back to article What could be worse than killing a golden goose? Killing someone else's golden goose

The weekend is no more so start your working week with a Who, Me? tale about the hazards of simply trying to do the right thing. Our story comes from "Anne" and takes place many years ago in what she described as "a rather large bank," the identity of which will remain anonymous to spare the blushes and the need for legal …

  1. RichardBarrell

    Christ on a bike that's toxic.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Very, if that had happened to me, there would have been a surprise audit by the relevant regulating authority (usually central bank of the country) with the auditors going directly for the problems and other sore points.

      And yes, I've worked at banks as programmer and experienced several audits.

    2. I.S.

      So bad it's not even funny.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The whole situation sounds not unlike my first job out of university, which was as a junior programmer with an "insurance" company (they sold dodgy extended warranties on sofas).

      There was a similar toxic environment which, being young and naïve, I hadn't noticed when I first started.

      The company's apps were written in a language known as "Equinox" which was a dog's dinner of a language with a (non-relational) database back-end on Novell.

      There was a limit to the size on disk that various screens could take up, and I'd been tasked with "slimming down" existing code so that additional cruft functionality could be added in.

      In my first week I'd been told by my rather self-important supervisor in no uncertain terms about what the language could and couldn't do, and I'd set about familiarising myself with it, largely by reading the documentation. Lo-and-behold, a few weeks into the job, I'd discovered that there were elegant ways of doing what I'd been told it couldn't, and I made the fatal error of disclosing this publicly.

      Cue several months of increasing bullying by my "supervisor", sideways "secondments" into completely unrelated parts of the business (essentially envelope-stuffing) and, finally, being told on a Friday afternoon, that I'd be having a misconduct hearing on the following Monday morning (with no indication of what I'd actually done wrong). To cut a long story short, I got sacked for misconduct. I think the exact reason they gave was some bullshit about "loss of confidence in my abilities", and spun this into "misconduct" somehow, followed by a month's garden leave. I was actually pleased that I'd been fired.

      I'd been paid so badly, and had to get up to commute by (expensive) bus at silly-o'clock, that it was actually an improvement to be on JSA for a while.

      About six months later, one of the company's main customers went bust, and, after a rebranding exercise or two, the company itself folded. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of... people.

      Anon, because it later transpired that the people who owned the company also ran own a fair few businesses in the seaside town where it was located. Including a pier which "mysteriously" burned down not long after the family acquired it. Draw your own conclusions...

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        I experienced the same kind of situation, only I was a consultant and had better leverage than the in-house guy trying to block me.

        The client's IT manager was the proud gatekeeper of an in-house designed software interface that worked as a presentation layer for mainframe I/O, on which I was to do some work. He gave me a user manual he'd written and I went to work. As there were no description of the option buttons I needed, I had to design around the SW specification for a way to make it work.

        On the day internal SW validation was due I got the message my solution did not work - because I'd designed it not exactly according to what the manual dictated, it was the manager's *opinion* that it didn't work, and he didn't even let his team test it. I went to one of his juniors and showed how I'd made it work and all the tests my team had done... She told me she'd already knew it worked, but could not contradict her boss.

        My options were: 1) go back and find a different solution to the problem (with no guarantee of acceptance); 2) go over his head, to the client who originally asked me to do the job, someone much higher in the bank's ranks tthan the IT manager.

        Without going much into it, I never saw the manager's face again for the remaining few days working there and, to my knowledge my solution worked without a hitch for - at least - the next 10 years and has been adopted by others since.

        And I left in very good terms with the juniors on his team. It seems I wasn't the only one annoyed with his attitude but, unlike me, they feared for their jobs.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          I've also experienced this sort of situation -- one of the drawbacks of being a technical sort is that you just asume that everyone's interested in making stuff work properly and it often takes quite a few years for yout naivate to be knocked out of you.

          A could of incidents from decades ago comes to mind. They weren't related but they were enough to trigger a violent reaction from the engineering VP. One was the discovery that some third party router code had memory leak problem which would eventually cause the unit to stop. The golden boy (#1) in charge of this product had fixed it by setting up a timed process to reset the unit before it ran out of memory. Golden boy #2 had designed the monitoring hardware so that the processor would stop dead if it accessed anywhere that didn't give it a positve acknowledgement (its a feature of early Intel processors). No exception. Just stop dead on an infinite wait state. This caused all sorts of time wasting, especialy when debugging (and prevented dynamic sizing of memory etc.). There were other problems with GBs 1 & 2; I didn't set out to annoy or upset or anything like that, but my lot was to come up with fixes to problems caused by design oversights, apparently just using magic code patches.

          I don't like being shouted at, especially for no good reason, so I just quietly found another job. The company, needless to say, didn't last. Customers like products that work.

          (Just before I formally quite I had the weird experience of having that same VP roll up to my office and loudly praise me for fixing yet another GB screwup. Concience or expedience? Who cares -- best to avoid such people, they're a waste of space.)

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            One genuine advantage of being a contractor or consultant is that you can speak truth to power, knowing that the worst they can do is not hire you again. Sadly there are strong incentives to toe the line anyway.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Deep desk drawers

        "The nightly backup keeps taking longer and longer, and as long as the backup is running user logins are disabled. When they come in early in the morning they often can't login for an hour or more. Do Something About That."

