A Trio of Company WTFs



  • Well in honor of my finally getting what looks to be decent, stable employment with a company that knows where it's going and has a great development team, I figured I'd submit for your horror/amusement a tale of three WTF-y companies.  Names have, of course, been anonymized where they're used to protect the guilty.

     One: My first job out of college was a shitty helpdesk gig with a small company.  Paid garbage, but it was my first real job so I couldn't complain.  The people in the company seemed like a nice group, and the IT manager seemed to know his stuff, to a point.  Well, his "claim to fame" was writing what amounted to an ERP solution for the company in Access using VBA, and had its share of quirks.  Things quickly went downhill as I discovered that the sales floor had an enormous turnover rate (moreso than normal; they would bring new people in nearly every week) and that the company's flagship product was literally thrown together in an hour with Foxpro, and half the time didn't work or had stupid logic.  For example:  The program required all fields to add an item (this was for pharmacies to keep an inventory of their products), but it didn't tell you that.  So most people would leave the "Control Code" (the field saying if the drug is highly addictive like Morphine) blank if the drug wasn't controlled; well I swear that 90% of my support calls was because the Add button was greyed out because the program wanted a value in that field, but gave no message at all.  WTF #1.  But wait, it gets better.  The actual "business" part of the company used a competitor's product (that they repeatedly were trying to reverse-engineer) to get results for their customers.  WTF #2.  Later on the company "promoted" me to Network Administrator/Web Developer (by which I mean gave me a slight raise and put me on salary to try and cheat me on overtime) and hired a girl fresh from college with a CompSci degree as a programmer.  Here's where things went downhill.  The IT manager had a crush on this girl or something (she was married at the time but going through some problems with her husband) and repeatedly would try to convert her to his religion (It begins with an "I") and convince her to divorce her husband because he was a "loser".  He would also take her into his office and bitch her out for things like going to lunch with a male co-worker, and insult her to upper management because she listened to rock music in her car (I wish I was making this up, folks).  It got to the point where she was being harassed nearly every day and begged me to give her some advice; I offered the only advice I could:  Talk to the company about it, and seek legal advice.  I even reported what I was seeing to upper management.  The result, of course, was they fired me for it, because to "prove" that he was singling her out I had asked a female co-worker of mine to lunch (to see if he'd say anything to me like he did to her).  About the only good part of this job was that I taught myself programming for an ASP.NET project they wanted me to do, and I've enjoyed doing it ever since.

     Two:  The second company I worked for was even worse than the first, if you can believe that.  This company had offices in two floors of the same building, which they conveniently did not let me know when I interviewed with them (Actually three, but one was a branch office under a different name).  They hired me as a network administrator, but the "real" network administrator was a brown-nosing punk kid about two years older than I am who was nothing but a yes-man for management and agreed whole-heartedly with everything they said no matter how stupid it was (Yes, I know that's a good trait to have now).  Management was an Indian family, two of whom were MDs.  The father and president was the know-it-all kind who thought he knew everything about everything (especially IT), and of course all the development was offshored to India (presumably to relatives).  The real head of IT worked remotely from Pakistan or somewhere.  Anyways, for most of my tenure here I was doing such things as moving people's offices around, transporting/dismantling/assembling desks and moving file cabinets (despite the fact I have a medical condition that prevents me from doing very heavy lifting).  When I asked about it, I was pretty much written up and when I showed my job description I was told "Oh that was when we were looking for a REAL network administrator".  I was pretty much no better than an intern.  The final straw was when the receptionist was on the phone with someone else talking about a meeting and says to the other person that she'll send me to the store to get refreshments.  I sternly told her that I'm not the errand boy, I'm a network administrator and I'm not going to the store.  They wrote me up again (Mr. Yes-Man even going off on a tirade about how great the President was and how "Dr. X is a VERY important man.") because supposedly in the interview there was talk of traveling to other locations (there was no such discussion because I said I was unwilling to travel) and let me go the next afternoon citing that I wasn't a good fit.  My whole tenure there was about a month, during which time I did about a week of actual IT work and the rest as a moving man/handyman.

