back to article Bombastic boss gave insane instructions to sensible sysadmin, with client on speakerphone

Hey, hey, it's Friday! Which means weekend frolics aren't far away once you get through this edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe. This week, meet “Craig,” who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that hired a new “team leader”. Craig used italics because …

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Redundant Systems

I had one boss who decided that we needed redundant systems and bought in a new server infrastructure with mirrored servers in two separate server rooms, separated by a physical firewall (a wall to stop real fires from burning down both server rooms).

So far, so good.

However, he was of the opinion that, as we now had mirrored servers, we could do away with the tape backups. The whole IT department said no, this wasn't sensible. But the boss said that it was no longer needed, as we had a hot backup.

No amount of trying to inform him that a hot-standby redundant system is not a backup could get him to change his mind...

Until one day he made some changes to the main database and corrupted it in a catastrophic way. He said, no problem, pull it back from the redundant machine... At which point he learnt the hard way that redundant means that everything that happens on the primary machine also happens on the secondary machine "at the same time", which meant that there was no "backup" of the database, just an equally corrupted database on the secondary server!

Lesson learned, he agreed that making backups was a good idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Redundant Systems

I used to work in the media and ran a radio station where one day we moved to a new playout system (the prog that plays the music, jingles, adverts, etc.). I was then told by my boss that the custom music CD 'library' that I kept in the studio was really now redundant. All the music is held electronically and available via the SAN so "There really is no need". I'd resisted before because of the chances of things going wrong and always liking a backup. However this time I was told it's all new kit so no worries on that score.

Then one night not long after one of the servers holding the music for my station went down. The lovely bloke in IT Support who was fixing it said that rebuilding was possibly going to take "half the night". I was so glad I hadn't ditched the CD's and could still keep everything running using the manual system.

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Re: Redundant Systems

Oh, that one.

How many people confuse synchronising data between computers with backing it up? I've seen that mistake so many times.

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Unhappy

The ones that really annoy me

... are the ones that tell you to stop doing X and to do Y instead, in spite of your measured explanations as to how that would make things worse. Then, at the predictable train crash, demand to know why you didn't do X.

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Re: The ones that really annoy me

I was in a high level meeting where my boss demanded to know why I had not followed standard protocol and done something completely different instead. I responded by sliding a copy of an email from him, over to him and pointed out, in front of his bosses, where he had instructed me to ignore standard protocol and do what he'd told me to do instead.

In fairness, I was used to him stabbing me in the back to look good, so I'd come prepared.

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Re: The ones that really annoy me

After a few of those, I learned to get all requests in writing (email). And I backed up (and still do) all my emails.

Nowadays, everyone knows that I have a ton (or I guess that is called a terabyte) of historic records of what I've done, who asked for it, the outcome, etc.

Everyone also understands that I don't take phone calls to make decisions. Send an email or a recordable machine-processable message. That also cuts down on the oral chatter.

It's also nice being viewed as a grumpy old man in a position of some criticality.

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Anonymous Coward

Reminds me of the time I sat in a meeting with the biggest dickhead in the world from sales discussing data and reports.

I tried to explain what he was asking while not impossible wouldn't work when we put it in excel, I tried many different explanations by wording it in as many ways possible. I even drew him a picture but no he just would not have it.

Then my boss piped in and said "just do it" so I tried to explain it to her but no she was on the sales excitement train of what they thought they could get from this report.

In the end I did it and it was the most useless stupid report in the world though I did have a good laugh when I had to explain the report as it was a case of "why is it like that?", "Because that's what you asked for and I told you this is what you would get". I did try to offer alternative suggestions to get close to what they wanted but when some people get one track minded there's no point.

I left after a month of so.

Idiots like that are 10 a penny in the workplace.

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"Reminds me of the time I sat in a meeting with the biggest dickhead in the world from sales"

Sorry, you couldn't have. He works here.

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He must be moonlighting, as I'm sure he works here too...

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"Sorry, you couldn't have. He works here."

No contradiction; you work where the A/C worked.

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Happy

I tried to explain what he was asking while not impossible wouldn't work

Reminds me of The Expert sketch...

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Anonymous Coward

That Expert sketch is perfection. I nearly argued in a performance review on why I was above average on my timescales. I did not have the heart to tell them that in a company of 300 people there will be those above and below the average... as that is what the figure actually measures. Duh!

No I did not waste time on the job. I still got the same amount of work done as everyone else in a day. I just did not artificially cut off custoners and pass the buck on workload to "massage" the figures. I was the one costing the company an extra 3p in call charges to get the job done that the last 3 of my coleagues did not do because they were scared of becoming above average on timescales.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sandtitz

Thank you, that's brilliant and pretty close to what happened albeit not as funny or ridiculous.