        Trying to get an initial understanding of the backup process I already find that it's a nearly intractable tangle of VMS command files. Files whose names are 3-digit numbers. So in the logging you see something like 618.com calling 237.com and 491.com, then 762.com to ready the lot for writing to tape. Which is done by yet another command file, started at a time when the previous steps must really surely definitely totally have finished, plus an hour extra for good measure. This delay could easily be eliminated by several methods, one of which is the standard VMS function 'sync', which starts a batch job on completion of another (which can be on another queue or even on another cluster member; a single job queue isn't always the right solution).

        This I propose.

        "Our script maintainer will evaluate this."

        Weeks pass. Weeks in which calls are logged by users who can't start working because the backup is still running. Calls which end up on my desk. Requesting a status of the evaluation I get some non-committal "Still evaluating"

        Weeks pass. Same shit, same inaction. I start thinking the solution is too straightforward to get his tangled brain around.

        Weeks become months, and after some more rounds of the above finally there's a verdict. "We're afraid we can't maintain your solution after you've left."

        Balderdash. It's a standard VMS function, documented as those functions all are and widely used at just about every site using batch queues in more than utterly trivial ways. So this was someone who had used his script-writing skills to build an impenetrable fortress around his job.

        Well, good bye and good riddance.

      3. Dagg

        (non-relational) database back-end on Novell.

        Ohhh, Btrieve the love of my life back then.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      That's one hell of the understatement.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Very stressful

        My experience of banks, is that they do not make mistakes, or at least never admit to making mistakes unless they become publicly discussed on the national 6 O'Clock News. (Look at a the recent revelations on the Post Office's computer system that wrongly recorded the money in sub-post office's accounts.

        https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252493818/Post-Office-suffers-latest-court-defeat-in-Horizon-IT-scandal

        )

        Ann's story looks like exceptionally poor management - allowing such frequent disasters to befall the company when clearly after teh first event there should have been an enquiry sounds like dereliction of duty.

        I've been subjected to something similar in a past employment, and you both / all have my sympathies. Towards the end, I experienced considerable stress. Driving to work one day I was temporarily paralysed, in that I was unable to move for a few seconds. It felt like being a passenger in my own body. I stupidly carried on to work, but called the doctor later that day, eventually I was on 40mg of Citalopram per day (the maximum dose my doctor would prescribe). I've been retired for 2 years now and am down to 10mg a day.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Very stressful

          My experience of people who claim they never make mistakes is of a machine-room manager in a previous job who had uttered the immortal line, "I don't make mistakes," in my presence, about a fortnight before his wife left him.

          Any person, or organisation, claiming such a thing is exhibiting an unwise amount of hubris.

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      Toxic? Yeah, but it happens every, single, day.

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        I expect you're right as there are just too many incompetent developers who need to make it look like they are irreplaceable. They are usually easy to spot, they are the ones that don't want to document anything nor explain how things work and basically never want to share any of their "secrets".

        If I were an IT manager at a bank and found out that a developer was deliberately leaving serious flaws in the code then I'd be looking at having them criminally charged for industrial sabotage.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          If I were an IT manager at a bank and found out that a developer was deliberately leaving serious flaws in the code then I'd be looking at having them criminally charged for industrial sabotage.

          That presumes an IT manager who is competent in the relevant part of IT and those are pretty rare critters. It is even rarer for one to also be competent at management.

  2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    For the sake of this post, let's assume it was at another rather large bank: on call used to be paid extra per off-hours call out. It might have been some evil auditor's recommendation (not I!) initiating changing the incentives: after on call payment changed to a fixed sum for being on call, the number of off-hours incidents decreased dramatically to nearly zero.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      on a related note....

      During the Y2K project I was in, my team was correcting an application consisting of almost a 100 programs chained together (just as COBOL likes)

      We were made aware that that particular batch chain would break every single night, meaning an hefty on-call bill (it was per incident + hours spent). And is had been going like that for years.

      So I analysed the failure point and it was seemingly simple to correct - IIRC there were numeric conversions that would fail under certain conditions, conditions that would almost certainly be met once or twice per run.

      That correction was deemed out-of-scope by our client rep, who, curiously, was also that application's IT boss.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: on a related note....

        GOSUB Keith -- the ultimate job security

        In the 1990's I worked for a major fiber cable manufactuer. The application that selected fibers for bundling into cables ran once a day. The application owner had to be on-site between 2 and 3 pm because, without fail, for no descernable reason (and believe me, they looked), until the day the system was decomissioned, to wait for it to crash and then restart it under the debugger, at which point it would continue to its normal end. We called this daily event "GOSUB Keith".

        1. An ominous cow herd

          Re: on a related note....

          It's a classic, everything that breaks while running live runs flawlessly when under the debugger microscope. Probably owing to events timing or concurrency that stop being a problem when run on a step-by-step basis.

  3. TonyJ Silver badge

    One place I workded...

    ...I noticed that they were paying for Citrix Subscription Advantage for products that Citrix themselves could no longer support, to the tune of over £150k per year.

    And that of the 8 NetScalder SDX's several were on a shelf, turned off. Again over £120K of SA that they couldn't use and didn''t need to since they had plenty of spares.

