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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    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...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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 ...

    2. muddysteve

      Re: Yes. He was.

      And at least make sure the backups are done.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        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.

        1. Mayhem

          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 ;)

          1. Triggerfish

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

          2. el_oscuro

            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.

          3. BlackKnight(markb)

            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.

        2. Wzrd1 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.

      2. Joe Werner Silver badge

        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.

        1. Wzrd1 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 "


    3. Wzrd1 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.

    4. TheVogon

      Re: Yes. He was.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “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.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      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.

      1. John G Imrie

        You can't just fire people like that.

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

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          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.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            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.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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.

          3. Fatman

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

            I have a friend who works for such a company.

            Back in 2010, a 'parasite' found itself on the company's BoD, and in a few short months, drove out the other directors, who were replaced by other 'parasites'.

            In September, they arranged to 'force out' the entire executive team that ran the company profitably, and install more parasites in their regional offices.

            In September 2011, they had their tickets to the Gravy Train Express1 renewed, riding that train for another year. Repeat in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. All during the while the company was slowly losing money. They hid their losses by mortgaging the company's future receipts (i.e. loaded up on debt), turning an original 96% shareholder equity/4% debt ratio around (4% equity/96% debt). In early 2016, the stockholders pawned off the company in a quiet 'fire sale', because the buyers wanted time to root out the cause of the losses. The new owners contacted the legal firms handling their affairs in each of the more than 50 cities they did business in, and arranged to 'loop in' one key assistant in each regional office to perform much of the 'leg work'. My friend who was an assistant regional COO was contacted, and agreed to assist in ridding the company of the 'parasites'. My friend had to keep knowledge of the ownership change, and their plans to rid the company of the 'parasites' quiet for nearly 6 months all the while doing the necessary digging.

            The new owners waited until September 30, 2016 (the last day of the contract) to deliver the bad news. It was delivered by employees of the company appearing at the executives' company housing at 8 AM with moving vans. They carried a message from the owners that said: "YOUR CONTRACT WILL NOT BE RENEWED, and we do not need your services any more. You have 4 hours to get out of company housing."

            It was no secret to the office staff that the executives were Milking The Cow, and, some wag decided that a perfect metaphor for the events of September 30, 2016 could be expressed by a drawing of a cow leaving behind a pile of tape worm infested shit. Within an hour or so of its first appearance, that cartoon was scanned and emailed to every other regional office. It was a morale booster.

            They are still attempting to determine exactly how bad the losses were, as the executive fools compromised the books, and getting an accurate picture just might involve reviewing all transactions since October 2010. <sarcasm>I know that the office staff would shed loads of crocodile tears should the company bring charges against the executives.</sarcasm>

            1 The derogatory term used by the office employees to describe the compensation package, perks and benefits these executives enjoyed. Work from home, company car for both business and personal use, company credit cards often used for personal items, no limit on vacation time, FREE company housing.

          4. BlackKnight(markb)

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

            in this case, i'd say gross misuse of coperate resources will do as the reasoning for it.

            assuming the story is true.

        2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          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.

        3. David 14

          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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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)

        1. Blotto Silver badge

          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.

        2. Triggerfish

          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.

      3. Goldmember

        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...

        1. Roland6 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...

          1. Arthur the cat 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.

          2. Phil Kingston

            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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

            Sounds like you need to join a union.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          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...

        4. Dave 15

          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.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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....

        6. art guerrilla

          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

        7. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          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.

        8. Anonymous Coward
          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.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "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".

        1. TRT Silver badge

          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*

        2. herman Silver badge

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

      5. SundogUK Silver badge

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

        Yes you can. It's called gross misconduct.

        1. Alien8n

          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.

      6. Steve Evans

        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.

      7. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. rhydian

      "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?

      1. sabroni 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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > 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.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      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.

    4. Hollerithevo

      @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?

  3. Andy00ff00

    Big Companies and Policies

    Difficult call - without further information.

    This is my beef with disattached directors, unreasonable IT policies, salary review policies, bonus formulae, etc. etc.