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Idiots like that are 10 a penny in the workplace.

Well, sure if they are paid what they are worth.

But that is almost never the case, is it?

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Happy

Note exactly dangerous, but...

A couple of boss-related incidents spring to mind...

My first job, I was wet-behind-the-ears, fresh out of uni and landed a role at a local firm developing some pretty specialised HR software - a tiny five-man outfit that dropped down to two (me and the boss) and a part-timer over the time I was there. Effectively, I was the development department.

Now this was in the age of dial-up (circa year 2000). And being a one-man development team without an internet connection at home, I used to spend my lunch hours largely online, trying to keep abreast of what was going on in the tech scene - that was until my boss spotted the spike in the phone bill, and gave me a thorough bollocking for raising costs.

Anyway, that all went south when said boss picked a legal fight with a massive publishing company that even I, in my completely non-legal capacity, could see we weren't going to win.

The other incident comes from the role I went onto after that (having been out of work for the best part of a year, thanks to being stuck with niche knowledge). It was the most horrible work-from-home setup, any you were expected to be online and available via skype from 8:00am to 6:00pm. I was living on my own in a flat at this point (thank god for mortgage protection!), so I barely saw a soul most days...

Anyway, one day, I woke up one day feeling like I was about to die. So I fired up skype and called the boss. The conversation went roughly like this:

Me: "Hi, Sorry to say this, but I'm really not feeling too good today, I've got a temperature of (whatever it was) and ache like crazy, so I really don't think I'm up to working much today."

Boss: "If there was a £50 note on the floor in front of you, would you pick it up?"

Me (remember, at this point I was still trying to pick up the pieces from prolonged unemployment): "Yeah, why?"

Boss: "If you're well enough to pick up a £50 note, you're well enough to work."

Needless to say, I jumped out of that one as soon as I could...

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Re: Note exactly dangerous, but...

"Boss: "If you're well enough to pick up a £50 note, you're well enough to work.""

I hear there are jobs involving harassing disabled people going at ATOS for guys with his "skill set".

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Re: Note exactly dangerous, but...

Oh the ATOS lot are much more insidious than that. First PIP review for Mrs Alien went something along the lines of:

"Yes, I can see you have a severe disability that leaves you unable to do anything for most of the week"

Followed by the actual assessment that went to the DWP:

"Person is absolutely fine on a good day so doesn't qualify for any points towards PIP"

Which bit of "unable to even get out of the fucking bed without help from a carer on most days of the week" qualifies someone as physically fit and able to work? In case you're wondering, recently diagnosed with MS, and not the mild variety. Managing to stay employed for about an hour day, with the help of her daughter pushing her to work in a wheelchair as it's a 30 minute walk from home.

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FAIL

Re: Note exactly dangerous, but...

Having seen friends and family go through DLA and then PIP it is obviously designed to force people off benefits regardless of the harm or greater costs accrued elsewhere in the benefit system.

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One side is not enough

I always have difficulties to believe stories from participants told from one unique point of view. Generally stories have many.

Narrators may think being objective (sometimes), but human nature is what it is, prejudices are like anonymous, they are legion...

" and realised the boss had no idea he was on speaker."

Putting someone on speaker without warning is insensitive, politely speaking.

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Re: One side is not enough

Hmm, I disagree. You shouldn't be saying anything to a colleague you wouldn't say to a customer, unless it's company secrets.

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Coat

Re: One side is not enough

You shouldn't be saying anything to a colleague you wouldn't say to a customer

ROTFL! I say many things to colleagues I would never tell to customers, starting by what I think about customers ^^

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Thumb Down

Re: One side is not enough

Not when it is self preservation.

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Devil

Re: One side is not enough

@ Potemkine!

Upvote for the laugh, but I can't help thinking I've said more to clients about colleagues than vice versa.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One side is not enough

@Potemkine!

The speaker phone was utilised so "Dianne" could A: hear what I was being instructed to do and B: to hear how this clown would talk to his staff when being asked a civil question or suggesting that his course of action might not the best one under the circumstances.

Her testimony was crucial in the following investigation.

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Re: One side is not enough

I had someone (aren't clients wonderful) potentially defaming me over the phone once. I said I was going to put the call on the speaker phone which he didn't object to but just kept at it. He was upset because I'd advised not to switch from one software prog to another. He'd then gone ahead & done so anyway which he then had issues with. He was telling me over the phone that I'd advised him to switch and he'd talk to his lawyers etc. I said I had emails and written reports explaining my views.

