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What To Do After You Fire a Bad Sysadmin Or Developer 245

Posted by samzenpus
from the cleaning-up-the-mess dept.
Esther Schindler writes "The job of dealing with an under-performing employee doesn't end when the culprit is shown the door. Everyone focuses on security tasks, after you fire the idiot, such as changing passwords, but that's just one part of the To Do list. More important, in the long run, is the cleanup job that needs to be done after you fire the turkey, looking for the hidden messes and security flaws the ex-employee may have left behind. Otherwise, you'll still be cleaning up the problems six months later."
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What To Do After You Fire a Bad Sysadmin Or Developer

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  • Here be Dragons (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:33AM (#41929017)

    The answer has been widely discussed here: http://serverfault.com/questions/171893/how-do-you-search-for-backdoors-from-the-previous-it-person

    • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:57AM (#41929147) Homepage

      The actions necessary depends on what you mean with "underperforming". If that person didn't do much more than sitting in a corner playing games I would say that there's not much to do, but if it was a person taking shortcuts you need to figure out all traces from that person and remove them one by one. And you can't be sure if that was a skilled person.

      If it's bad enough you should treat it as a bad virus outbreak and build a completely new system in parallel with the old and move the business information to that system and cut off the damaged system from the net. It's a dirty and tedious job but someone needs to do it.

      This also highlights the need of segmenting the network into different segments, one for sales, another for HR, a third for management and then one or more for the operations so that if one segment is compromised you don't run the risk of having everything exposed. Of course - this goes against the process of using virtualized servers since you can't do physical segmentation on a virtual machine.

      • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:21AM (#41929281)

        If it's bad enough you should treat it as a bad virus outbreak and build a completely new system in parallel with the old and move the business information to that system and cut off the damaged system from the net. It's a dirty and tedious job but someone needs to do it.

        5 years ago I would not have believed you. That's ludicrous and there is no way a system no matter how touched by an incompetent is so bad it needs to be completely replaced (losing all maturity and buy in etc).

        And then it happened. In the form of a manpower resource management tool designed for internal use. Won't go too detailed, but at the worst end of it, after burning the entire budget with the thing only partially finished it was rolled into production. And very soon after it was discovered that for a relatively important part the idiot was actually going in and changing fields in the database himself every day to give the appearance that the thing worked.

        The guy who was tasked with fixing it basically came back and said "impossible" .. manager didn't doubt it, thing was scrapped, and a quick and dirty one was built on a shoestring budget to replace it that ended up doing far more than the partially "finished" one that had cost much much more.

        • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sgunhouse (1050564) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:26AM (#41929653)

          That's fine for the "or developer" part.

          There was a village near here who fired their IT person. She tried to hold the system hostage after they fired her, which obviously didn't go too well for either her or the village council - I forget all the details as it's been a couple of years ago now but it was all over the news at the time. Talk about your nightmare scenaios ...

          Z00L00K above is right in general terms - in effect you have a virus or worm where someone has total control of your system. In a worst case, back up the essential data if you can, then do a system rebuild and import you data. No other way to be sure. And of course, make sure they aren't selling your data to your competitor or the Russians or whoever.

        • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:55AM (#41929979)

          Similar story here - my company was called in to fix the mess when a client fired their internal VB developer. Guy had been working for tham for two years; first year he built an internal admin system for managing their advertising inventory, while for most of the second he'd been attempting to redesign it to allow the advertisers direct acres to book their own ads. The damned thing was so shoddy we're basically rebuilding from scratch. Every one of around 200 asp pages had at least one sql injection flaw, including the login page (password '" or 1=1' let anyone in...). Several publicly accessible pages seemed to exist only for the purposes of hopelessly corrupting the database. The system needed manual maintenance three times a week to prevent an unindexed table of advert impressions served from growing so large that the site's home page timed out during the log in process (the page was O(n^2) on the number of entries). Large numbers of pages on the site consisted of nearly-but-not-quite identical cut and pastes of standard code with filenames and remote urls changed. Among other issues.

            Our choice was fix it over about 6 months, and never be entirely confident we'd hit all the problems, or replace it in about 3. The client having approved replacement, wer're just about to start work on it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Only the DEV got burned?
          - Either the manager cut corners & took risks by not hiring a tester.
          - Or he did hire a tester which didn't do his job properly.
          A decent tester would have spotted these shenigans long before launch, this probably would have saved you from burning the whole budget on an incompetent dev.

          • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:04AM (#41931785)

            Only the DEV got burned? - Either the manager cut corners & took risks by not hiring a tester. - Or he did hire a tester which didn't do his job properly. A decent tester would have spotted these shenigans long before launch, this probably would have saved you from burning the whole budget on an incompetent dev.