    Then there was the near catastrophic decision I averted for them when their EA almost pulled the trigger on Citrix Cloud licensing, under the mistaken belief that it included all the licenses required for OS's and clients - a near £400k cock up that would've put the company at real risk had it gone through.

    Of course, as they say, no good deed goes unnoticed and the EA was a spiteful bastard that ensured my time there became limited due to my refusal to take his mistakes on as my own.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: One place I workded...

      It’s amazing how many seemingly sensible people won’t listen when you point stuff like that out.

      Significant savings to be had by just looking properly at what you’ve got.

      When I was at the home office they eventually did an audit of by phone lines across all their sites, thousands of numbers with 0 calls where ditched. It was then brought to light that some lines used for WAN (early 2000’s here) for some micro sites where racking up thousands in call start charges. Idle timeout was too aggressive so the connection was dropping and starting several times a minute out of hours. Didn’t take ping to sort that out once it was known about. The main issue there was that IT never saw the bills and finance just blindly paid them.

      1. Sequin

        Re: One place I workded...

        Don't get me started about the Home Office! Loved working there, but there were some absolute numpties!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: One place I workded...

          "Don't get me started about the Home Office!"

          A large numbert of people who work in "civil service" do so BECAUSE they couldn't hold down a job in other arenas

          This actually holds true across many $LARGE organisations(*) but employment in government departments has traditionally been a tried&tested way of hiding embarrassingly large unemployment statistics across many countries - "western democracies" and "socialist republics" alike

          (*) When I was much younger we used to call it "management featherbedding" - and was usually done because the more people there are working under a manager, the higher his salary grading and the bigger the retirement package awaiting him at age 60 - as such there would be significant increases in departmental staffing in the 3-5 years leading up to XYZ's retirement which would almost immediately be slashed by his incoming replacement

          1. Sequin

            Re: One place I workded...

            I was there when we were market tested and shipped out to a private company (Sema Group). Our political masters had spent years telling us how much better the private sector was than us. A couple of months working with them showed us that this was a complete and utter load of bollocks!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: One place I workded...

              Sema won the market tender at DSS; DoH, who I worked for, shared premises with them, and we heard on the building grapevise that things had gone rapidly downhill. They'd TUPEd the existing staff, but added so much bullshit into standard procedures that neither end users nor techies were happy, and morale went off a cliff.

          2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Management featherbedding

            I worked at an outfit that did (among many other thinks) wire bundle design for its line of products. The wiring design group had a crusty old database which tracked every device and connection in the system. Each device having a unique identifier. To ensure this uniqueness rule, several dozen people had the job of perusing weekly fan-folded printouts of the database with red and blue pencils to find the design rule violations.

            Describing this situation to any half competent database designer inevitably produced remarks along the lines that any half-*ssed database should allow for the ID field to be declared a unique key, preventing the erroneous duplicate insertion. Or at least a SELECT could be written to identify the dupes in 0.15 seconds of processor time. However, the second level manager in charge of this unit had also managed to wrangle the position of coordinator of all engineering automation. And it was his duty (as he saw it) to prevent the replacement of 100 underlings with a few lines of code.

            Another task they had was to measure the length of wire bundles designed in CATIA. This was done by printing out 1:1 scale drawings of each bundle (some could be 50 or 100 feet long), hanging them on the wall of a long hallway and measuring each with a little map measuring wheel. Any attempt to point out that CATIA already 'knew' how long each bundle had been drawn and a simple query could generate the same data in seconds. Nope. Not going to consider that.

            There were numerous jobs that could have been streamlined. Reducing the staff levels from a few hundred people doing mindless jobs to half a dozen actual engineers needed to solve actual engineering problems.

            One would think that things would change once this guy retired. Which he has by now. But his replacement came in, looked over his new kingdom and figured that things looked pretty good from where he was sitting.

            1. 96percentchimp

              Re: Management featherbedding

              Maybe he was wasting money that could have been better spent on making shareholders wealthier, but I bet the 100 people who this manager kept employed didn't see his intervention as wasteful. They might not even have been aware that he was all that stood between them and being "streamlined".

              1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

                Re: Management featherbedding

                "They might not even have been aware that he was all that stood between them and being streamlined."

                I suspect that most did. It's rare to see an employee that can't figure out when they are being asked to do busywork. And that can be a morale breaker (with a few notable exceptions). The competent employees eventually leave for jobs where their skills will actually be valued. And be at lower risk of an eventual reorganization and cut.

                Notable exceptions include much of the busywork done in the military. Apocryphal stories include duties such as painting the rocks in front of the barracks. But most enlisted personnel understand that what they are doing is being kept busy between periods of mobilization.

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Management featherbedding

                  " It's rare to see an employee that can't figure out when they are being asked to do busywork. And that can be a morale breaker (with a few notable exceptions)."

                  That's been my experience too - which leaves you with a core group of employees who are there because they won't be able to be employed by anyone else and all your competent/talented people buggering off

      2. Andrew Yeomans

        Re: One place I workded...

        ...thousands of numbers with 0 calls where ditched.