    Any such one-size-fits-all policy will never take account of creatives, encouragers, workshy-prats-who-play-the-rules-game etc.

    I'd rather just work for a good boss who knows what's going on. It may not be fair, it may not scale, I may even be slightly poorer. So what?

    I have worked with people who took way-too-long lunch "hours" playing games, but could be relied upon to work very late nights to support customers. Inconvenient, but still useful.

    In the case of this team, I would want to know more about their general attitude and delivery. Backups not run etc. - it *sounds* like they should be fired. But their manager should have been more with it.

    Hey, I'm browsing El Reg now - when I should be working. But I'm worth it.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Big Companies and Policies

      > I'm browsing El Reg now - when I should be working

      Browsing El Reg *is* working - or at least I can convince my boss I'm keeping up-to-date with technology news.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Big Companies and Policies

        In the aftermath of the "Shell Shock" vulnerability, I got reading The Register added as part of my official duties.

        After I read about it, I had tested our Linux boxen, documented the results, and written up a remediation proposal (because I was procrastinating something I didn't want to do - and I got in 2-3 hours before anyone else on the team). Bossman comes in and sees the IT Security's message about it, and proceeds to sends a worried e-mail to the team telling us to let him know what we're going to do about it. I replied with the two documents before his coffee was finished brewing. He was suitably impressed and added "Security Vulnerability Research" to my official duty list.

    2. Adam 1

      Re: Big Companies and Policies

      > Difficult call - without further information

      Very easy call. Of the 32.5 people let go, I could believe that it was 1 person's job to do the backup monitoring and tapes so fair enough for them. Also someone was their manager and failed in their oversight. That's another one or two. So what did the other 30 do wrong? Assuming they had finished their tasks and they had their management's permission to be running whatever application, then the decision to let them go can't be disciplinary related.

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Big Companies and Policies

        Curious about the down vote. Happy for anyone to disagree with me, but at least state your argument so I can see where you're coming from.

        Despite what the story states, it is not going to be everyone's job to check the backup. Most of that 75 won't even have the rights to do so, nor should they. And it's not unheard of for places to be temporarily overstaffed. Think about what happens with planned mergers or spin offs, where IT functions can get duplicated for a while or sit there idle until some other department gets up to capacity. Sometimes it is cheaper to pay people to do nothing for a few months than to scale up or down, especially where the skillsets are not so fungible.

        That said, it appears some mock DR exercises would have been a better use of time with hindsight.

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    There are two sides to this coin

    I fought a long war of attrition with our CEO in one of my jobs that I am NOT going to restrict gaming _AFTER_ hours provided that they have done their job by then. Not now, not ever.

    Leaving them to play helped me debug quite a few firewall issues, ensure that the network monitoring is up to scratch, QoS and bandwidth slicing and dicing on the firewall works "as advertised" and the whole system functions the way it should be.

    We had that recurring conversation every week along the same lines: "Q: When are you going to forbid games on the company network. A: I will not, I have a free test and performance team, you either hire an equivalent and pay for equivalent tools (here is a quote for 20k for you to consider) or let them continue doing their job for free".

    That, however, was the development team (not the IT). They also delivered everything they were supposed to deliver by 6 at which point they downed tools and the shootout began.

  5. Dwarf

    If you're paid to do a job, then you'd better do the job you're paid for.

    1. POKE 649,0

      When I don't have anything to do, I find something to do. There is such a lack of structure and responsibility here due to badly outsourced I.T. functions with poorly written statements of work, that there is always something to fill the day with. Plus I get involved in stuff I wouldn't normally.

  6. Paul

    I wouldn't be bothered if large numbers of people are playing games at the same time in IT.

    Sometimes the IT department are biding their time waiting for people to go home so they can start planned maintenance.

    Of course, if this was happening all the time during working hours, then I would ask difficult questions about the number of staff members actually needed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing wrong with abit of gaming

    Even my company issued development computer has a few games on it.