     
    Three:  Out of work for about four months, I finally found something to pay the bills.  It was initially a graphic design position with a very small (they have about 20 people if they're lucky) publishing company.  Nice people, but this job had it's share of problems as well.  For one, it was family-run (you know the type, incompetent family members with management positions).  Second, they were cheap as all hell.  I'll give you an example:  The core of their business was running Pagemaker 6.5 on Windows XP.  Pagemaker 6.5 isn't even supposed to WORK on XP, but they refused to pay the few hundred extra to upgrade, because they "don't have that kind of money".  Oh, but this one gets better.  EVERYTHING in this company, all the data that is, was running on FOXPRO 2.6.  The windows 3.1 version.  They had been running it for the past 10 years and saw no reason at all to bother upgrading it.  Half the computers ran Windows 98 or Windows ME (thank god those weren't connecting to the internet).  I luckily got transferred to the MIS department (at that time consisting of the CEO's son, who was a good guy if a little behind on technology at first.  He wrote a lot of hackjobs to get things to work.. and insisted on using Response.Write for EVERYTHING in Classic ASP because he read that it improved performance).  My "development" machine had barely 256KB of memory so half the day was spent waiting for it to load up anything so I could even work on it (Interestingly enough, I found this site during one of those waits and became immediately hooked). The real funny thing is the internal applications they used were written by the former MIS Director years ago, in Delphi 3, and he took the source code with him so any changes they wanted they had to call him up and contract him to do it (Which was good for him, I guess, since he got the consulting rate for it).  Like I said, this company wasn't that bad as far as people go, just... the other stuff.  Oh.  My.  God.  They're still happily using those Foxpro 2.6 databases with no plans of ever upgrading it.

     
    Finally though, I've found a decent company with a great team of programmers that are using the latest and greatest technology (AJAX-enabled, et all) and that use unit testing and actually FOLLOW the development cycle.  So I'm just praying that my days of wallowing in WTF-Hell are coming to an end.  Hope you all enjoyed my stories.

     



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    [...]  My "development" machine had barely 256KB of memory  [...]

    <font size="-1">"I'm sorry, are you from the past?</font>"

    Seriously though, what kind of machine is that ? An ancient programmable calculator ?



  • Heh my F-up on that one.  I mean 256MB, not KB :-p  But it was still horribly slow.



  • I'm assuming that this was in the USA - don't you have employment laws there?

    If some of these things happened in the UK the companies would end up in court!



  • @GettinSadda said:

    I'm assuming that this was in the USA - don't you have employment laws there?

    If some of these things happened in the UK the companies would end up in court!

     I live in a "Right To Work" state, which means that a company can legally fire you for any reason (or no reason at all).  The first situation I couldn't take to court because I was a witness, not the victim (and the victim didn't want to because she needed the job to support her family).  The second situation was pretty much an exercise of the Right To Work law, in that they got rid of me for not performing "other duties as required" even though said other duties had nothing to do with my job.
     



  • @GettinSadda said:

    I'm assuming that this was in the USA - don't you have employment laws there?

    If some of these things happened in the UK the companies would end up in court!

    There are various employment laws, like the those in the Civil Rights act of 1964(?).  But the problem is that if a company is in violation of those laws, it's often very hard to prove.  Since many states are "right to work" states, companies can just fire employees without reason and only the best record keeping will show that the company violated employment laws.  "Right to work" is more accurately "right to fire your ass for any fucking reason we want to come up with".   



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    @GettinSadda said:

    I'm assuming that this was in the USA - don't you have employment laws there?

    If some of these things happened in the UK the companies would end up in court!

     I live in a "Right To Work" state, which means that a company can legally fire you for any reason (or no reason at all).  The first situation I couldn't take to court because I was a witness, not the victim (and the victim didn't want to because she needed the job to support her family).  The second situation was pretty much an exercise of the Right To Work law, in that they got rid of me for not performing "other duties as required" even though said other duties had nothing to do with my job.
     

    Is that in the law or the contracts? I would never accept an employment contract that included "and anything else we want" in the job description. That's just dumb, and insulting. You could save paper by making the job description say "Anything we want" and it would mean exactly the same thing.



  • Sadly, that's the law.  The job description for that particular job made no mention of traveling to other locations (which never came up in the interview either but was supposedly part of it) or the catch-all "Perform other duties as required."  So legally they could fire me for refusing to spend my workday moving furniture around and running errands for the receptionist when I was hired as an IT professional, and there was nothing I could do about it; also it never came up but I got a talking to for saying I'd never come in at 4am like the "yes-man" would just because the President called his cell phone wondering why a system was down (being on-call wasn't part of the description either).  Pretty much any complaints I had were answered with "That's how it is in IT; you have to do it if you want to be a real professional."  Last I checked on that company the "yes-man" had become the MIS Manager.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

     I live in a "Right To Work" state, which means that a company can legally fire you for any reason (or no reason at all).