            LOL. That would defeat the purpose of having a scapegoat in the first place!

        • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Bogtha (906264) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:51AM (#41930825)

          Wow, it's like this t-shirt [thinkgeek.com] in real life. I have also replaced somebody with a very small shell-script, I felt like I should have gotten an award or something.

      • this goes against the process of using virtualized servers since you can't do physical segmentation on a virtual machine

        Ah, but you can. Modern hypervisors (and this includes lightweight Linux paravirtualization containers such as OpenVZ) are able to provide a virtual network for the nodes running under it. Often they have fairly limited capabilities, but anything worthy of the name will support basic VLANs. That's to meet exactly your segmentation requirement.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ah, once again HR proves itself incapable of hiring a good system administrator / employee and instead either went with the cheapest person available or one with lots of certifications and little experience. I'd fire the HR department as well after showing the bad employee to the door.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Easiest answer:
      Run an audit.
      That is what I do. I run an audit on all access methods and devices and change the Pwd while I am at it.
      • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:19AM (#41929609)

        I would also advise, informing your legal team of the decision. You could also hire a security firm (one with a good reputation) to scan your network for security flaws. If you take enough measures to protect your customers data then even if he does have a backdoor it won't come back to hunt you. Additionally consider instead of having a single admin consider having an admin team that watches each others actions, that way you are less likely to have a single admin ruin everything for you.

        • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BVis (267028) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:40AM (#41932257)

          "Why are you requesting three roles here? I thought you just needed a computer guy".
          "Having a team adds flexibility and redundancy, for example, if one gets hit by a bus or goes on vacation, the others can cover."
          "How likely is he/she to be hit by a bus? And we'll just not let them go on vacation if that's what it takes."
          "I doubt we'll be able to hire someone qualified if we don't allow them vacation time."
          "Oh, we'll give them vacation time, we just won't let them take it. Or, if we have to, we'll make them carry their laptop while they're away."
          "Then that's not vacation, is it?"
          "Quit being such a whiner. Oh, and the salary you asked for? Find someone for 60% of that. Revenues are down."
          "Didn't the CEO just get a huge bonus?"
          "What does that have to do with anything?"

          TL;DR: Companies don't make hiring decisions based on what makes sense, they make them based on how little they can spend.

          • by IICV (652597)

            "Quit being such a whiner. Oh, and the salary you asked for? Find someone for 60% of that. Revenues are down."
            "Didn't the CEO just get a huge bonus?"
            "Yes, because he cut personnel costs by 60%"

            More true to life :(

      • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mjwx (966435) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:24AM (#41929635)

        Easiest answer: Run an audit. That is what I do. I run an audit on all access methods and devices and change the Pwd while I am at it.

        The easiest answer, pray.

        A bad (as in lazy, surly, abusive) sysadmin who left traps will leave them in places not detectable by an audit.

        I have yet to go to a business as a sysadmin where they didn't use default passwords (P@ss1234, now how many businesses use that gem) which are on just about every device or local admin account. The smartest businesses had a different default password for each type of device/account but you end up with password reuse across a pattern of devices and accounts. The thing is, almost no business will go around and change this on every single device/server when someone who knows the password leaves.

        I left my last position on less than amicable terms (basically they were setting me up to get sacked by giving me impossible tasks, so I chose to leave). The CEO had no clue, but my boss understood I knew the public IP addresses, domain admin/root passwords and router passwords of our 5 biggest clients off by heart. I could see the fear in his eyes when I left (it was senior managements decision to sack me, they wanted to downsize without having to pay anyone out). Of course I'd never actually do anything harmful to that business (they were doing that well enough on their own) but anyone who employs a sysadmin knows that you need to hire trustworthy people and treat them well or it will turn around to bite you in the arse.

        Hiring good people and not pissing them off is pretty much the only defence.

        • Re:Here be Dragons (Score:4, Informative)

          by turbidostato (878842) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:25AM (#41930079)

          "A bad (as in lazy, surly, abusive) sysadmin who left traps will leave them in places not detectable by an audit."

          The point of an audit is not to uncover and clean all the traps but to gain legal security.

        • Calling someone a "hater" only means you can not rationally rebut their argument.

          Commenting on your signature: Calling someone a "hater" means that you detest their attitude, you believe that it is a sign of irrational hatred, and that their arguments are not worth rebutting.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          At the last job I quit (an MSP), I gave my boss a bound book with all passwords. It was a fire list: these are the things you need to change when I leave to adhere to best security practices. I had him sign for receipt. I also gave the same book to the client who was endeared to me and was not fond of how I'd been treated by my boss. :D Rumor has it they spent roughly two months doing basic things like trying to figure out how to get access to systems to change the root and/or service passwords...