    I would not however be stupid enough to use my corporate laptop (very locked down and I really don't need admin rights so I'm not going to ask) or game on company time.

    As for being fired for it... well it is in my contract that such abuses would be considered misconduct or even gross misconduct if I was neglecting my job in favour of the gaming. So after such a massive cock up he had every right to call them out on it, and good on the company for shoring up policy to prevent it happening again.

    Annon because gaming..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is an improbable story

    Though I believe that the CIO would have taken some action, it doesn't look like "Gordon" was at a level to know what it was.

    But now a true story that happened at a summer job when I was a student.

    The company had a large injection moulding plant and it was running 24 hours a day 6 days a week. And then my boss noticed that the quality and volume of production had dropped on the night shift.

    This being a family owned company, the managing director decided to pay a little unannounced visit to the night shift. He found only a third of the staff there, but everybody had been clocked in.

    The next day he fired every single person who was supposed to be on the night shift. But he then interviewed every single one of them. Some of them, said my boss, he decided had simply been in awe of the foreman and they got their jobs straight back. Some of them were allowed back but they lost some accumulated non-contributory pension entitlements. And the foreman didn't come back, because it had been his idea and, of course, he was getting a kickback from the workers.

    I won't name the company except to remark that it is still in business, has been trading for over 200 years, and was often a technology leader in its field. But with management like that, I am not surprised.

    The odd thing, in hindsight, is that I didn't apply to them for a job when I left U. I think it was because I assumed that every company was like them, or Merck (where I also worked). It was some time before I realised just how wrong I was and that I had been fortunate enough to work for extremely good employers.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: It is an improbable story

      I was once caught sleeping at a former job. I didn't like the job, shitty work even shittier managers but I worked my arse off because thats what I do.

      One very ealry morning having been in at 6am to check the servers were all ok, if they were you then sat round for 3 hours with naff all to do, and my eyes ended up closing at some point on the exact day a manager came early (i believe there was blue moon that night) to do some photocopying early, caught me and then with some glee because they were those sort of middle managers decided it was time for a disciplinary.

      Knowing I was screwed and looking for a new job and really hating this one I thought fuck it and went into the disciplinary on the attack.

      I came out with a £500 quid payrise.

      Still not sure how that happened.

    2. Xamol

      Re: It is an improbable story

      @Voyna "Though I believe that the CIO would have taken some action, it doesn't look like "Gordon" was at a level to know what it was."

      In your story you were a student... Just sayin'

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a long time ago, in another job ...

    I was doing a (static at the time) IP inventory on all IT equipment at one of the company's site.

    Found out everyone was busy playing ping-pong (yes, true, there was a table in the site), trying to shag the young intern, listening to music, watching TV etc ... All at 3pm ... Literally found no-one working in a 50 staff site.

    Since this very site insisted we had to do the office's system update overnight, it got me quite upset, and I sent an email to my IT director, describing the whole affair in details, that was later circulated a lot more than I expected or wanted it to ...

    It turned up IT gained a lot of credibility and respect (maybe fear) in this company, after this, where it lacked a lot in this area. I never regretted it. Many users community have the most disrespect for IT workers and from time to time, some harsh email can regain sanity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a long time ago, in another job ...

      "Found out everyone was busy playing ping-pong (yes, true, there was a table in the site), trying to shag the young intern, listening to music, watching TV etc ... All at 3pm"

      You heartless bastard... they were only *meant* to be working until 2.30 that Sunday!

    2. David Woodhead

      Re: a long time ago, in another job ...

      What gender(s) were 'everyone'? What gender was the intern?

      We need to know these things.

  10. nsld

    I bet

    The CIO didn't get the bullet for a complete failure of leadership.....

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: The CIO didn't get the bullet for a complete failure of leadership.....

      They'd be happy to take the bonus when the team perform well though.

  11. Ben1892

    Delta Force: Land Warrior

    ...those were the days (after hours of course) - not been able to do anything like that for years since we locked down the desktop and fired up applocker. I know which scenario I prefer out of; "anyone can install anything from the cover of a magazine" and "put together a business justification and we'll find an appropriate tool for the job"

  12. Reue

    My first day working in IT..