     

    The states I've lived in call it "at-will employment", and there is a positive side to it. Your employer can fire you at any time for any or no reason, but you can also quit at any time for any or no reason. If working conditions are really that bad, you can just tell your boss off and leave without fear of being sued.



  • @Dragnslcr said:

    The states I've lived in call it "at-will employment", and there is a positive side to it. Your employer can fire you at any time for any or no reason, but you can also quit at any time for any or no reason. If working conditions are really that bad, you can just tell your boss off and leave without fear of being sued.

     Well, you can already quit for whatever reason you want.  A company cannot force you to work.  The "right to work" part of a "right to work" or at-will employment state is that things like non-competition contracts are void.  Many corporations make you sign a contract as a term of employment saying that you won't quit the job and go work for a competing company, a right-to work state mostly nullifies that contract.  But the thing is, people don't tend to get sued for violating non-competition agreements in the first place, unless they do something really bad to hurt the former employer (i.e. taking customers with them), in which case there's still the possibility of being sued even if you are in a right-to-work state.  In my experience the "fire your ass for no reason at all" is used a whole lot more than the "right to work".
     



  • @asuffield said:

    Is that in the law or the contracts? I would never accept an employment contract that included "and anything else we want" in the job description. That's just dumb, and insulting. You could save paper by making the job description say "Anything we want" and it would mean exactly the same thing.

    You are joking, right? I'm 49, have been working since before I graduated high school, and have never had a job description that didn't include the phrase "and other duties assigned" or something to that effect. Never. (Except maybe the military - I don't remember the US Air Force giving me a job description at all, just a specialty code.) 



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    [...]would try to convert her to his religion (It begins with an "I") [...]

    Since when did "idiot" become a religion?



  • @KenW said:

    @asuffield said:

    Is that in the law or the contracts? I would never accept an employment contract that included "and anything else we want" in the job description. That's just dumb, and insulting. You could save paper by making the job description say "Anything we want" and it would mean exactly the same thing.

    You are joking, right? I'm 49, have been working since before I graduated high school, and have never had a job description that didn't include the phrase "and other duties assigned" or something to that effect. Never. (Except maybe the military - I don't remember the US Air Force giving me a job description at all, just a specialty code.) 

    I'm not joking. Such clauses are void under UK law because they would defeat the entire purpose of having a job description - and the courts tend to frown on people who write contracts in an attempt to avoid contract legislation. I cannot imagine why anybody would waste time on writing such a job description, because it serves no useful purpose. 



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    and repeatedly would try to convert her to his religion (It begins with an "I") 

    I got it, I got it!  It's Iglesia Ni Cristo!



  • The medical condition, you could have had a case there. A written doctor's note explaining why you can't do the work, and if they fire you for it there's a big unlawful termination lawsuit just boiling.

    I'm not a fan of gaming the legal system but you aren't--you should have had a good case there.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    Second, they were cheap as all hell.  I'll give you an example:  The core of their business was running Pagemaker 6.5 on Windows XP.  Pagemaker 6.5 isn't even supposed to WORK on XP, but they refused to pay the few hundred extra to upgrade, because they "don't have that kind of money".

    There may be a reason.  The company I work for is running an ancient version of Filemaker Pro on MacOS 10.2 -- even though that version isn't compatible with MacOS 10 -- because a significant portion of the business is built around certain functionality in it.  That functionality was removed from later versions of FileMaker Pro, and is only available in the most expensive version of FileMaker Server.  The occasional lost half-day from a FileMaker crash is cheaper than the cost of upgrading.


    @ObiWayneKenobi said:
    Half the computers ran Windows 98 or Windows ME (thank god those weren't connecting to the internet).

    The real WTF here is that people don't consider it safe to connect Win98 computers to the internet.  Win98 and Win98SE are actually the safest versions of Windows for connecting to the internet: they run Firefox just fine, and unlike later versions of Windows, they don't open ports by default.



  • @rbowes said:

    Since when did "idiot" become a religion?

     The same day "Scientology" became one.
     



  • @asuffield said:

    I'm not joking. Such clauses are void under UK law because they would defeat the entire purpose of having a job description - and the courts tend to frown on people who write contracts in an attempt to avoid contract legislation. I cannot imagine why anybody would waste time on writing such a job description, because it serves no useful purpose. 

    Do you have an actual reference for that? It's never been an issue for me, (especially since I don't actually have a written contract) but that was actually in the original job spec.

    It's nice to have these things ready just in case. :-) 



  • @bonzombiekitty said:

    Well, you can already quit for whatever reason you want.  A company cannot force you to work.