    • Here ARE Dragons (Score:3, Insightful)

      Backdoors from the current IT person aren't important?

  • No easy answers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is one of those things that there are no easy answers for. The Right Answer(tm) is to have good policies, compartmentalization of duties, and mandatory time off (to allow for auditing) so that problem scenarios can be avoided before the fact.
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:36AM (#41929035)
    It takes time. You have to audit everything. He could have installed a keylogger on the CEO's machine, for all you know. Or a hidden modem line on a server. If you really expect sabotage, you have to inspect everything, and that takes time, or lots of money.
    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:42AM (#41929059) Homepage

      In fact, your entire corporate structure is at risk. How do you know he didn't engineer a brain virus that allows him to use the company's board members as flesh puppets?

      He might have even used telepathy to cause major investment banks to sell him all of their shares of the company for pennies on the dollar. He might already own the company. It's best to double check.

      In fact, he might be standing behind you right now, brainwashing you with lasers.

      • by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) <SammyKakeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:59AM (#41929161)

        In fact, he might be standing behind you right now, brainwashing you with lasers.

        Impossible. My hat is made of the finest tin and aluminum foil on earth, and is wrapped so tightly that my very hair was crushed. No one could brain wash me (with terrestrial technology at least).

        • by q.kontinuum (676242) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:12AM (#41929571)
          Another victim of the tinfoil-conspiracy... :-( Or maybe you are part of the conspiracy by advocating it? Did it ever occur to you that tinfoil hats might cover you from alleged hostile brain control waves from satellites thousands of kilometers away, but otoh forms a nearly parabolic antenna to the whole communication wires and infrastructure below pedestrian lanes just a couple of meters away? And coincidentally only relevant people will be affected, since only they are likely to wear - wait a minute, there is someone knocking at my door, I will write more later.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:36AM (#41929707)

          Have you checked for electrodes in the inside recently? The new tinfoil manufactured in Taiwan comes with built in RFID and WIFI.

      • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:57AM (#41929471) Journal
        It is not that hard to set up a service on a Windows server that provides backdoor services. If you have domain admin rights tunnelling rdp or somesuch through it is trivial. They can use outbound polling of http or dns or even ntp to violate your firewall. You can give the service rights of some other person like the cio for example. Those guys usually demand the keys to the harem. From there you can remote to any server or desktop, do literally anything. These tools are readily available and open source, and every serious enterprise IT pro should have and understand them because often your first job is locking out the last guy.
        • Or think of a small hardware device attached somewhere to the network (can be hidden anywhere where you can get LAN and power) which only listens (so it cannot be detected by the stuff it sends or by taking up an IP) and sends interesting things over the mobile phone network. Probably the network will have lots of interesting unencrypted information (after all, it's internal and cable, so why have encryption overhead, right?)

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      Don't forget back doors, layoff scripts, and manual tasks that were never documented.

      Not every security hole is as obvious as a modem sitting on a rack. But some are. I found one at the last place I worked. Literally a modem sitting on top of a server, in a corner of the server room. No one knew the purpose behind it. I notified the necessary parties (dep't heads), and then unplugged it mid-day Monday. I expected complaints fairly soon after. There were none. Som

    • Re:Slowly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:33AM (#41929911)
      I hope you are joking. "Under-performing" doesn't mean "idiot" or "turkey" or imply incompetence or malfeasance as TFS would have us believe. To the contrary. someone capable of doing things requiring the type of audit you suggest would probably not be an under-performing employee.
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Modem lines are so yesterday - an access point put away somewhere configured to not advertise it's name would be a great hole.

      Don't forget that some printers can communicate over wireless connection too and they can be a great attack vector. Add to it that it's easy to set up a VPN tunnel. And if it's a tunnel over HTTPS it's not easy to detect - especially if the traffic is low.

      So it will be a pain in the butt if you want to stay safe. Lock each client to receive IP address over DHCP depending on MAC addre

  • Blame them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crafty.munchkin (1220528) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:36AM (#41929037)
    After all, everything wrong with the place is the fault of the last person to leave!
    • Re:Blame them! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:41AM (#41929057)

      its been my experience that people are generally pretty good, some better than others, but I rarely run into an evil person.

      companies, otoh, ...

      • Re:Blame them! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aekafan (1690920) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:59AM (#41929159)
        Odd. My experience has mostly been the opposite. Also, companies are made up of people, how can they be evil, if the people in them are not?
        • Evil companies (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:09AM (#41929229)

          Companies are large organizations. Each person in the organizaton may concienciously do their job with good intent but without seeing the bigger picture (not their job) and therefore without knowing the consequences of their actions. The people at the top who, in principle, see the bigger picture, are often so far removed from the details of what is happening that they too do not know what the company is doing, except in respect of the shareholders and overall finanical performance. So, the company runs on policy and no one knows what it is doing. The company can be uber-evil when everyone in it is as nice as can be.