        And then they tried invoking the DR plan using those "redundant" circuits :-)

        1. Argus Tuft

          Re: One place I workded...

          very common to have routers with 4G mobile SIM’s for backup. quite regularly customer accountants will suspend and then cancel all the no-usage services ‘to see who complains’. no one does until the fixed connection finally goes down...

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: One place I workded...

            At which point, the job to be cut is the accountant

            I've had that discussion and seen a "senior accountant" get bounced HARD

            Nobody shed any tears. He'd been warned he was cutting out safety margins and C-level staff were given copies of the memos

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: One place I workded...

        "Significant savings to be had by just looking properly at what you’ve got."

        That doesn't matter an iota if it causes the pay or ego of the person making the decsion to take a hit

        In which case it's worth making sure you have everything thoroughly documented BEFORE submitting it and make sure it can all go to the auditors if manglement decide they don't like you anymore

    2. John Doe 12

      Re: One place I workded...

      "EA" means in this case??

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: One place I workded...

        ""EA" means in this case??"

        Enterprise Architect

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: One place I workded...

          A person, not the software.

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: One place I workded...

            In this case EA games might actually be appropriate...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One place I workded...

      I was working for a company that had made a data collection machine that they were selling worldwide, it used a stand-alone app that ran on MSDOS (this was a long time ago, MSDOS was new then) and I pointed out to them that we needed to include a license for MSDOS with each system sold. They told me that it was not necessary because their system didn't have a keyboard or monitor so nobody would know.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "checks". So, a USAian bank. That narrows it down. ;)

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge
      Coat

      Or a USAian spell checker.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Or a bad fashion sense ...

    2. Shadow Systems

      At JGH re: checks...

      If a foreign bank sends me money via the post, might my Czek cheque be in the mail? =-)p

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: At JGH re: checks...

        "..If a foreign bank sends me money via the post, might my Czek cheque be in the mail? =-)p.."

        You should probably check...

        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

          Re: At JGH re: checks...

          If sent to BoJo while in Buckinghamshire then it would be a Chequers Czek cheque check to see if it had arrived!

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: At JGH re: checks...

          "You should probably check"

          Spell-check.

      2. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: At JGH re: checks...

        Don't know, you might have to double-check your Czek cheque

        Edit: Ninja'd

        1. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: At JGH re: checks...

          But the czech was in the post, Nixon's dog got to it first and ate it see...

      3. DryBones
        Trollface

        Re: At JGH re: checks...

        Old (and very private) joke of mine, "Hit the deck, it's the Rubber Czech!"

        1. Shadow Systems

          At DryBones, re: rubber cheques...

          I was once given a novelty rubber cheque for a birthday one year. I filled it out payable to "Reality", a sum of $0 & 1Cent, with a giant red "Bounced: Insufficient Funds" across the face.

          I kept it in my wallet & would present it to folks while claiming "I'm so poor even my Reality Cheques bounce!"

          A waitress I'd told it to had to sit down from laughing so hard. =-D

          *Hands you a pint*

          Cheers. Here's to being unable to even pay attention...

          1. whitepines
            Coat

            Re: At DryBones, re: rubber cheques...

            $0 & 1Cent

            Missed an opportunity there to give Reality your two cents!

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Things were purposefully not documented"

    There may be a reason for that, but there is no excuse for it. If something is done to make things work that goes contrary to internal procedures, either it must be changed or, if it is indeed critical to the functionality required, then it must be raised in a meeting and either the rules must change, or an exception must be made.

    But it still has to be documented.

    And getting someone fired simply because they changed a bit of "your code" ? That is petty and pathetic - not that those kind do not exist, I am well aware. That "senior" developer should have simply gone to her and explained what it is that she had done wrong and why. That's what you do when you are a professional and a team player.

    That guy was clearly batting only for himself. I've met a few like that, and I always like leaving them behind.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

      The story is of events many many years ago. The mindset of that bank at that time fostered those views and attitudes. Laws have changed and companies have faced significant damages for discretionary behaviour such as retold here.

      This kind of stuff definitely still happens but is likely far more subtle. Ever been given an impossible challenge at work and been castigated for failing? Or have you ever been given a task that once completed you realise it wasn’t needed or someone else already did it? There are ways of getting rid of people, make them want to leave or make good reason to dismiss them.

      1. Shadow Systems

        Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

        *Raises hand* I was given the impossible task & not told that someone had already completed it using non-traditional means.

        I kept the emails regarding the assignment of, requirements of, & supposedly available resources for, said project. Because I've always done it to cover my ass. And good thing I did, too, for when the review team came down to demand why I was wasting time & company resources on a project "we don't need & have already paid for elsewhere", I simply printed out said email chain & handed it over with a smile.

        You want to throw me under a bus? Don't be so surprised when I provide the proof needed to get you under there instead.

        Dear Former Boss, yes I mean you. I loved the look on your ex-wife's face when I made it public that you were having an affair with the secretary & billing the company for MY pseudo-over-time pay to cover your expenses. I loved hearing that said ex-wife took your slimey ass to the cleaners & the secretary wound up hitting you with a paternity suit. Karma's a bitch, ain't she?

        MUH Hahahahahhahahahhahahhahhaha...

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

          "I loved the look on your ex-wife's face"

          My first job, straight out of school, many years ago, was working early morning cleaning in a branch of a national supermarket chain that begins with "T" and "has a reputation".