    No, but they can definitely punish you for not following the proper procedures when quitting.  It's not like a doctor can get annoyed and quit in the middle of his shift.



  • @RayS said:

    @asuffield said:

    I'm not joking. Such clauses are void under UK law because they would defeat the entire purpose of having a job description - and the courts tend to frown on people who write contracts in an attempt to avoid contract legislation. I cannot imagine why anybody would waste time on writing such a job description, because it serves no useful purpose. 

    Do you have an actual reference for that?

    No, it's just what a company lawyer said. You have to write something like "any duties required to accomplish objective X", which might be "ensure the smooth running of the network" or something like that. You can't have a blanket clause that would allow them to be required to do anything. In the event of a dispute, a judge will decide based on whether or not the employee could reasonably have expected the relevant task to have been included at the time when they signed the contract - so the more specific you make it, the more chance you have of not paying out huge unfair dismissal damages. Smart companies make sure everything is on there, and make sure they renegotiate their contracts when it's necessary to get new unpopular stuff done.

    UK law is extremely employee-friendly this decade. You don't want to know what the rules for black pregnant women are like. 



  • @asuffield said:

    No, it's just what a company lawyer said. You have to write something like "any duties required to accomplish objective X", which might be "ensure the smooth running of the network" or something like that. You can't have a blanket clause that would allow them to be required to do anything. In the event of a dispute, a judge will decide based on whether or not the employee could reasonably have expected the relevant task to have been included at the time when they signed the contract - so the more specific you make it, the more chance you have of not paying out huge unfair dismissal damages. Smart companies make sure everything is on there, and make sure they renegotiate their contracts when it's necessary to get new unpopular stuff done.

    UK law is extremely employee-friendly this decade. You don't want to know what the rules for black pregnant women are like. 

    Not half as good as the rules for a black pregnant man!

    As you say though, very employee-friendly laws. Still, without my only contract being verbal and a job description lost in the pages of history, I think I'll be ok!



  • @RayS said:

    @asuffield said:

    UK law is extremely employee-friendly this decade. You don't want to know what the rules for black pregnant women are like. 

    Not half as good as the rules for a black pregnant man!

    Ah, to be black, and pregnant! And a man! In the UK!

    ...and repeatedly would try to convert her to his religion (It begins with an "I")...
     

    Is it the one we can't make fun of? 



  • Re: the religion in question.  It's the one that has extremists involved in some very not-nice things lately.  Here's a hint:  It's from a place to the east, sort of in the "middle".  Note that I have nothing against that religion, just that this manager would repeatedly go on rants about how homosexuals were evil and going to burn in Hell and how smart and great he was, and how a certain now-deceased dictator "wasn't that bad a guy; he only killed people who disagreed with him." (this despite being from a smaller country which said deceased dictator invaded).  All in all it was a very WTF-y experience, and I paid the ultimate price for wanting to help a friend.  I don't regret it at all, though, although I wish she had taken my advice and sued the company for it instead of sucking it up and putting up with the abuse (I'm not even sure if she's still there taking it or not.  I hope she's moved onto better things and a company that's not run by idiots)



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    Re: the religion in question.  It's the one that has extremists involved in some very not-nice things lately.  Here's a hint:  It's from a place to the east, sort of in the "middle".

    Ah, the Bavarian Illuminati. Yeah, they've always been troublemakers.

     

    Note that I have nothing against that religion, just that this manager would repeatedly go on rants about how homosexuals were evil and going to burn in Hell

    Pretty much like most of the Christian sects, then.


    and how a certain now-deceased dictator "wasn't that bad a guy; he only killed people who disagreed with him."

    He has a point there. Kinda crazy, but not really a bad guy. He had the best intentions, he was just a little confused on the concept of which ones were people and which ones weren't - distinguished from other religious leaders only in that he had an army. Perhaps not the most relevant point, but a valid one nonetheless.

     

    I paid the ultimate price for wanting to help a friend.

    Raped, beaten, tied up and left for dead in a ghetto dumpster? Man, that must have been harsh.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    ...his religion (It begins with an "I") ...

    What's the point of this obviously flame bait detail?

    I'm from the same religion and I can assure you that what he did is Fitnah (couldn't find the English term, it's basically making trouble between people eg. the US igniting civil war in Iraq) which is a greater sin than murder, and that he is a stinking hypocrite.

    Moral of the story? One from a group is an asshole != Everybody from that group is an asshole.
     



  • @Better Than Success said:

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    ...his religion (It begins with an "I") ...

