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Dealing With an IT Bully 521 521

jammag writes "'"You are an idiot." That was how I was greeted on an already gloomy, rainy Monday morning.' Eric Spiegel offer his a first-hand account of dealing with a tech world geek-gone-bad and presents some ideas for coping. 'These bullies are quick to aggressively divert blame for any problem back to someone else, because they couldn't possibly be responsible. Some are passive aggressive, where they will subtly lay blame behind your back. Others enjoy getting in your face and being as confrontational as possible.'" What experiences have others had that defied all logic and possibly made you want to start looking for rifles and bell towers?
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Dealing With an IT Bully

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  • by mochan_s (536939) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:27PM (#23069778)

    One thing the IT guy loves is little electronics.

    Give him a fancy USB hub that you can buy for $10 or give him a laser keychain or LED toy or a microsoft branded frizbee or just some funny printed looking DVDRs.

    You'd have to go to some bad-english Taiwan, Hong Kong websites to get this stuff cheap but it's useful to slip him one of these everytime he helps you out with a problem.

  • by KiltedKnight (171132) * on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:35PM (#23069918) Homepage Journal
    The author did right to leave. He wasn't going to get anywhere as long as the CIO and the development management weren't going to cooperate. However, after this fiasco, I would've considered writing up a new policy and trying to get it through the CIO... one that says, "No training or documentation? No upgrade." There is no other way to deal with this situation, unless you want to escalate above the CIO... but if you do that, you need to have documentation in order to show that the other people and those you skipped around are incompetents and are the cause of the problem. Even if you do have all of your ducks in order, be ready to look for a new job as well.

    I've been lucky enough to not have had these kinds of situations... but then again, I've also been on-call when my software upgrades have gone in AND had a good working relationship with the operations staff. When the few problems happened, they were able to call and get a quick and friendly resolution to the problem without all the name-calling. Almost like we had a system in place........

  • Re:Slashdot ID... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:47PM (#23070118)
    Cum Taco is 1. http://slashdot.org/users.pl?uid=1 [slashdot.org]
  • I wonder, though... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lysse (516445) on Monday April 14, 2008 @05:57PM (#23070264)
    My brother-in-law recently had to change jobs as a result of workplace bullying himself, and the common thread is that the bully themselves might be surmountable, but if the employer consistently enables the bully it makes the situation impossible to deal with. For him too, walking was the only feasible option. So from that perspective, I thought the article rang true. And sadly, sometimes it's hard to make the distinction between someone whose social issues are a result of having no interpersonal skills and someone who's simply antisocial [wikipedia.org].

    However, I took a look at one of Mr Spiegel's other articles (this one [earthweb.com]), which made me wonder whether he might have been reaping what he sowed. That article ends with the line "Now I wonder if Susan will come back to my team? Would you?" - and having read it, my answer would have to be "Not a chance in hell!". Admittedly, I'm biased - a night-owl myself, I'm habitually hours, rather than minutes, late for work - and yes, the expectations of a public-facing role are of necessity a little different. But someone who is unprepared to make small compromises to a rule they believe to be bad anyway in order to keep an exceptional team member is someone whose own priorities could use some work... and the fact that there were other parts of the company in which Susan's timekeeping wasn't an issue suggests that his insistence upon the rules was frankly pointless, soul-sucking pettifoggery.

    (If you want to argue about that, go for it. I don't care, and I won't be responding - I simply don't understand people who put arbitrary rules above individual differences, I never will, and I don't even want to.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:06PM (#23070400)
    When the direct manager (the CIO) supports this behaviour, it's usually because he's behind it.

    I think it's pretty obvious they were trying to get rid of the author, and acting this rude was how they did it.

    It's a technique I've seen used in quite a few workplaces, because firing people can be rather difficult.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:07PM (#23070418)
    So, i switched from social work to IT... After taking a few classes i was snapped up by a small recruiting firm in Portland..

    My pay was very low for IT, but i was new so I took it. So for $15/hr, i was their database administrator, web designer, network/systems admin and lone support personnel.

    It was bad enough that I was "thrown in the fire", but the owners were complete ignorant assholes, making my job MUCH harder...