          The company is more/other than the sum of its parts.

          • by PiSkyHi (1049584)
            > The company can be uber-evil when everyone in it is as nice as can be. This. In a kind of paradoxical way, many people know this to be true, but cannot proclaim it and some will argue against it for fear of losing their job. They all appear as nice as can be. It's endemic.
        • There is no lack of research on how large groups of normally decent people can behave in a highly immoral fashion. Peer pressure and dominance hierarchies are powerful forces for coercion, not to mention more mundane explanations like greed.

        • Evil naturally rises to the top of an organization because it lusts for power and will do anything to get it.
        • "companies are made up of people, how can they be evil, if the people in them are not?"

          A company is a complex system with emergent properties.

          I'd say, anyway, that for true evil to arise there must be evil people somewhere in the organization. In order to be just underperforming or mildly evilesque, you just need your typical corporate organization and it will arise by itself out of goals misalignment and partial information.

      • I envy your experience, I've worked with some truly evil people.
      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        More often than not, the evil a company perpetrates against employees and customers is directly relational to the number of business school graduates who hold the reigns of power. If they're Californians by schooling, that's an exponential curve.

    • Reminds me of a joke one of my better past bosses used to tell:

      A manager is going over some loose ends with his replacement as he is gathering his remaining belongings from his office. As he leaves, he hands the new manager 3 envelopes and says "Only use these when absolutely necessary. Use them wisely in times of crisis.". And with that, the former manager leaves the premises.

      Several months go by, and eventually there is an issue. A long term project was several weeks overdue and the customers ar

  • idiot? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:37AM (#41929041)

    Real mature there guy... With an attitude like that. You'd better have alot of backup plans in place. It sounds like you are a shit place to work for.

    Do us ALL a favor. Name your company. So we can avoid it.

    • Re:idiot? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:46AM (#41929089)

      That was my immediate impression as well. When I hear/see the phrase "fire the idiot", my first thought is "was this guy the problem, or is it the workplace?"

      • I'm still trying to figure out how an "idiot" and "turkey" was retained for long enough to have any significant impact. Usually an "idiot" becomes pretty obvious as soon as he tries to do anything complicated enough to justify asking this question.

  • I'm going to take a "good people turn bad" approach to this one.

    Scan for intentional backdoors and accidental gaping, well-known flaws with a fine-tooth comb. They may not have seemed too bright on the job but even an underperformer has enough insight into operations to find a way to mess up your day.

    Perhaps pose it as a question to your better admins. "Knowing what you know, if you had to crack our system/application, how would you go about it?" Whatever their answer is, find a solution and implemen
    • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:22AM (#41929623) Journal

      Nope. When the bad guys have got root on your PC the only way to restore confidence in it is to rebuild it from a trusted image. Likewise if your network admin has gone untrusted on your infrastructure you burn it down and build it new again. Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

      Frankly that's not near enough to stop a real determined jerk with skills, but thankfully we are rare. Don't hire us in the first place if you can avoid it.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:46AM (#41929087)
    Changing passwords after? Change them while they're in HR's office or just before.
    • by xenobyte (446878)

      It's never that simple. Backdoors are so easy to install, and I've personally seen automated scripts hidden in standard features that created a backdoor several weeks post-firing. That way the changed password was worthless, and even the search for backdoors in the days following the firing was futile. So changing passwords and a thorough search for backdoors was a waste of time.

      Bottom line: You can't be sure when it comes to admins. Either part on amicable terms or reinstall everything - or chance it...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:46AM (#41929093)

    ...it's hard to imagine the relationship went sour,

    "...after you fire the idiot, such as changing passwords, but that's just one part of the To Do list. More important, in the long run, is the cleanup job that needs to be done after you fire the turkey,.. "

  • by HellYeahAutomaton (815542) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:53AM (#41929121)

    You hired this employee. Chances are you started off with a relationship of mis-trust:
      - You did a criminal check on the hire
      - You did a drug check.
      - You did a credit check.
      - You did personality test.
      - You used Shockley style brain-teasers to see if they could do things other than what their jobs entail because you don't know how to measure skill, intelligence, or talent.
      - You interviewed in a style of hazing akin to a gang-bang. .. And you still were too stupid to figure out whether or not you had someone who could do the job right.

    Sorry, but the tone of the summary makes you look like an asshole, and you deserve whatever you get. This is your wake-up call.

    • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:36AM (#41929701)

      Yep. The submission raises more questions about the submitter than the person who just left for me. People who rate others as incompetent with no redeeming features are often incompetent themselves in my experience. The level of paranoia in the submission is also remarkable, but I guess all this checking and for 'hidden messes and security flaws' might be a good excuse for not doing anything useful for the business. Any problems for the next few months can just be blamed on the recent turkey without introspection as to how they might have ended up with this employee or how they might have created such a mess with no-one esle knowing.

      If you have decent processes in place, hidden messes and security flaws would not be possible without extreme malice and intelligence (not possible for an 'idiot' and a 'turkey'), if you don't and cannot change the processes, leave, as you should recognise the workplace is dysfunctional (and that starts right at the top of the department and goes all the way down).

    • by SpzToid (869795)

      Good points. May I add, had they not spent all that money on personality tests and whatnot, but instead compensated the employees for, I dunno, more than they could probably earn elsewhere and just generally showed them respect, maybe things would start working out in the company's favor?

      Slavery is so over. We all need to work and pay our bills due. We're all like little companies trying to do the capitalist-thang, by selling our own time, effort, and skills. This is how we compete, to earn a living.

    • by Xacid (560407)

      Google, is that you?

  • It may be too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Floyd-ATC (2619991) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:53AM (#41929123) Homepage
    The article points out many obvious pitfalls on letting an underperforming employee go, but very few of these problems are unique to the particular situation of letting an obviously underperforming employee go. Most IT departments are pummeled to death with impossible deadlines and demands and management thinks that the complaints and warnings are just "the way it is with those lazy bastards". Truth is, anyone who's worked with IT knows that you have to test your backups and failover procedures, do security audits, tear down setups that are no longer used and keep documentation and automation up to date. BUT first we have to finish this project that was dreamed up by the top level management with absolutely no understanding of the technical hurdles involved. And it needs to be finished yesterday. If you want things to be neat and tidy, you're pretty much expected to take care of it on your own time.
  • by sitarlo (792966) on Friday November 09, 2012 @12:56AM (#41929139)
    ...you wouldn't be asking this question.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:00AM (#41929169)

    under-performing or metrics may them seem to be under-performing??

    Made to do the work of 2-3 people??

    Pulling 80 hour weeks that lead to errors and under-performing over time.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:07AM (#41929205)

    My first reaction (before RTFA) was that the problem might not have been the employee, but the person doing the name calling. However, the link is to a blog that lists a generic list of precautions to take. Whoever wrote that blog still has some growing up to do, but I'll give him/her the benefit of doubt and assume they were going for humor.

    In any case, I notice that HP paid for the content. Now we know why they are in such trouble.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:10AM (#41929237)
    The real dangers are often not the fired employee themselves(if you aren't stupid about it) but the employees that remain. Most people will not install any insidious backdoors just on their own initiative, but if you fire someone in a way that upsets the remaining employees, i.e. publicly embarass them, screw them out of money they earned etc., then odds are someone else IS going to try to install something to make sure that they don't befall a similar fate.
  • Check your wallet!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dminor14 (2723933) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:10AM (#41929239)
    I hope he reads this. After a bunch of expensive equipment disappeared under his watch we fired him. The day after, standing around the coffee room I mentioned. "Too bad they fired him, he owed me 50". Three other people suddenly said, "He owed us 50 also." It turned out the same story for everyone. He borrowed 100 and returned 50. (note: some of my best friends are sysadmins so don't get me wrong)
  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:10AM (#41929241) Homepage Journal

    The submitter comes off as an angry, abusive tool. Maybe he should fire himself for having a hand in hiring an "idiotic turkey" to begin with.
    It's likely that the developer wasn't all that bad, but stopped giving a shit after being berated by an abusive asshole for umpteenth time.

    • Agreed. If the lack of oversight was so bad that the situation deteriorated to this level, then there's no way that it's just the "turkey's" fault. Someone is supposed to be watching the hen house (?). Sure, we're supposed to be professionals, but management still has to do their job, instead of mail it in and bitch when they find out they got caught with their pants down.
    • by MacTO (1161105) on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:04AM (#41929809)

      You are being a tad too gentle on management in this case. Anyone who uses that sort of language on a public website is showing a lack of professionalism that goes beyond incompetence. Professionalism in the workplace exists for a bunch of reasons, one is to maintain cordial relations between people who work together so that you don't end up with a tit-for-tat culture in the workplace.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:20AM (#41929273) Journal

    I tend to side with the critics here, asking if maybe management (including possibly the person posting the original question) are really the ones to blame?

    I've worked in I.T. for something like 25 years now, for companies big and small, though the only times I've held a title of "manager", I was really only tasked with managing outside consultants or developers. I've always preferred being relatively "hands on" with the problem solving and system/network administration tasks at-hand, vs. spending my day in meetings and typing up Excel spreadsheets trying to explain what the "team" was doing.