    My new manager said "I have one rule; dont play games, you may as well get out a board of monopoly and sit there playing it at your desk".

    A good rule imo. I shall admit to browsing El Reg during office hours but it came in handy yesterday when everyone was scratching their heads why a load of our 3rd party sites had gone down only for Reg to report on GoDaddy DNS dying.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

    Users' aren't the only ones to suffer from this; I used to work out in the field, in Scotland for a company near Bournemouth - and god help you if you had an issue at lunchtime; Never able to call 2nd line support, as they were all in a massive frag-fest.

    The company I currently work for is almost as bad; EVERY lunchtime, the 2nd line support - the whole lot, disappear down the local pub for a couple of hours.... that's as well as having a massive team meeting every morning from 9 to 10.30 , where - again - 2nd line is basically unavailable ...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Playing games does have it's place

    As Senior engineer I was covering the network support on the Saturday before Xmas in a retail org with 2000+ stores across 8 countries, huge online presence, moto channels & subsidaries all dependent on real time systems, it's was always the busiest trading day for the business.

    Normally on the Saturday shift, it was a chance to work on any non-trading systems, but in change freeze nothing was scheduled. And the instruction was to come in, touch nothing, and just react to any issues.

    So it was a case of come in, pull up the status monitoring screen, turn on the audible alarms. Grab a coffee and settle in for a 12 hour gaming marathon.

    Every 30 mins the ops duty manager would swing by, "everything OK?"; "All green, you'll be the first to know if anything changes". Even got a thank you email at the end of the shift

    Paid double time to sit and play games.

    1. Helldesk Dogsbody

      Re: Playing games does have it's place

      It used to be similar in our place, peak trading periods = change freeze so out comes UT for an IT department fragathon, spare wall displays hooked up to consoles for those not inclined to "morale improvement" by fragging the head of department repeatedly with a flak cannon, all on the understanding that this stopped the second we had an incident reported. The result? A relaxed but hyper alert IT team ready to resolve the issue as rapidly as possible (primarily to get back to the frag fest).

      Not a hope in hell of this outside of peak trading, way too much to do the rest of the year. PCI compliance put a damper on our seasonal fun though, now it's try desparately to stay awake while staring at systems monitors :(

  15. Brenda McViking

    Mission Control

    Legend has it (and i've heard it from a friend of a friend so this could well be complete BS) that a certain ESA satellite programme had mission control playing a modified networked version of DOOM on all the big screens played by the various system controllers, with some cleverly coded interrupts which would immediately pause the game and bring the satellite monitors back up on any alert that manifested itself on the system and required intervention from any one of them.

    I was told that typically, this was an environment where you'd get 5 minutes of intense activity required followed by hours of nothing happening until another alert, so they had plenty of time to amuse themselves between events.

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: Mission Control

      I've read of studies on drone pilots where they've found that this actually helps. Basically when the 5 minutes of intense activity happens you want people to be alert and fired up, a high arousal level is the technical term. If the preceding few hours have been spent staring at screens where nothing is happening it's very hard to snap into an aroused state quickly enough, whereas if you've been playing some sort of game you are at the very least likely to be awake. I believe a lot of work is being done on finding the right kind of games to allow for an effective transition from playing to working.

      1. not.known@this.address
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Mission Control

        @SkippyBing, "an effective transition from playing to working"

        Wasn't this invented around the Golden Age of science fiction and called "Ender's Game"?

        On a slightly more personal level, you're not related to SkippySlist are you? (Oh sorry, my bad - that's Skippy's List...)

        (WHAT??? Someone just told me Buffy is 20 years old... say it ain't so!)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mission Control

        "I've read of studies on drone pilots where they've found that this actually helps. Basically when the 5 minutes of intense activity happens you want people to be alert and fired up, a high arousal level is the technical term. "

        As Tesla are finding out and as most real AI people already know. Partial AI, or "enhanced cruise control" won't cut it in the real world of driving vehicles on the roads.