          One day I ambled into one of the manager's offices with my smiley Henry and got told to get the hell out. Which I did.

          Twenty minutes later I was fired for insubordination.

          I went to the site manager later that day and said that I want six months of pay as severance. Otherwise I will happily go to the nearest solicitor to go to a tribunal or whatever for unfair dismissal, and I would have no problem mentioning that the reason for dismissal was because I walked in on X and Y bonking each other on the office desk.

          X and Y who were married to other people.

          Funnily enough, I got my demand. And I was damned glad to go. Rancid place. Treating everybody like a thief while robbing the place blind (it's amazing what you can learn when people think you're so insignificant as to not exist).

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

            " I would have no problem mentioning that the reason for dismissal was because I walked in on X and Y bonking each other on the office desk."

            A cleaner did that at NZ's Massey University in 1990 - the unversity Vice President (BigMan) and his secretary.

            The cleaner was sacked and immediately went to his union. The secretary was sacked whilst BM was merely reprimanded - which raised an utter shitstorm. It cost the university a LOT of money/prestige as many other items which had been covered up started coming out. BM was eventually forced to take early retirement - it turned out he'd been screwing a lot more than just his secretary (figuratively speaking)

            1. Scott 26

              Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

              1990 - I would have been a 1st year at Massey (BTech(ChemTech) represent,yo!) and therefore I don't remember this because most of 1990 was an alcoholic haze :)

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

          Karma's a lovely bitch, ain't she?

          FTFY ;)

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

          "*Raises hand* I was given the impossible task & not told that someone had already completed it using non-traditional means."

          Was his name James T. Kirk?

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

            Kobayashi Maru

    2. firey

      Golden Goose

      They weren't unhappy because their code had been changed.

      The other dept. knew they had bad code, and relied on it regularly throwing up a problem for which they could then swoop in and save the day with a "fix" & therefore receive praise and job security.

      The bad code was the golden goose!

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Golden Goose

        I think that's crystal clear from the article.

      2. TheWeetabix

        Re: Golden Goose

        Err, thank you for explaining?

        I'm curious, what do YOU think WE thought the golden goose was, if not the code? Serious question.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

      "That "senior" developer should have simply gone to her and explained what it is that she had done wrong and why"

      And say what? "Hey, I know there's a bug in my code and I purposely don't fix it so that I can look like a hero fixing a massive problem every time there's a crisis"? "You fixing my bug is screwing up my Christmas bonus"?

      No way the 'senior' developer could have come out of this looking good if he disclosed it - awful behaviour which he then doubled down on by getting her fired to prevent disclosure

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

        "No way the 'senior' developer could have come out of this looking good if he disclosed it - awful behaviour which he then doubled down on by getting her fired to prevent disclosure"

        This is Board of Directors and "employment lawyer" material - but I'll guarantee that SD was golfing buddies with appropriate BoD members

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

      It's pretty clear those things don't apply. Nothing went "contrary to internal procedures". The other person wasn't annoyed because it should have gone through a meeting. They were annoyed because they deliberately created the mistake. In literally every scenario, your objections do not apply. Here are some likely options:

      The change didn't go through procedures and the creator didn't do anything deliberately: Have it reversed then go through procedures. That didn't happen. This scenario isn't right.

      The change didn't go through procedures and the creator was trying to hide their mistake: Don't complain about the change and nobody finds out who made the mistake. That didn't happen.

      The change didn't go through procedures and the creator was annoyed enough about someone not following procedure that they wanted to fire that person: Discipline them for not following procedures. That didn't happen.

      No, this was clearly malpractice and there's no reason for it. The senior developer should have been fired for it following the procedure to figure out who knew about the code and why they didn't do something about it.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: "Things were purposefully not documented"

        The mistake might have been not deliberately created, but found to be profitable to leave in place OR embarrassing to reveal.

        Having said that... even back whenever, you don't "just" "fix a bug" in software that the company runs on, on your own. There is a process.

        I got yelled at today by one senior colleague for mentioning to another senior colleague an issue that hasn't been addressed since 2018.

  6. Howard Sway

    made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

    "team member" my arse. Just another seatwarmer / timeserver who has hit on the brilliantly original innovation of keeping knowledge to themselves so that they seem indispensible to the equally self-serving and incompetent line managers that sit just above them in the corporate hierarchy.

    Seeing someone become a rage filled vengeance monster because you turn up at a company and can do the work competently, showing them up as not the skilled expert they like to present themselves as, is an experience that you will probably have sooner or later, and when it happened to me, I learnt that getting out sooner rather than later is the only solution to this situation. There really are better places to work, and you'll be much happier there, especially when you think of those people probably still stewing in their miserable toxic atmosphere.

    1. nintendoeats Bronze badge

      Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

      I'm not sure how long ago this was, but depending on the decade a female programmer might have found it more difficult to change jobs (especially if she didn't get a good reference). I also wonder if that exacerbated the embarassment of the "slighted" employee.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

        Embarrassment? More like pride, if things are to go by.

    2. aregross

      Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

      I worked for a bank... Once. The most toxic of environments. If you had money, you could do and say anything and people would bow with a 'Yes'sir' or 'Yes'Maam'. Just like the story, if you 'Show'd Up' someone they were bound to try anything to get you fired.