    Bottom line? Sure, there are a LOT of people out there trying to get hired in I.T. as support people or sysadmins who REALLY don't know what they're doing. If more companies would let the people actually DOING those jobs interview these people, they'd be able to weed out far more of the bad seeds before they even started. What I see, time and time again, is some I.T. manager who thinks he's simply "too busy" to interview some potentially really good people who apply for positions, and then he gets in a panic when it comes down the wire and he absolutely can't go without employing another person any longer. He winds up asking H.R. to find him someone good, and of course they don't know squat about I.T. so they pick through the resume submissions based on "standard issue" criteria like the college degree they claim to have, or the number of certifications they list. If he does "second interviews" with these pre-selected people, he may just be trying to pick the best of a bad bunch at that point.

    But another problem is with how the I.T. workers are managed. You can have some really top-notch people working for you, yet they're made out to be clueless, inefficient screw-ups because they're actually trying to use their brains to decide which tasks on their plates are REALLY most important to the company. Meanwhile, some upper management character is throwing fits about relatively inconsequential items his ego demands be put "front and center". If you're busy working a difficult problem affecting a whole division of the company and by doing so, you didn't get some new computer issued to somebody first thing in the morning ... guess what usually happens? It's that idiot in I.T. who caused the employee not to have that shiny new PC on their desk on time. Nobody's even aware of the work the I.T. guy was actually in the middle of doing.

    And here's the kicker.... You can say all you like about this simply being a "lack of communications" issue. "If management was simply kept informed about what I.T. was doing, everyone would be better off." But so many computer problems are of a "need to fix this yesterday!" level of importance, your good I.T. rank and file employees are going to concentrate on getting that done -- not on getting sidetracked with emailing status updates to key people. Management needs to realize that a certain level of TRUST is required here. You have to say, "I don't really know what Joe Q. has been doing the last few days, but that's ok. I trust Joe Q. because when I make an effort to find out if anyone feels Joe helped them with their issues, I get loads of positive feedback that he did." Micro-managing I.T. is almost never wise....

    • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:36AM (#41929373)

      I enjoyed that rant. We tried to solve the problem of IT setting priorities by forcing all of the department heads to prioritize their top 3 items each week. As an example of what we were dealing with, our CFO took a month to put together his list and came back with 5 items on his "top 3" list of projects. After we started to work on his priorities he came back with a new top priority to add to the list. So we put it ahead of #1 on the list and "Project Zero" was born.

      He wasn't alone: the president of the company had a meeting with us about a huge initiative he wanted to undertake immediately. Starting the next week he put other items that were more pressing (but not important) at the top of his list. He did this every week. Every week we warned him that we were not going to work on his other project because he was prioritizing these other things this week. Every week he said he understood and signed off on our statement of work. A year later he got pressure from the board of directors and threw us right under the bus. Called me into a huge meeting to yell at us for not getting his project done "in over a year". I calmly produced 60 pages of signed off work orders from him, proving that at every turn he decided to have us work on something else and he bore the full and sole responsibility for the project's delay. You know what? Nobody cared.... I believe the direct quote was "I'm tired of excuses. I expect results, not excuses."

      Lesson learned. Don't work for crazy people.

    • by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:52AM (#41929453) Homepage
      Micro-managing I.T. is almost never wise.

      Ain't it the truth? On the other hand, there is a lot of knowledge sharing to be gained from respectful listening. If you have weekly operations or status meetings, make sure that someone from IT is at the table. Everywhere I've been where that was the practice has been a pleasant and effective workplace. When systems are running well, they're essentially invisible, and this is a highly desirable state of affairs. It's quite the opposite of neglect, but if there isn't active communication about what's going on, how do you ever expect to tell them apart? (Until it's too late, of course, and the chronically-underfunded, under-appreciated infrastructure finally falls down hard.)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:27AM (#41930083)

      (posted as AC cause I moderated)

      I've worked on all sides of this coin, as developer, sr. dev,, architect, manager and even latent founder and lots of other short temporary roles. I've worked at everything from a 1 man shop, to fortune 100. I've worked in government, restaurant, warehouse, sales, wholesale, entertainment, and basically everything but medical (I have a rule against killing people with code, even if it's not mine).

      And after years of experience, I must say one of my first bosses nailed it with his funny anecdotes towards employees...

      "There's two kinds of people in this world, lug nuts and ball bearings. Both are good employees, but they have to be managed completely differently."

      Lugnuts need to have project plans, statuses and meetings. They need organization, management and regular motivation.