    So, after installing software on the boss's computer, I made the HORRIBLE mistake of not placing a shortcut on his desktop. For such a minor issue, what did he do? He hit me in the head with a rolled up magazine, and told me "don't let it happen again". Not unlike jerks "teaching" a dog not to mess in the house.

    This was my first IT job, and as such, very crucial to my new IT career. I bit my tongue and said "yes sir". However, 2nd time he did it(for a different minor reason), I informed him that he should get off his ass and learn more about his computer and NEVER do it to me again. I left soon after for a job with a 50% pay increase. On my last day i was informed that reason I was not respected was...because they paid me TOO LITTLE. Wow, just WOW.

    To this day I wish I'd punched him out. I decided i would NEVER again let a supervisor or owner treat me like that...what a scumbag.
  • by beadfulthings (975812) on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:24PM (#23070626) Journal

    About ten years ago on my second day at a particular job, I met the man who had just been recruited to serve on the same team--we were to be close colleagues. My only recollection of what I was doing is that I was sitting in the back room fooling around with servers--configuring them. After the briefest of introductions, he seated himself in a chair next to me, watched for a few minutes, and proceeded to roll his chair over my feet to get to the box I was working on.

    It was the first of innumerable tooth-gnashingly annoying incidents. He had no concept of even the most rudimentary good manners (table manners and the like), no conversational skills at all, no concept of the "person-hood" of other people, whether they were fellow team members, superiors in the company, people of lesser position (such as cleaners, delivery people), or even women he hoped to date. It's as though the rest of the world was two-dimensional to him. In his more communicative moments, he wondered why people, and especially women, disliked him. The rest of the time he kept up a continuously running monologue, doing all within his power to prevent anyone else from voicing a thought or opinion. With all that, he was technically one of the most brilliant engineers I'd ever encountered.

    It's good to be around people whose skills are better than yours--but only if you can learn something from them. That was impossible in his case. I was in the midst of a long and fairly prosperous career, and I concluded that he was a sociopath and worked my way into a transfer. I think at some level I thought he might open fire on us all some morning and turn our comfortable little server room into a bloodbath. The transfer improved my working life enormously. Another engineer, a much younger man, simply disappeared into another job and life.

    I've come to realize that he was probably suffering from Asperger's [wikipedia.org] or some form of high-functioning autism. These conditions were not as well known then as they are now. For his sake, I hope someone encourages him to seek treatment or therapy. He's got a very lonely old age to look forward to.

  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday April 14, 2008 @06:35PM (#23070768) Homepage

    Since the dot-com bust, $15/hr is probably what you were worth as an IT guy with only "a few classes" worth of experience. There are a lot of geeks who have been working with computers since they were kids; If you're not one of them, it takes several years before you can really compete with them.

    I also think the method you described would be perfectly appropriate for training a dog (you'd want to avoid the eyes, though).

    That said, I know several people who work for close to minimum wage, and they wouldn't tolerate that crap from their boss either. Definitely worth quitting for, IMHO.

  • Re:Slashdot ID... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2008 @07:24PM (#23071312)
    It already has. http://stupidfilter.org
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday April 14, 2008 @07:36PM (#23071422)
    Well here is the full story:

    My cable pings got above 300 regularly. So I switched to DSL. Just in case DSL ended up sucky I kept my Cable until I got the DSL all hooked up and happy. (If I cancel my Cable and need it back I know the backlogs are more than 3 weeks for installation).

    DSL was installed and it immediately was plagued with outages (about 50% of the time it was down) but the pings when it was up were in the nice low 20s-40s. So what is a geek to do? Give up on his DSL low pings in exchange for consistant bandwidth and browsing or give up on gaming on weekends? It's a tough call, so I didn't make it hoping one or the other would stabilize.

    My DSL was churning along quite happily all off a sudden and went an entire week without going out. So I started planning the death of my cable which is the time when it decides to die. I had switched some billing information about 2 months previously on it and the last time I had done that they didn't properly mark me down as "Autopay" and cut my cable for late payment. I'm thinking DSL seems to have cleared the pipes and is reliable I'll just call them next week and get it all sorted out and cancel all at the same time. Well a week later my DSL goes down. So of course the soonest non-business hours time they can come is the next weekend. (Myself still hoping this is a DSL issue that can be resolved once and for all giving me good internet waits until the weekend.) Weekend verdict (DSL Guy) "I can't fix it. I'm going to need to call someone else in but it won't be until sometime this week." (Still hoping that DSL will get working waits all week) No word from DSL company. Friday comes.