      It worked!

      1. WhereAmI?

        Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

        I contracted for a bank (Chase Manhattan in Bournemouth) for a short while. Spent all of my last week there crawling under desks, pulling out and upgrading IBM PS/2s. On the Friday of that week I was called in by the manager and told not to come back on Monday because the knees of my jeans were dirty and this was not in keeping with the bank's image.

        Well, fck you! Had a hell of a job explaining why I'd been 'sacked' to the agency; even volunteered to make the seventy mile journey to HO to show them the dirty jeans. I have no idea whether they believed me but I didn't get any further work from them. Money talks...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

      The organisation I'm at is currently suffering exactly this problem.

      The senior manager (well past retirement) is sittiing on a number of changes which would make lives easier for everyone else simply because allowing these changes would be admission he's been wrong for more than 20 years

      He has a nasty tendency to allow tasks to get 3/4 done, then pulls people off to work on "more important projects" then vilifies staff for failing to document things which are only partially deployed/working - or were thrown together as "will this do what we need?" - and has been known to repeatedly turn prototype/demonstrators into production systems before they're thoroughly debugged, then refusing to allow them to be touched as "they're too critical to risk"

      I give the entire IT department 60:40 odds of falling apart after he retires (an ineffective suck-up manager is most likely to be appointed because of the patronage systems operating within the organisation) or recovering

      Anon, for blindingly obvious reasons

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

        Ye Gods, leave! For your own sanity, please leave. Unless the money is just *that* good that you can afford to shrug it off.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: made a senior team member very angry and retribution was swift and brutal

      I've worked a lot of places and found that it's about a 50/50 chance of finding a better place.

      So easier said than done.

  7. AlanSh

    I know

    exactly which bank it is, having done work for them in the past (and have them steal it and claim it as theirs)- and no, I am not going to reveal which one it is.

    1. Marcelo Rodrigues
      Trollface

      Re: I know

      "I know

      exactly which bank it is, having done work for them in the past (and have them steal it and claim it as theirs)- and no, I am not going to reveal which one it is."

      Pretty please? With a cherry on top?

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: I know

      You may very well be right and I'm not questioning that. But having faced similar in a different bank (or was it?), I believe it is not that a unique behaviour.

    3. Ken 16
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I know

      I've worked for several banks in several countries and if you go back a couple of decades it could have happened in any of them.

    4. $till$kint

      Re: I know

      Having worked at four UK banks in varying consulting roles I can assure you they ALL behave like this. Vile organisations.

  8. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It can happen anywhere

    I got caught by this one as a young teacher. I did a careful analysis of various assessment processes we were using and identified which were providing useful information, with what it told us. Gave it to my boss - 'cos I waned it to be seen and used.

    Heard nothing. Until about a month later she asked me to summarise it because she'd been asked to present it to the Local Authority (but hadn't understood it herself).

    Similar sorts of problems there as in the OP lead to me moving on to bigger and better things. Education rather than IT related, but similar in terms of events, practices being retained because it suited various senior people rather than doing good for the kids.

  9. Schultz
    Holmes

    This happened at a bank ...

    and as most of us learned the hard way, banks are very creative in converting your money to their money. (Read up on the last few financial crises if you need to.) Who would have thought that that creativity extends to the lower echelon of employees?

    Truly shocked, am I.

  10. Dabooka Silver badge

    Disappointed but not surprised

    Shocking tale. I'm not in that sector or role, is this sort of thing common place or was it 'of its time'?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Disappointed but not surprised

      This common in all sectors in every industry.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big financial organisations and life as a zero sum game

    Once worked for a small offshoot of a much larger financial services company. I was visiting the huge head office once, and someone with whom I'd worked for a while had got a promotion, from my point of view, well deserved, as he was one of the good guys. I congratulated him when I heard, and he looked oddly at me for a moment, then said thanks. I thought it was odd behaviour. But then I heard the response of his colleagues. Every single one was spitting blood. It took me a while to work out why*. In their minds, if he'd got promotion, it must have been at their expense. So my good guy colleague was momentarily puzzled by someone actually congratulating him.

    *- thinking about it, I'm really not smart enough to glean that. It was a while back, and I think someone must have flat-out told me that this was their world view.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had an ex-bank IT guy come in as a manager and he had some startlingly bad habits - all about controlling information, especially to other management. He successfully killed off going to actual users for user testing (which had all the unfortunate effects you'd expect) but managed to spin the failing projects as successes, and eventually to blame others for the lack of value in those projects when they were audited. I don't know what happened to him after that - I left.

    I wonder if there's a problem with bank IT in general? Just as a customer I've noticed problems like three different boxes (one thin client, two desktop, one of the latter very dusty) bundled together under the staff member's desk

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      I wonder if there's a problem with bank IT in general?

      Well ...

      What there IS is a problem with banks in general.

      For the longest time now. ie: since they were invented.

      What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?

      Bertold Brecht

      A.

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      I think the problem is that banks tend to attract not IT people who are interested in what they are doing, but the guys who are in it just for the money.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...Best Served Cold.