    What's the point of this obviously flame bait detail?

    I'm from the same religion and I can assure you that what he did is Fitnah (couldn't find the English term, it's basically making trouble between people eg. the US igniting civil war in Iraq) which is a greater sin than murder, and that he is a stinking hypocrite.

    Moral of the story? One from a group is an asshole != Everybody from that group is an asshole.
     

     

    Oh I'm well aware, and I didn't mean to post it as flame-bait, but as detail to show the irony (since he kept trying to get this girl to divorce her husband so he could put the moves on her, when I thought that was a no-no and marriage was very sacred) and how two-faced the guy was. My apologies if I offended you.



  • @asuffield said:


    Ah, the Bavarian Illuminati. Yeah, they've always been troublemakers.

     Thank you. I now have a  response for when people ask me my religious beliefs and I don't feel like answering. ^_~



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    @GettinSadda said:

    I'm assuming that this was in the USA - don't you have employment laws there?

    If some of these things happened in the UK the companies would end up in court!

     I live in a "Right To Work" state, which means that a company can legally fire you for any reason (or no reason at all).  The first situation I couldn't take to court because I was a witness, not the victim (and the victim didn't want to because she needed the job to support her family).  The second situation was pretty much an exercise of the Right To Work law, in that they got rid of me for not performing "other duties as required" even though said other duties had nothing to do with my job.
     

     

    Well yeah, in a Right to Work state you can up and quit anytime you want, and they can terminate your job for any reason (actually thats harder said than done, as you can still sue them if their reason is prejudice, or half dozen others)

    The main concept behind a Right to Work state is you have a RIGHT to work. Mainly in that you don't have to join a union to work at the company.

     As far as being punished... I suppose they can take you out back and give you 50 lashes with a wet noodle, but legally they can't do anything. If they try to withhold your wages (what else can they do to punish you?) you can sue them for triple your wages. If they bad mouth you to your next employer (eh? you gave permission to your future employer to contact your former employer?)  you can sue them for a variety of things.

     

    Now as far as the WTF's go... I'm not sure I understand job #2. You got hired, you were doing odd jobs. It sounded like you needed the job, and other than the heavy labor, it didn't sound that bad (shoot I'd run errands to the store on my wage) I don't understand the "they didn't tell me the occupied two floors" So what? You know if you work in a small company, you will have to do some odd things. Either do the work, or quit. Don't whine about it. Sounds like you were low many on the totem pole.. Pass the buck when they hire the next low man...

     

    As far as using horrible products go.  There are things you can do about that. I once worked in a small shop that was using DBase. It was buggy and slow, so I wrote my own database. I had a few bugs in it, but it was several magnitudes faster, and as far as the company was concerned it was free.



  • @Better Than Success said:

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    ...his religion (It begins with an "I") ...

    What's the point of this obviously flame bait detail?

    I'm from the same religion and I can assure you that what he did is Fitnah (couldn't find the English term, it's basically making trouble between people eg. the US igniting civil war in Iraq) which is a greater sin than murder, and that he is a stinking hypocrite.

    Moral of the story? One from a group is an asshole != Everybody from that group is an asshole.
     

     

    Hmmm, I don't think "one" is the correct number. 



  • @chrismcb said:

    I once worked in a small shop that was using DBase. It was buggy and slow, so I wrote my own database. I had a few bugs in it, but it was several magnitudes faster, and as far as the company was concerned it was free.

    Not to disparage your (possibly quite high-quality) database, but employers using homegrown things like "Bob's custom database software" have led to so many heinous WTFs on this site that it defies description (think: The Customer Friendly System).  I trust that by "a few bugs" that you mean it wasn't quite so WTFish? :P



  • @Saladin said:

    @chrismcb said:

    I once worked in a small shop that was using DBase. It was buggy and slow, so I wrote my own database. I had a few bugs in it, but it was several magnitudes faster, and as far as the company was concerned it was free.

    Not to disparage your (possibly quite high-quality) database, but employers using homegrown things like "Bob's custom database software" have led to so many heinous WTFs on this site that it defies description (think: The Customer Friendly System).  I trust that by "a few bugs" that you mean it wasn't quite so WTFish? :P

    No offense taken. I wouldn't call the DB high quality, but it would never make it to this site. I don't remember the bugs that were there, but they were nothing compared to the problems we had with DBase.

    An no I wouldn't do that again today. Give me MySQL or YourSQL or anyone's SQL and I'd be happy. Shoot I'd take Access over writing my own DB today.


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