    Me: "Someone 'else' was supposed to come out and fix my DSL. Still have no DSL."
    QWest: "We have no record of someone scheduled to fix your DSL--it's listed as fixed and the support call was closed."
    Me: "Well it's not and the guy said 'someone else is coming'."
    (After 30 minutes on hold.)
    QWest: "Turns out they have to dig up your line and they can't provide an eta because they need city approval."

    The words "City Approval" make me reach for the cable company's phone number.

    Broadstripe: "We can't get someone out on a saturday or sunday until the weekend after next and we can't fix it from here."
    Me: "I'm leaving for New Zealand for 2 weeks next saturday it'll have to wait."
    Broadstripe: "I'll just put a hold on your account until you get back. Have a nice trip."

    I'm back now... and trying to deal with it.

    DSL has yet to even start digging up the lines (But they did spray paint!). Broadstripe is being a smartass and Verizon is still 40 miles away (Which means at least 5 years by my reckoning).

    Oh and I suppose there is also Clearwire WiMax but it's high latency, bad bandwidth and I live in a reception black hole.

    God bless monopolies!
  • Re:idiot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CougMerrik (1221450) on Monday April 14, 2008 @08:04PM (#23071694)
    Not this situation explicitly, but in general: Sometimes people need berating; in today's politically correct, play nice culture we sometimes forget that. Sometimes people need to be told emphatically and yes, even rudely, that their actions or responses were not what was expected and that they need to improve themselves in the future.
  • by sammy baby (14909) on Monday April 14, 2008 @08:24PM (#23071836) Journal
    Occasionally, you get the backing you need to appropriately deal with a bully. This is a story about just such a situation.

    A few years ago I was doing systems administration for a small group which provided ISP services for a business which happened to work in the same building as we did. They had their own IT crew and support guys, and were generally nice guys. We kept out of each others' way.

    One day we got a phone call from a network administrator at another company. He said that someone using an IP address in our block was attempting to attack one of his systems, repeatedly and and unsuccessfully trying to open an FTP connection to one of their web servers. Working together, we were able to verify that the "attack" was coming from the nice guys downstairs.

    That's where it got a little weird. The other admin demanded the identity of the person at the workstation who was doing the attacking. We blinked - was that the kind of information we could just give out? I didn't think that it was - or at least, that it should be, and that until we'd had the chance to make a good-faith effort to resolve the situation ourselves, we weren't going to go handing someone's name to someone else. So we declined. The conversation got a bit tense, and I asked him to hold on while I contacted my manager.

    His response was even-handed: requests to divulge the personal information of clients would be handled by our legal department. I was the one who got to deliver the message, and so when the other admin bloviated that they were following a policy and would hate to involve their lawyers, I took some relish in replying that we were following a policy too, and offering to forward him our legal department's contact information.

    In the end, it turned out that the "attacker" was actually a consultant being paid by the company he was "attacking." They'd given him bad login information, and his software was being a bit too aggressive in retrying connections. So, much ado about nothing.
  • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday April 14, 2008 @09:22PM (#23072306) Homepage Journal
    I agree with the gist of what you're saying, but I don't think it's correct to say that IT would be idiots in the place of other employees' jobs.

    Computers are special. They are completely intuitive to me, and probably almost everyone here on slashdot, but not to other people. Maybe it's the levels of abstraction- I don't know- but people are more finicky about computers than they are about they way they drive or even their weight. It's a subject that can send reasonable people into foaming rage.


    IT is there to support the employees' use of the technology- tech that they NEED to do their jobs. Me, I'm a jet mechanic. My job is to fix jets, and that's about it. I use tools like drills, rivet guns, hammers, snips, and other stuff. Now imagine a special "Rivet Gun Dept" or RGD whose reason for existing would be to set up, maintain, inventory, and train people on the use of rivet guns. Now as I said before, rivet guns play an important role in my job; without my mad rivet gun skills, I'd be pretty useless as a mechanic. So let's pretend that I no longer need to know anything about rivet guns other than if I sort of... prop it up... like this... and click this button... BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM It will shoot a rivet. Hooray for me, I'm mechanic. Uh oh, my rivet gun came unplugged from the airline! What should I do? Call the RGD? Doesn't that seem ridiculous?