    At an age where I should have been more worldly wise, I landed a gig as Infrastructure Manager of a mid-sized law firm, reporting directly to the IT Director. I spent the first few weeks reviewing their setup and recruiting my new team. The infrastructure was in a mess – multiple single points of failure, poor / non existent backups, old & unsupported hardware and software. I also undertook a security audit and spotted some very strange domain admin accounts. I asked my boss about them and he told me they were for “their support company” to use, remotely. A bit more digging and I discovered that this company were located almost 200 miles away from us and that the IT Director’s previous company was located in the same area.

    Fast forward a few more weeks, I’d submitted my “state of play report” and I’m preparing to order kit and services to improve the dire state of the infrastructure. I get prices from the usual suspects and play a bit of hardball to get the best deals. I run the details past the Director, and he tells me to order through his “preferred supplier”. I object on cost grounds and he makes it clear who will be getting the order.

    Monday morning, the following week – last week of my probation – I’m called into a meeting room with the director and HR and I’m told my performance isn’t “up to scratch” and to clear my desk.

    A few days later I emailed all 100+ of the partners of the law firm, detailing my concerns over the state of the infrastructure, the unsecured and unaudited domain admin accounts and the “questionable” relationship their IT Director had with a supplier. I never received a reply from any of them, but the b*tard was gone within two months.

    Anonymous, for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...Best Served Cold.

      Lawyers - they problem reckoned that any kind of reply would have been used in a case against them (because thats what they would have done).

    2. Martin Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: ...Best Served Cold.

      I'm a little surprised you weren't approached and offered the newly vacant post of IT Director...!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: ...Best Served Cold.

        You think a firm of *Lawyers* with 100+ partners want a "whistle blower" in charge of their IT with admin/root logins to the email servers?

  14. anothercynic Silver badge

    Same story, different company...

    ... Well, not quite *my* story, but someone else's. I've seen this toxic behaviour from other (former) colleagues in a previous position, with managers also involved in attempting to constructively dismiss said person. Sadly, much to my shame, I never piped up to voice my disapproval. Eventually I was one of a large batch of engineers made redundant. I'm glad in retrospect that I was.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Saved the customer millions - which pissed off my company

    I'll write it up one day.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Saved the customer millions - which pissed off my company

      Not an amount as big as that, but still.

      At Digital, we FS techs were told not to discuss details of a customer's planned upgrades with them; that was Sales territory. And of course customers would definitely want to hear a FS tech's opinion, because, call-out hours or not, I and most of my colleagues would rather be fixing a customer's stuff that's truly broken instead of endlessly chasing the difference between what he was told he'd get and what the gear actually could deliver.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh, back in the day

    At a former employer, we had a quarterly Achievement Award (or Effort Award, as we called it), which typically went to one of two types:

    - Fucked something up really quite badly and spent all hours heroically fixing it

    - The heroic sacrifice of spending a a couple of months on a business trip to a South Pacific island* in the middle of the European Winter.

    * i.e. me. Think overtime worth a fortune for the travel alone, enough airmiles earned for a nice bit of long haul first (several trips; same island), a stack of points with a well known hotel chain (earned in 3*, spent in 5*) and, when I got home, the Effort Award and the golden grand that came with it. Happy days. Whatever happened to gravy trains?

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Ahh, back in the day

      Simon, is that you?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Ahh, back in the day

        I lost count of the times the director's 'employee of the month' award went to someone who worked a weekend, or overnight or 'pulled out all the stops' to save the server farm / network / Data Centre / finance system / client service from a terrible fate, caused by management failing to invest in the infrastructure in contravention of company standards because it 'saved some money'. There was never (and I suspect never will be) any mention of the consistent management failures which caused the problems in the first place.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ahh, back in the day

          >consistent management failures

          Management avoided paying for any fix and merely had to hand a minion a plastic plaque each month to make them work unpaid overtime fixing it = consistent management success

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ahh, back in the day

            "[...] hand a minion a plastic plaque [...]

            A company handed out "inspirational" slogan glass paperweights as major "recognition" awards. One recipient rejected his saying "I don't think my bank manager would accept that against my mortgage".

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              Re: Ahh, back in the day

              I should have said that the one time I was on the team that 'won' the 'employee / team of the month' award it was for an almost complete balls-up, made up to look like a success.

              We had, as a team done a security review for a customer to ISO 27001. I was 'surprised' that the Project Manager had not decided on the format for the final report at the start, so everyone was working to their own idea (I did manage to get that sorted out before leaving the project). Anyway, eventually after several months overrunning we delivered a reasonable report. - Success, the client was 'happy', and we got the award (£50 each on a charge card).

              Now, for anyone on this site not a 'management consultant' or unfamiliar with their modus operandi, the ONLY reason you do a security review (which usually makes you a loss) is so that you can get the follow on work of designing (with the client's input) their entire IT Security and Information Security policies, procedures and manuals. But we didn't. We hadn't done the explanation of what to do next, what the client should consider, how they would benefit etc. So that was it.

              We did not deserve the 'employee / team of the month' award, but having done excellent work on other assignments (I know 'coz the client told me) that went unrewarded, I spent the £50 on something ridiculously expensive (of its type) that I didn't really need and which I enjoy playing with.