    2. wyatt

      Re: Mission Control

      I worked at a former RAF SGS where on a night time they'd roll out their own LAN and play against each other. Own PCs/Laptops, own network and no interruption to any monitoring. Majority were ex mil so had a good enough work ethic that they did the job when needed

  16. Gordon Pryra

    It wasn't me

    Just saying....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It wasn't me

      You wouldn't deny it if it wasn't true.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our IT chap about a decade ago loved WoW and played it at his cubicle a lot. When questioned, his first line of defence was "The systems are running well because of all the work I do, if I was running around like a blue arsed fly, it would look good but I'd be crap at my job."

    I sat just in front of him and managed to complete Dungeon Master via Steem during office hours once, so I shouldn't complain.

  18. Dave 15

    he should not have needed to

    Managers should come out of their ivory towers, leave the golf course, forgo the 'Bristol lunches' and go and find out what their people do all day.

    1. Red Bren

      Re: he should not have needed to

      Funny. Play golf on company time and you're networking with the high flyers. Play WoW on company time and you're a freeloading nerd.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: he should not have needed to

      Good advice. Companies that give their managers offices that cut them off from their people are also asking for trouble.

      I remember my old boss coming round to our desks and asking "where's x this morning?"

      "Not in yet", I replied.

      "Oh", he said. "I need her urgently".

      I'd been working there eight months by that point and I don't think x had ever arrived in the office before 10am. I'd assumed she had an arrangement.

      Even if you've got good people, if you don't ever put in an appearance then things will start to slip.

      1. Lilolefrostback

        Re: he should not have needed to

        It's not the offices that are the problem; it's the gits occupying said offices. My manager has to deal with issues that I really do not want to hear about (and that I really should not hear about). Giving him a proper office with a proper door makes it possible for me to remain ignorant about those issues. Giving him an enhanced cubicle means that sensitive information will land on unauthorized ears - dreadful business practices.

        Good managers know how to maintain a presence, regardless of the type of office they have.

      2. Vic

        Re: he should not have needed to

        Companies that give their managers offices that cut them off from their people are also asking for trouble

        I used to work for a boss whom I considered to be remarkable - he never appeared to do a damn thing, but every one of us in the team knew exactly what was going on, all the time. Light-touch management at its very best.

        Then he got an office away from the ret of us, and I realised that we were just hearing all his phone calls; he really was doing nothing...


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked at a firm where an after work session of Half Life was standard after a long day. Blasting your boss in the head with a weapon of your choice was very therapeutic. No problems with this after work but when it came to a lunchtime session it was a different story. Initially no problem but then there was a senior manager showing someone round and they wanted to walk through the department and out the fire exit at the back. He sent an email explaining that it was the lunch hour and we were free to do what we wanted. The company computers and network were not to be used between 9 & 5 for playing shoot em ups. He didn't have any problems after work but it looked bad if clients saw it.

  20. I Like Heckling Silver badge

    I once knew a guy who worked for an online retailer... He was able to setup (with permission) a little gaming server for our little clan (back in the days of Return To Castle Wolfenstein and the original Battlefield 1942 with mods) outside of the firewall. It consumed very little bandwidth and was never heavily used as we were a small clan.

    It actually ended up being a positive thing for the company, as we experienced an intermittent stuttering issue when playing... that when traced back turned out to be a misconfiguration with the ISP equipment at the exchange (probably BT back then).

    It wasn't used during working hours and it was done with a managers knowledge and OK.

  21. Winkypop Silver badge

    Gaming at work?


    When we needed some "me time" on the bosses dime, we'd go to a mid day movie session.

    No evidence.

  22. Dave 15

    BTW interesting alternative

    Personally computer games leave me cold but worked in a few companies with better ideas...

    table football/ice hockey etc

    Lego/mechanno etc, not the little ones but the huge models

    Both help - when people are stuck they take a break and add to the model/play a bit, but they talk to each other while doing so, often the talking and explaining solves the problem and all parties return to their desks with new info/ideas/solutions and finish the job.

