function, would be considered gross misconduct. The "gross" in gross misconduct infers doing something illegal or something that could be considered a breach of health and safety. Accidentally forgetting to check the backups would be misconduct, deliberately not checking the backups is gross misconduct.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not even borderline dubious, it's flat out illegal.

Sounds like you need to join a union.

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Re: Yes, you can

that is, in fact, what grade school teachers have to undergo EVERY year; *most* know *most* of the time they will be 're-hired', but the fact you have to be 're-hired' every year is a psychological burden...

yet another reason teaching is the respected and valued profession it is in amerika... /s

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FAIL

Re: Yes, you can

Simply make the staff "redundant" and hire replacements with different job titles.

Speaking as someone that's seen redundancy from both sides (having it done to me and having to do it to others), that's complete and utter rubbish. Even in companies without significant (or any) union presence, doing that it a sure-fire way to get a one-way trip to a very expensive industrial tribunal.

Followed by an interesting conversation with your HR/manager (delete as appropriate) following a trip to your desk to pick up your stuff before being escorted offsite after being sacked for gross negligence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, you can

Apparently, they weren't qualified in the first place if they were messing about with WoW and others while letting the processes burn. Not sure about the UK, but Gross Negligence here in the US will get you walking papers every time.

I am betting that at some point, someone did check the work, it worked and it was declared summer vacation forevermore. They didn't count on things changing that may have caused failures, like failed tape media etc. If you're going to slack off, make sure you at least do your basic due diligence first....

Anon because of reasons and mine is the one with the gaming keypad in the pocket....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, you can

You'd know that was BS if you'd ever been made redundant or even been put at risk of, the process you have to follow for redundancy takes a little longer than 'sorry, you've been made redundant' unless the company collapses or is put into liquidation.

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Bronze badge

Re: Yes, you can

Being told to get out and being properly fired are different things.

The story says the staff were told to box up and get out. The actual termination could still be done by whatever proper ruled make it legit.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: You can't just fire people like that.

those so-called "contract " jobs in Amurika can be canceled without any due process on your 1st week of employment.

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Bronze badge

So he was fired because you were slow with his sales data?

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