After a few more defamatory statements I said he'd now defamed me I had a witness to this and was liable to sue. "Yeah like you have lawyers" I pointed out that the rest of my immediate family were lawyers: three solicitors (one a partner in a major law firm) and two barristers. The phone went dead quite and I asked if he was still there, which got a mumbled "Yes". He didn't say anything for a minute and then came out with "Oh never mind." and the line went dead.

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Re: One side is not enough

"You shouldn't be saying anything to a colleague you wouldn't say to a customer, unless it's company secrets."

I agree with that, but sometimes you have to say things that you aren't ready to share with the customer. Of course that implies having a professional conversation to begin with, but the ability to tell your colleague, "As A, B, C and D didn't work I'm out of ideas. Do you have anything to try?" or "Crap -

can you find 'Hail Mary' Harry and see if he has any ideas?" or something along those lines, without having the customer hearing it can be important.

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MS Office and reg keys

A week into a new job and I was shadowing the 'senior' engineer whose response to any Excel error/crash was to uninstall and reinstall MS Office.

He gave me a withering look when I suggested all he was doing was removing and putting back a mostly static set of files and HKLM reg keys and he should be nosing around profile/HKCU instead.

Couldn't stop myself smirking though when 30-40 minutes and one seriously p**sed off user later the exact same error popped up.

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Who speaks to their team on speaker with client in the room unless it's a client meeting? Sounds like Craig is unprofessional and was trying to score points. Also doesn't sound like any risk of data loss if PST was retained at all times - not like mail data is sitting in the registry.

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"Sounds like Craig is unprofessional and was trying to score points."

Sounds to me as if Craig had a good idea of what was likely to happen and was covering himself.

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Anonymous Coward

Damn right.

This was back in about the year 2003. We had only recently installed Office 2003 pre SP1 on several machines.

I had a good relationship with "Dianne", she trusted me and knew the job in hand would be done with the minimum downtime and inconvenience.

This new team leader was all fart and no shit. Just not a good person to have in a management position.

I didn't run MY pst repair tool because it was an unsanctioned 3rd party cracked tool and NO poker player plays their best hand first.

Yes, I could have taken the PST, ran the 3rd party app on MY laptop and fixed it but there were concerns about data being transferred to other machines and Dianne was smart enough to know that "delete" doesn't!

There was NO un-corrupted back up. This partners machine was off the grid, so to speak, as were all senior partners machines. Yes Dianne was there to oversee things as she was technically literate and reported directly to the senior partner. Yes, I wanted to teach the idiot TL a lesson in humility.

As someone who's glass is always less than half empty, by imagining the worst WILL always happen, you tend to tread a little more cautiously and that philosophy has stuck with me and served me well many many times. If the worst CAN happen, it WILL!

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Anonymous Coward

There were other factors.

It wasn't JUST the PST file, it was the entire stability of the machine, there was other data, documents, etc etc. The mails were, in the clients eyes, the most important thing to fix. If the HD was failing then getting the PST backed up was the MOST important thing. Thus, I concentrated on that.

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Re: Damn right.

"and NO poker player plays their best hand first"

...?

You weren't there to play poker, you were there to recover a buggered up file. If Dianne trusted you, a simple explanation should have sufficed as to what your tool was and why you needed it. I myself have recovered dead PCs with Hirren's Boot CD and its collection of software of dubious providence. But when they need that machine NOW and said machine is telling them there's no C drive... they tend to be quite accommodating if you tell them it's a ten minute fix with your magical CD...

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Re: Damn right.

If the tool is unsanctioned or unpaid for *you shouldn't be using it*. Work's response to asking to use it will almost certainly be to use the official tools first before looking at purchasing the (possibly expensive) other software.

If it fixes the problem but it's not legit, that does not make it ok. It's morally slightly better to note that the third party software resolved the issue and should now be purchased legitimately, even if it's technically still illegal to use it in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There were other factors.

Hey "Craig" - you're only making it worse by defending yourself all over the Comments section. Your story was published, and if you've read On-Call the actions of the protagonist are always dissected. The more you talk about it the worse the responses are going to get.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There were other factors.

No, with respect, fuck you.

If people want to dissect my story, that's fine but I have every right to respond and try to clarify / explain.

If you think my feelings will be hurt, let me assure you, I have none to hurt in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There were other factors.

"No, with respect, fuck you.

If people want to dissect my story, that's fine but I have every right to respond and try to clarify / explain.

If you think my feelings will be hurt, let me assure you, I have none to hurt in the first place."