    Similarly ALL companies should have comfy seats and massive numbers of whiteboards in kitchens, canteens and the likes... very productive

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BTW interesting alternative

      Used to work for a company that tried to be "trendy" and have a scaletrix and football table on display on the office floor. However, if you played with it, you would get a telling off from the MD.

  23. kain preacher

    "If you quit or are fired for cause, then you are ineligible for unemployment benefits"

    Depends on the state. In California, hostile work environment, work place violence, sexual harassment, and taking care of a sick relative are all valid reasons to quit and collect unemployment.

  24. johnnyblaze

    I remember back in the day, on the IT graveyard shift when you're waiting for jobs to finish and the backups *are* running, playing games was a way to pass the time. Many an hour wasted playing Doom or Castle Wolfenstein, but as long as the work actually got done, nodoby really cared.

  25. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    That was unexpected ...

    Sorry for not being a 'young hip dude' but I mis-read the tag line as "Frak fest" and have just suffered a severe nostalgia trip! :-)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We had to travel to one of our hospitals that was notorious for its complaints about the IT department.

    Walked up to the door to the IT department, slid our card to open and walked in: and there was the entire department watching TV. The department that complained they were so overworked that they didn't have time to respond to user problems or install hardware that had been sitting around for months.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nope, Gordon is a cuck

    Nope completely in the wrong, let people live life you mean bastard.

  28. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    "playing World of Warcraft or Half Life 2"

    well which was it? Rather significant difference between...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At a previous job...

    I was the Personal Assistant to my boss, so I was privy to all the crap that came across his desk, especially since most of it had to be sorted, collated, & summarized by me for him.

    I knew the staff occasionally blew off steam after hours by playing games like Half Life, W:ET, etc, but since it was after hours & our networks were all internal facing (no internet for us peons), my boss didn't really care.

    Then his boss came to visit, saw folks "goofing off & playing games" (ignoring the "after hours" part) & demanded that my boss "fire all the time wasters!"

    Cue an audit of all the company computers to find out which programs on which computers got the most use, keeping an eye on the games to figure out whom was spending a little too much time playing them. Imagine our astonishment (and impish glee) when it turned out that the bastard demanding the firing turned out to spend the bulk of his time playing MS Solitare, during working hours, nearly *double* what our guys were doing *after hours*.

    When my boss compiled the "Top 50 list" of offenders of the playing games / time wasting bunch with said CxO at the top of it, suddenly there was no more said about *anyone* playing games on the corporate intranet.

    Funny how those whom scream the loudest are often doing it to cover the sound of their own guilt.

  30. J. Cook Silver badge

    I've had a few supervisors at the current place I work at who are pretty lax about slacking off- as long as:

    a) the work gets done

    b) it's not *too* invasive

    for example, on super slow days (holidays, primarily, where I was required to be there for break/fix, but since things were running well I ended up having very little to actually *do*) I'd have my personal laptop in and was playing movies, offline games, or using the company's guest wireless to play minecraft or some such.

    And yeah, I could *probably* write off El Reg as "technical research", but meh. (as I type, I'm waiting for an content index rebuild on a pair of DAG nodes, and keeping a weather eye on the backup job that's running, and waiting for a vendor to ping me.

  31. Herby

    I'm surprised...

    That nobody has mentioned BOFH in any of the comments. I'm not sure what Simon would have done, but together with PFY the team would have said "boss" down an elevator shaft or out a window somewhere...

    On the other hand, is reading ElReg "time wasting". I guess it depends on how much you really do of it. Then again, I didn't get the silver badge for being lax in that department...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backups are the easiest thing to get right

    Put a script on every server that should be getting backed up to contact a master/monitoring server to let it know what filesystems it can see, and choose a random file in each, that hasn't been modified for at least a day and not crazy large and takes a SHA1 hash. The master server selects a few of those files at random (say one for every 100 servers or so) and does a test restore every day and compares hashes.