    IT are asked to be the RGD for a bunch of ostensible mechanics. People need to face the music: If you are a lawyer, your job requires a computer. If you are a secretary, your job requires a computer. If you work in data entry, your job requires a computer. And so on. Consider it a skill like driving that will pay big dividends in the long run.

    To Users:
    PEOPLE! These magic boxes are your freakin' livelihood and yet you take absolutely no effort to get to know them, to understand at least what the "Blue E" program is CALLED! You are mechanics, and computers are your rivet guns, and you need to learn how to use them RIGHT NOW. You need to learn the difference between making a shortcut and copying a file. You need to stop sending me links to emails in your Yahoo inbox. You need to stop looking at pr0n with your Big Blue E program. You need to learn HOW TO TURN YOUR CAPS LOCK OFF. BEING OLD IS NO EXCUSE; TYPEWRITERS HAD A SHIFT BUTTON, TOO.

    Sorry about that. I used to work in tech support for a smallish, localish ISP. It taught me some of the most important lessons in my life, like why I will never, ever, EVER work in customer service again.

  • by Biswalt (1273170) on Monday April 14, 2008 @09:24PM (#23072336)
    This is only tangentially related to IT, but I worked for a major electronics big box store. I got "promoted" to backstock because I was so good at organizing the floor. One day one of my managers (I had 7 total, all of which could theoretically order me to do something) tells me to "reorganize the hard drives." So I sort them by manufacturer, then size. He tells me we can't sort that way, people won't grab the right drive. So I reorganize them by size then manufacturer. Another manager tells me this will lead to people pulling wrong drives. I grab the first manager and make them talk. They ultimately decide they want me to "organize the hard drives neatly" but without regard to either size or manugacturer, or even any other variables. I spent the entire next day off working on my resume, and quit two days later. When someone is just being an ass, you need to duck out of their with a level head so you don't go postal.
  • by the_B0fh (208483) on Monday April 14, 2008 @09:33PM (#23072408) Homepage
    Typically people find me very helpful. My last place keeps calling me up for help, and I would point them in the right direction and have been helping people out with recommendations and pointers to information, being a reference for folks who want it.

    However, if there was one asshole who was hated by everyone in the IT department. He always spoke as if he knew everything, and he is always the authoritative source, and everything he does is always correct. For a so-called CCNP, he could not even set what amounted to defaultroute on a cisco switch. He set up a pair of 6509 with the root going to a 2924 under his desk.

    He had a pair of redundant 10mb lines. Order a 100mb line. Left it sitting there for 6 months. When we were doing the work from home project, I said, lets used that. The fucker immediately said there's a high priority CIO project that needed the 100mb line, and then went ahead and broke the redundant 10mb line, gave one 10mb to me. The other 10mb was supposed to be BGPed with the 100mb line. Unfortunately, he didn't know how BGP works, so it was another 4 months before it came online.

    He is an asshole, an idiot of the first degree. And I will call him an asshole.
  • by Chewbacon (797801) on Monday April 14, 2008 @09:40PM (#23072456)
    Not all clients are innocent. In fact, most I've dealt with would lay blame quicker than I could. I got more calls from my supervisor over things I didn't even do: changing someone's password for laughs when it really expired; blocking someone's account when they failed to authenticate more than 5 times; turning off someone's phone when they really spilled coffee on it and broke it. The list goes on and on. I wasn't a bully. I'd do my job so I could go home at 5 and out on my boat on the weekends, however I was the IT guy who wouldn't keep such a client's justified stupidity a secret.
  • My Own Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by happyslayer (750738) <david@isisltd.com> on Monday April 14, 2008 @11:02PM (#23073154)

    I had an experience in one of my jobs, and it was with a co-worker/subordinate:

    So here it was, me as the head of the IT department for a Navy command, and the only military officer in the shop; everyone else was a civilian contractor.

    After a couple of years, I was feeling very comfortable: Things were getting done, 90% of the users were happy, and I could answer most questions and problems within 30 minutes of the subject coming up, if not right away.

    Then things started going down hill. People were getting frustrated, required maintenance wasn't being done, and the head contractor had screwed up and corrupted the entire mail system (had to spend a whole weekend getting it back.)