      Ballbearings just glide along. You give them a task and they work it, and keep working. Some will go off in wrong directions, but you can be sure they are chugging away at the task. They don't deal with interruption much, they don't like meetings, and they usually prefer to finish things to perfection.

      Each type has their advantages and disadvantages. Lugnuts are typically seen as dependable because they are constantly managed. Ballbearings are seen as solvers and self-motivated. But both need to be reset every now and then onto the correct path.

      So yeah, complete generalization here - but it does help to understand motivations and managing. And you see a lot of ballbearings in IT. Enjoy...

  • Culprit? Idiot? Turkey?

    Oh, and "under-performing" instead of "incompetent"? (Which is the word the article used.)

    Trying to figure out if submitter is PMSing or just bad at paraphrasing.
  • by Ozoner (1406169) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:47AM (#41929423)

    By using terms such as "culprit", "idiot", and "turkey" you indicate that you are a big part of the problem.

    Only gross mismanagement would let you get into such a mess in the first place.

    It sounds like he is well rid of you.

    • by geminidomino (614729) on Friday November 09, 2012 @01:59AM (#41929479) Journal

      Maybe a case of projecting my experience onto the submitter, but it came off to me like he's the poor bastard who has to clean up the mess, rather than the boss. Having been in that boat myself (and still, to this day, occasionally find slushy little coiled piles of things like "converting" AM/PM to 24h format using 13 chained "if/then/else" statements) I'm willing to give a lot of leeway for "frustration venting."

    • by tg123 (1409503) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:22AM (#41929625)

      By using terms such as "culprit", "idiot", and "turkey" you indicate that you are a big part of the problem.

      Only gross mismanagement would let you get into such a mess in the first place.

      It sounds like he is well rid of you.

      Parent post should be modded up +5 insightful.

      I agree this poster does sound like a very poor manager or the company he works for has management issues.

      What training programs do you have in place ?

      Was this person doing a poor job because of company work practices ?

      Was he faking that he knew what he was doing because no one showed him how to do it properly ?

      If these above questions could be answered then I think you would find that you would not need to be asking what to do after your Sysadmin / developer went off and found greener pastures.

  • by cstdenis (1118589) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:00AM (#41929489)

    There isn't really any practical way to be completely sure, but one thing that can help is to not give him reason to want to attack the company.

    Lay him off and pay him out a good severance pay and he is much less likely to leave disgruntled. There may also be other parting perks besides pay that can generate good will depending on the person.

    This also give the added benefit of when something breaks in the old obscure undocumented part of the system only one person knows, that one person may be more willing to help. Tho how beneficial this is depends on how useless he is.

    As for the technical stuff, only way to be sure with sysadmin is rebuild all the servers from scratch (an extremely time consuming task of course).

    For programmer, the whole team should be doing regular code reviews anyway looking for any security bugs. Maybe an extra code audit would be a good idea.

  • Give me a gazillions boxes and I will fix everything.
  • I fired a sysadmin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Prepare, and execute quickly.

    After too many actual shouting conflicts with others, and numerous lies ("even I will have trouble upgrading X11") he had to go. First I arranged for our previous guy, who had gone off to be a consultant while finishing his PhD, to return (at his new rate+housing) for continuity. Then I spent 3 hours with the firee, discussing in detail why he had screwed up in so many ways. I gave him the option of quitting or being fired, he chose the latter for unemployment benefits.

    We wen

  • by aglider (2435074) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:16AM (#41929591) Homepage

    you'll still be cleaning up the problems six months later.

    The real issue is not the low productivity techie. It's that there's no manager with enough knowledge and skills to ... manage techies.
    Techies are seen somehow as "lone wolves" or "wizards" that "just do the (right) things".
    My solution?
    Hire a manager with the real knowledge (an former techie) and let him both manage and work with the younger techies.

    • This is what I'm going in to. Over a decade in technical IT, and only now am I doing a degree, and it's one with "... and Management" in the title.

      I want to check the boxes that say "This guy can handle the freaky social pariahs in IT Tech, because he was one, but he can also put great covers on TPS reports first time around."
  • The first rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by codepunk (167897) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:25AM (#41929645)

    I have been in IT for nearly 25 years now and have learned a few things along the way. The first rule is that most employees referring to others as idiots, turkeys, incompetent etc need to look first in their own seat.

    It is generally a reaction I expect from a dev or sysadmin covering his own faults by passing blame to others. I find most people just want to do what they where hired to do and do it well and given the proper chance and assistance will do just that.

    In the last 5 - 10 years though it is generally a result of understaffing and insane deadlines causing less than desired results.

    • Re:The first rule (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WillKemp (1338605) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:38AM (#41929711) Homepage

      I agree. There's nothing an incompetent manager likes more than a scapegoat.