    It posts to the intranet the list of all servers being backed up and the results of the test restores to those operating the backups every day, so anyone who worries "is my stuff getting backed up?" can see it is, and see the results of test restores to know that backups are actually getting done.

    Not saying this is foolproof, and depending on how you handle offsite vaulting that may not be so easy to verify so you may need something different there, but considering the number of times I've seen data loss for various reasons this simple step could address that. i.e. new filesystem was added but it didn't get added to the backups, or a server had been around for three years and was never backed up but those who cared about it had no way to know that, or that backups were running, but couldn't be restored for one reason or another.

    Yes, you want monitoring that can report on completions so failed backups can be restarted and so forth, but the above is step 1, because too often if monitoring says "all backups were completed successfully" the backup team thinks their job is done. That's because they don't understand their job isn't to back up data, but to restore data. I consulted at a place with really messed up backups, and even though I was there for storage I spent a few weeks helping their backup team. One thing the data center manager refused to do that I really wish he'd considered is to rename that team the data restoration team, to drive home the point of what their job really is.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked grave yard shift at MCI. Basically I was baby sitting servers. I was given permission to play games, and down load movies. I asked about the MIAA. The guy laughed. He said who do you think gets those abuse emails. They are not stupid enough to try and sue a major ISP. We will just rotate the IP address.

  34. Brian Allan 1

    You're darn right he was!

    "So was Gordon right to rat out the IT team?"

    Yes, he was right on the money!! They're paid to work NOT play games.

  35. ThePhantom

    Back in the 80's

    Same thing happened at a Silicon Valley company that I was working for. We moved from Mac to PC and had to build up a PC support team since no one knew how to use them and they were always BSoD'ing. Fast forward 6 months and while Rome burned, the PC techs were locked in their castle playing whatever it was that they played back then.

    As in this story, the entire lot were shown the door.

  36. shub-internet

    I got called in once to a company where they'd fired half the (small) IT department , and then the other two left. No payroll, no EDI going to/from customers, and the minicomputer hadn't been taken through the Y2K preparations and was out of support. And the main drive had gone down. And the backups were encrypted ... somehow...

    A previous contract had been to help the new DPM of a multi-national subsidiary gain control over his department. He'd been brought in to try to stop the period-end work (every 4 weeks) requiring a full weekend of overtime by the two developers at double-time, along with sundry other abuses of privilege. Contract project management is basically an aggressive form of marriage counselling where it's permissible to bury at least one body at midnight at the crossroads.

    This all happens because someone, somewhere, is taking the piss. Management, minions, someone will have a 'bright' idea on how to do less work for more money. Piss-takers should get buried.

    Gordon has the right of it.

    1. Kiwi

      This all happens because someone, somewhere, is taking the piss. Management, minions, someone will have a 'bright' idea on how to do less work for more money. Piss-takers should get buried.

      Not really. I've known a lot of places where improving efficiency is something that is loved, and you often get bonuses for it. In one example my brother swapped out a washer for a slightly thicker one on a machine he used to run. End result was the machine was faster and more reliable. He was able to finish his "quota" and spend some time at the end of each week giving the machine some real maintenance instead of trying to catch up due to failures as had been the practice for some time before. He got a bonus and a raise because his finding a way to do less work saved/made the company truckloads of money, and he'd only started operating that machine. The issue with the washer was one of those "so obvious it's ignored" faults, meaning a slight shift in the alignment of parts, and creepage meant the resulting product would become too far out of spec, meaning a shutdown for a large part of the entire operation while the machine was re-aligned, faulty product sent back to be re-worked to bring it back to spec (or back to the furnace if it was quicker to melt it down and start from scratch).

      And most business owners want less work for more money, ie less input costs for more profit. Giving people an incentive makes them inventive. Giving praises and raises to workers looking to shortcut the system and find a way to get their job done faster can make a firm more efficient, and more profitable.

      Buried they should be, but under a mountain of cash bonuses.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The trick is to play Half-Life off the CD

    And not install the EXEs on your PC.

    And setup a second LAN on a separate cable for gaming.