    As time went on, things got worse, and I could never figure out how or why. I started getting acid reflux, couldn't sleep, and was wondering why it all seemed to go to hell.

    It all came to a head when, after a particularly thorough chewing out by an unhappy user, one of the techs came and told me that the managing contractor (she of the corrupt email) had been going around behind my back telling everyone how screwed up I was and how everything was going to hell because I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground.

    (To be fair, she was under a lot of pressure; the company she was working for was planning on firing/"downsizing" to save money, and our 5 person shop was seen as a potential target. Unfortunately, she decided to push her own importance by cutting down me. Definitely passive-aggressive.)

    Anyways, after checking out the sordid tale (just to make sure what I was being told was true), I went home, had a beer, talked to my wife, and then called my boss: Since you can fire the contractor, fire me. I explained that this conflict was hurting the command, and

    • a) She (the managing contractor) was right and I didn't deserve to run the IT department, or
    • b) She was wrong, and I didn't deserve to be treated this way.

    Either way, I wasn't going to take this crap any more. (And yes, I did try to talk to the higher-ups about this, but all they could do was shrug and say "Sorry, we can't get rid of her.")

    Boy, within 30 seconds of getting to work the next morning, everyone had heard about it! At least to me, most people were supportive, and said, "About time!" By mid-morning, the manager in question asked to talk to me privately, and started crying about humiliating this was. She also mentioned that she could get fired if this got back to corporate. All I said was that I couldn't help it; we couldn't seem to work together, and gave my reasons above.

    Well, to make a long story short (I know...too late), the Wing commander called me in, chewed me out for not working out this problem myself (and probably rightfully so...), and then said to get my a$$ back to the job because no one else can do it. I said, "Aye-aye, sir!" and went back to work.

    Things got better in the shop for a good while; I volunteered for a 6-month duty during the war, and when I got back, it didn't matter because I was getting out very soon.

    Moral of the story: I don't know--you tell me if it makes any sense.

  • by 0123456789 (467085) on Monday April 14, 2008 @11:26PM (#23073310)
    I am British (and not the parent poster), and I always thought using "loose" instead of "lose" was an American thing. Similarly, "rediculous" instead of "ridiculous". These aren't correct in American English either then?

    Now we just need to persuade you guys to put the "u" in colour, and to pronounce the "h" in "herbs"...

  • by oddtom (1222042) on Tuesday April 15, 2008 @12:43AM (#23073800)
    You can almost always tell if someone is a native speaker of English or learned it as a second language. Native speakers are exposed to most of their vocabulary verbally rather than literately--and usually at an early age. They often screw up words that are identical in sound, but not spelling. It seems no amount of correcting will sink in with them.

    In a manner of speaking, perhaps it is an American thing: the god awful primary educational institution of this country churns out hordes of marginally-literate cretins every year. I suppose there's only so many times you can fail a high school senior for having the writing ability of a fourth grader. 'No child left behind,' I'm sure...
  • Re:I'm a developer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Icarium (1109647) on Tuesday April 15, 2008 @05:21AM (#23074946)
    I am also a developer, and I agree with you on most points.

    Unfortunately I've also seen too many cases where our first and second line support escalate issues without actually doing anything first.

    I've personally seen cases where on site technicians would argue for days that a perticular problem must be caused by our software, even though we've checked, double checked and triple checked everything we can. When that same technician then admits that he has not actually been on site because he doesn't like the area or the drive is too long is when I've seen people explode. I'd also be seriously pissed if someone wasted several hours of my time purely out of sloth.
  • by Orion Blastar (457579) <orionblastar@NospAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 15, 2008 @06:52AM (#23075268) Homepage Journal
    Don't look to management for help. Most likely they'll either deny it or blame you and side with the bully.

    I haven't had anything work for an IT Bully.

    I tried being nice, I tried telling them that what they were doing is wrong, I tried reporting them to management, I tried giving them things like food, I helped them out with their projects, I was a team player, but I still got bullied.

    Ultimately I was the one that got fired because I got really sick from the stress of all the bullying. When my health insurance bills got too high, management got rid of me.

    Not much I can do about it. I am better off being self employed. Nobody to bully me then.

Counting in binary is just like counting in decimal -- if you are all thumbs. -- Glaser and Way