              Oh well, win some lose some.

    2. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Ahh, back in the day

      I’ve mentioned this before but one place I worked at introduced a cabbage award, which was ‘won’ by the poor sap who had made the biggest mistake recently. The only way to get rid of the award was for someone else to make a big mistake.

      Mind you they made sure when people did good stuff it was recognised (although not always financially) although the overtime and on call payments were generous, it was better to get a quiet night rather than be fixing stuff to be honest.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ahh, back in the day

        >Mind you they made sure when people did good stuff it was recognised

        Probably with a turnip...

  17. DS999 Silver badge

    I saw this as a consultant

    My contract was to migrate them to a new EMC array, and since they had a few overnight/batch scripts that were using EMC CLI commands and somewhat dependent on the physical layout of the array I determined I would have to "port" the scripts to the new array.

    During my testing of the new array before it went live I quickly figured out the scripts were very poorly written and rather fragile - it seemed about a 50/50 chance that somewhat would go wrong and trigger a fatal error from the script. The people who dealt with those were never around (always out of the office or in meetings) so rather than wasting time asking them about it simply took it upon myself to rewrite them. Several scripts totaling about 500 lines were combined into a single script of less than 100 lines which worked 100% in all my trials. When I handed the array over to the full time staff to do their own testing before we went live they didn't say anything, everything passed their internal testing so they signed off on letting it go live.

    When it went live everything went smoothly, so mid-week the IT Director took me to dinner with a couple of other consultants working on ancillary projects and praised us on how smoothly everything went. I was basically sitting around doing nothing the last couple weeks of the contract, which had been scheduled in case of issues. In the middle of the second week several members of their storage team cornered me and asked me "who told you to replace our scripts?" Apparently they liked the 50/50 chance of failure as it meant the on-call person would reliably make extra money for logging in and restarting the script, I'd stolen their gravy train. I couldn't imagine wanting to be woken up at 3am every other night, but I guess the people who didn't like that probably found other jobs.

    I suggested "after I leave there's nothing to stop you putting the old scripts back and no one will ever know I had rewritten them" but apparently it was too late. The IT Director had noticed that there had been no pages for the overnight scripts failing, and mentioned this in a meeting with the storage manager and his team - and (surprise, surprise!) apparently had taken credit with the COO for his smart purchase of the new array "eliminating a lot of overtime caused by the old overburdened array" LOL! Sorry guys, I didn't mean to steal your extra income but you should have told me your scripts were off limits...

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: I saw this as a consultant

      Sorry guys, I didn't mean to steal your extra income but you should have told me your scripts were off limits...

      Their mistake, never being available to tell you.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: I saw this as a consultant

        They mainly worked nights...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I saw this as a consultant

      I have a similar story at a previous employer, an auditor required a sequence of commands to be run and a screenshot taken after each one, across several thousand servers. This boring manual process was nevertheless a source of juicy overtime for some. Well it's pretty easy to automate spawning an terminal window and injecting commands and taking a screenshot, then assembling all these screenshots automatically into a PDF, then run it unattended overnight. Made no friends that day but fsck 'em.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wash and Rinse

    I inherited a night callout when an acquaintance who was the technician, was called overseas on family matters. As it turned out he didn't return.

    The system would lock up overnight, automatically phone me on a watchdog, and I would have to drive across town, in the wee small hours and reset it. He had been happy to not fix it, and keep collecting a couple of callout fees a week - no great hardship since he lived above a shop across the street. (the astute reader will have spotted that if they had an automatic watchdog dialer, why hadn't he just made it reset the gear)

    I had babies and a bonny bouncing mortgage at the time, and was also happy to take the callout fee + driving time + mileage - especially since they weren't interested in paying me do more work, like fix it.

    Happy as I was to take the danegeld, once the baby was actually sleeping through the night, 2am drives wore thin. Mortgages never sleep however, so shirley I didn't want to fix it for free, nor could I just automate, and write out fraudulent invoices.

    The end solution was this:

    I took an old cam sequencer from a washing machine and wired it up with some relays so it could power up the computers etc, push a couple of buttons in the correct sequence, which took about, oh, as long as a load of washing. I put it through the back wall where there was a meter box. When a callout happened, I would ring the gas station across the road, and the guys there were happy to get $$ to walk over and turn the washer knob around.

    With a clear(-ish) conscience, and clear legally, I could continue to invoice for an in-person callout, and the time for the full wash cycle, since I needed to stay on the clock and check it had worked properly. The mileage money went to the gas station guys.

    This happy state of affairs continued for about 3 years, until they got a new manager who asked "Can't it be fixed?" , when I said I was sure it was quite fixable, and had offered, but his predecessor didn't want to pay me to do it.

    1. David Woodhead

      Re: Wash and Rinse

      Respect!

      But I want to find out how this played out. Did the new manager get you to fix it, or was he sufficiently competent to take it in house? We need to know.

  19. ecofeco Silver badge

    Create a problem, then profit from the solution

    I've been saying it for years and people just think I'm some negative person, but I've seen this all too often. People deliberately create a problem and then try to profit from the solution.

    They are legion and they are why we can't have nice things.

  20. steviebuk Silver badge

    Reminds...

    ...me of past times at the NHS IT

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021