The Business-Technology Weave

Sep 20 2010   8:47AM GMT

IT Horror Stories

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

I was perusing a genre online that I hadn’t really thought to peruse prior to this:  IT Horror Stories.

I was employing Google and my imagination (a dangerous combo for sure) – in scaring up topics for The Business-Technology Weave.  A recent conversation about a very bad Biz-IT outcome led me to wonder about other horror stories.  There’s some goodies out there, and you can Google and read any number of them for yourself.  (Although for some and maybe most of us… enough real-world horror might make an online revisit masochistic).

But I got to thinking about a certain horror story that I’ve not yet seen chronicled; or perhaps I just didn’t stumble on this particular IT horror twist:  an increasing difficulty in holding people accountable – even in a demanding field like IT.

A Fortune 100 environment had a new IT director, who promptly surveyed his new domain:  Staff, enterprise, related assets, areas of liability and lag, state of content and backups… Whoa!  No backups had been done for three months!  But, that’s not the real horror of the story. 

The person responsible, “Franklin,” the Network Manager merely said that the drive had failed, and he had been “unable to get it working.”  (Names have been changed).  What’s a new IT director to do?  He made his governance aware of what had happened – and they were sufficiently shaken.  HR was also apprised at this general lack of ethics, and specific, stunning, lack of routine IT practice.  However, no one in IT’s governance wanted to impose dismissal or any penalty regarding this negligence.  They did indicate that this was “Strike 2” against this individual.  Three strikes and you’re out.

Fast forward a year:  Franklin has been stumbling along this whole time.  A phonecall comes in to the Director on a Friday afternoon – it’s “Susan” (names have been changed), a senior executive with the firm: 

“My laptop won’t boot; I need it for working at home this weekend.”  The Director assures Susan that Franklin (who assists the HelpDesk) will be right down to fix the problem.  The Director sends him down, telling him to fix the person’s problem for critical weekend work from home.  Toward the end of the day, prior to leaving, the Director asks Franklin if everything went okay with Susan’s laptop.

Franklin:  “Yes, everything is ok.”

Everyone departs for the weekend. 

On Monday, the Director has a nasty phonecall on his voicemail:  It’s Susan, quite irate, complaining that the laptop wouldn’t boot at home, and that she’d had to drive to the office several times during the weekend.  The long and short of it?  To his utter amazement, when the Director asked Franklin about the status of the laptop Friday afternoon – instead of hearing “Gosh, it was working when I finished with it…” or some such variant, what he heard was this:

“I wasn’t able to get it working; I’m not very proud of myself right now.”

Huh?  No amount of querying as to why Franklin hadn’t asked for assistance, or turned the problem over to another HD person, or the Director himself, yielded a response beyond “I’m not proud of myself right now.”

The real horror to this story hasn’t been divulged yet:  When the Director, his governance, and HR all uniformly agreed that this was “strike 3,” when the incident was all written, and when the meeting for dismissal was scheduled – a call came from the organization’s higher headquarters in New York, putting the brakes on the dismissal.  That’s the horror.

Higher headquarters’ explanation was that there had been too many lawsuits regarding dismissals, and that all such actions were “on hold” – including several at headquarters.  Meantime, IT had to carry a worthless employee. 

It’s one thing to lack skills – it’s quite another to lie and deceive about statuses and fixes – and customer service, and critical support to business.

Guard your environment:  Get rid of hapless people.  You do them no favor in carrying them, you do business no favor in carrying them, and they can damage reputations:  Yours, and your place of employment’s.


September 20th:  On this day in 1519, Magellan begins the 1st successful circumnavigation of  the world.  I’ll take their word for it…   :^ )

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