  38. TrumpSlurp the Troll


    Memories of playing text based Star Trek on development systems at very unsocial hours in a data center.

    Life can be very boring waiting for batch jobs to finish.

  39. ecofeco Silver badge

    Works for me

    Nothing I hate more than being the one person carrying the department load while the rest slack off and blame the few people actually doing their job for their own failures.

    I've worked with far too many groups like that. Fuck 'em.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite right.

    Hell hath no greater fury than a minion scorned.

    AC, because I am working on a ToE and don't want to get Gitmo'd or worse before it is uploaded to .torrent

  41. HWwiz

    Oh the memories.

    Back in my contracting days i may or may not have worked at the NATs center during its construction at Swanwick.

    Many memories on night shift overtime, plugging a PS2 into the massive 200" screens and us playing Crash Bandicoot. Freaking awesome !.

    The nights works had been completed but we always had many hours to waste on the shift.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It is not rubbish !!!

    Been there and seen it from both sides also.

    US companies still like to play their 'games' and will do things like this.

    Usually, the pay-off is slightly increased with a NDA to top it off !!!

    There is a threat of legal action if you fight it.

    The intention is that you cannot afford to fight as long as the company can !!!

    You tend to get an early warning when your Yearly review scores are randomly lowered because your manager has to have a more even distribution to have ALL the reviews accepted ..... and other 'alternative facts' !!! :)

    Don't believe, blindly, that the Employment laws will protect you ...... there are lots of ways to 'game' them.

  43. Domino

    This is making me feel old.

    Am I the only one here who played Pacwars at the end of a day? Until Doom came out anyway..

  44. Potemkine Silver badge


    Users are evil, it's just another proof. We should therefore consider them as enemies and do everything to get rid of the threat. BOFHs of the World, Unite!

  45. Wayland

    He was right to wait

    Disaster could have been averted had he said something earlier but like he said it was not his department. As long as the job was being done then not his business to complain how they do it. However after the disaster he was completely correct to set the boss straight. Right for the company and right for his own work not being wasted. It's disrespectful if he is working hard and others are slacking off and putting his work at risk.

  46. Josh 44
  47. DrM


    That is even a question? How about if they were only stealing just a few laptops?

  48. ukgnome

    No No No

    Rule one - never rat out anyone

    Rule two - make sure everyone knows you know

    Rule three - Sit back and enjoy your career as a BOFH

  49. Glen Murie

    I saw something similar

    A long time ago I was involved in a large scale project where I and a number of contractors were assigned to do the grunt work of training users, swapping boxes, and occasionally running scripts. Because we were all giant nerds we looked at the scripts, and fixed them when they misbehaved.

    The scripts were in plain text, and ran under an account username: george and password: jungle.

    The account had full admin rights, so we promptly went about giving our crippled network accounts full admin rights so we could do our damned jobs. This in turn brought us to think: "This company contracting us has an in house security team with soundproofed offices, safes, and locked doors to which that team has the only keys. What the hell are these idiots doing that they haven't caught on to us yet?"

    So the other members of my team (more technically competent than I) hacked into the PCs of the security team and found Quake and Doom. We never did rat them out, since our own misdeeds would have been uncovered. For all I know, they're still playing LAN games and neglecting their jobs two decades later.

  50. EmleyMoor

    Having to play a game as part of a fault investigation

    I worked for an ISP once that had started running some game servers. One day a report came in that our Quake server was continually repeating the same level. Now, everyone on my team was expected to be able to play a bit, for testing purposes, but on this day it fell to me. I went to our only suitable machine at the time, fired up the game and proceeded to play.

    The fault, it turns out, was incorrectly reported. The level had a very hard to reach exit, but I eventually managed to amass a sufficient frag count, reach it and make the game move on. I played through two more levels just to make sure it wasn't repeating.

    What I missed out was that one of the bosses came by, when I'd been playing for about 45 minutes. He noticed, but my boss stated it was a fault investigation - I had to find a "hiding place" in the game and give a progress update. It took well over an hour to get out of that level!

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