And you have every right to sound like a petulant 3-year old throwing a temper tantrum because someone said something you don't like, which you are using to the best of your ability - bully for you!

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Anonymous Coward

Who speaks to their team on speaker with client in the room unless it's a client meeting? Sounds like Craig is unprofessional and was trying to score points.

Even worse, it reflects badly on the person who hired the team lead, and reflects badly on the company itself. If I heard about this, and was up Craig's chain of command, he'd be fired.

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First boss was fond of saying "just do XYZ at a client, it'll be quick".

It was not, and he was not happy with the overtime I put in. He did not realized that Mr Murphy played a merry game with XYZ at that particular client as well.

There's no such thing as a quick job. Forget it.

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It's Friday. So where is Alistair Dabbs?

Good as it is 'On Call' can't hold a candle to Alistair Dabbs's "Something for the Weekend, Sir?".

His last article was 28 Jul 2017:-(

Please come back, we miss you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's Friday. So where is Alistair Dabbs?

> Please come back, we miss you.

I trust you will accept that the entirely opposite view can be very strongly held.

The longer the holiday, the better. 'Infinite' sounds like the ideal time period...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's Friday. So where is Alistair Dabbs?

Don't be churlish. No one's forcing you to read dabbs so what's the problem?

Read a different article.

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Re: It's Friday. So where is Alistair Dabbs?

Actually, I think the post you replied to was written by the Dabbs. Just his sort of thing to do.

Pints on me to everyone!

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Re: It's Friday. So where is Alistair Dabbs?

He's still on-site sorting out an email problem.

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IT boss

I once had a boss who did everything. He was just as good at managing the books as he was at recruitment and setting up networks. A very wealthy new client of ours bought a whole bunch of new servers in a new comms room with new Cisco switches. This clown of a boss decided to link two 10/100 Cisco switches with a single cross-over cable with all the servers on one switch and the client machines on the other. Needless to say, I found this very amusing when I found out what he'd done.

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I used to have a manager that would answer a call and go through the usual steps to resolve a problem. When the usual steps didn't work they would suggest some random fix (that was never going to work), a reboot of the machine and a call back if there was still an issue.

This manager would then get up, leave the office to make a cup of tea and by the time they got back I would be on the phone to the person who still had the issue.

Delegation at it's finest.

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Sadly

They're the kind of managers you don't want.

Not able to deal with the shitty end of the stick but ready to steal all the thunder when the worker drones save the day.

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Anonymous Coward

Last year, we had a major outage where I work affecting our live and test networks (office network was unaffected), and after the network came back (albeit somewhat unstable to begin with) I set to work bringing our Linux servers back up. Quite a mess, as they had objected en masse at losing their iSCSI storage. This was not helped in the slightest by others in the company asking me to sort out the bits they needed, simultaneously.

I was starting to suffer from multitasking failure, when my manager sent a company-wide broadcast requesting that all requests to me should be directed via him, then of all things he asked if I wanted a coffee. "Go on, then". Took me a moment to figure out what he was up to, but a couple of minutes away from the computer was exactly what I needed at that time.

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Incompetent Techie

Why would you risk your job by putting your boss on loudspeaker if front of a client? Hardly professional. And given the emails were recovered using a Third Party tool, the same solution the Team Leader suggested initially before the registry idea, its actually a non story.

I'm surprised the team leader didn't sack you for making a stupid escalation call when you knew how to resolve the issue in the first place.

Stick to those Printers if PST's are too challenging without help from your superiors.

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Windows

Clustered hosts

And a boss that doesn't understand what a 'cluster lock disk' means.

One node barfed, and volume was unreadable. Entire cluster shuts down.

"Allocate from new array, restore from backup"

Umm, no, give me a few minutes to look at the volume spindles and see what's happening.

"Just restore on new spindles, its faster"

Umm, no, 400+Gb, and 100Mb ethernet for the restore.

The problem with large clusters and shared volumes and cluster lock disks is that some idiot somewhere will *eventually* use a volume for the wrong thing just because they can't see that it is in use elsewhere in the cluster. Just like the poor bugger that had added the cluster lock disk from the dead node to the DB tempspace elsewhere in the cluster. Because, you see the idiot yelling at us to "restore from backup" had yelled at him to "Just add that unused #$%@#$% disk to the tempspace NOW" 25 minutes prior to the one node crashing. I was on the PM for that. With emails, and since we were using the in house conference call tools, the audio recordings.

I've worked for some truly dickish humans. And I've worked for some amazing bosses. I've learned how to speak the right language.

And I always cover my ass.

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Anonymous Coward

Sysadmin is a somewhat grandiose title for a desktop tech going about repairing PST files.

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