    • There is truth in what you say; see also The Unspoken Truth About Managing Geeks [computerworld.com] for a further discussion along those lines.

      However, I have also seen cases where the person they're talking about really is an incompetent and/or immoral idiot, and what management are parsing as name-calling and a possible shifting of blame is, in actual fact, one of your staff warning you of a significant danger.

      While management might not like to believe they've hired someone with those qualities for a role, if it has happene

    • by buglista (1967502)
      Yes. Us professional sysadmins refer to incompetent people as ****s.
    • by segedunum (883035)

      I have been in IT for nearly 25 years now and have learned a few things along the way. The first rule is that most employees referring to others as idiots, turkeys, incompetent etc need to look first in their own seat.

      Damn bloody right. This article is describing a dysfunctional company to me, as opposed to merely a dysfunctional employee.

  • by WillKemp (1338605) on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:36AM (#41929699) Homepage

    I'd start by sacking the turkey that hired the turkey in the first place, and/or the turkey whose piss poor management skills allowed the situation to get so far out of control that someone needed to be sacked.

    • by Lisias (447563)

      Unfortunately, your measure would render the company stalled - it's impossible to substitute all the management at once...

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @02:39AM (#41929717)

    when the culprit is shown the door.

    But the person who hired him still works at the firm... that's the real "culprit".

  • by Kelerei (2619511) on Friday November 09, 2012 @03:05AM (#41929813) Homepage
    One of my previous employers, a while back, employed an individual who I will henceforth refer to as the Office Freak From Hell (it had various freaky habits: no personal hygiene, odd behavioural patterns, that kind of thing). I kind of ignored it at first (except to avoid it as much as possible), until it was moved over to my team. It didn't take me long to realise how useless it was -- his code was often delivered late, and was always of a poor quality (example: using strings as every variable type -- really, what the FUCK?). Between my manager and myself, we tried to mentor him, correct him and all of that -- we couldn't fire him straight away as South Africa has really fucking stupid labour laws which makes firing a tedious and difficult process at best (and you'd better not slip up, otherwise the fucktard can successfully sue for damages and the old position back). Meanwhile, I was searching for alternative employment (although mainly because software development in Durban is a dead-end industry, the OFFH was a major contributing factor), received an offer that I couldn't refuse from a company in Cape Town, and put in my resignation. I still had to work a calendar month's notice period though (Americans, things work differently over here!).

    That's when things got interesting.

    My manager and I started the process of handing over all my projects -- most to the rest of my team, but a few went to the OFFH. It didn't take long for the OFFH to piss off one of my soon to be ex-clients to the extent where top level management got involved, the OFFH was finally pulled into a disciplinary hearing (wasn't fired, but received a final written warning), and I had to step back in and clean out the mess. The next day, the OFFH put in for leave on the Friday coming up, went away... and never came back. It was formally dismissed for absconding shortly afterwards.

    That's when we found what was really going on. To summarise:
    • - The code that would be pushed through to production was often not the same code checked into the source code repository, and the production code was riddled with security holes, backdoors, and that kind of thing. (Since I used the code in the repos for code review purposes, I never picked this up.) A few months after I'd worked my notice period and left, I heard that they ended up writing new, parallel systems and chucking everything he'd worked on, while doing their best to maintain it until the parallel system was complete. (Side note: I left on friendly terms, and I still keep in contact with those guys.)
    • - When we went to try to get source code from his machine (see point above regarding the source repos), we discovered a whole lot of background services constantly maxxing out the CPU. We never found out exactly what they did, but given other discoveries, this pretty much resulted in the network team dropping everything and performing a full security audit of absolutely everything.
    • - He would often tag in after hours and during weekends. I remain convinced that he was up to absolutely no good during this time, particularly as I am in possession of an IRC log detailing an intrusion he was involved with on the South African XBox 360 fansite around mid-2009.

    So, while we thought we were dealing with mere incompetence, in truth, the OFFH was a malevolent fucktard.

    All of us involved has learned our lessons -- personally, I'm far more security conscious, and the folks I worked with are far stricter regarding who they hire, development practices and policies, and that kind of thing. As for the OFFH, it seems to have vanished into thin air...

    • If you actually had a process with holes large enough for that to get through, I have no sympathy. You should be automatically building the production artefacts from the source control. There should be no intermediate process where someone can throw something in.

      Ego should be isolated from production.

      Our developers can only check out/check in and we keep deployment to two well trusted specialist guys who have been with us for 10 years. We also audit every damn line of code that goes in the repo.

      Even thou

  • If the individual in question could not do the work and made lots of mistakes, then it should already be within the skill-set of the remaining staff to fix the problem. If not, then the sackee doesn't sound like they were any worse than the remaining staff.

    If they were evil: did some bad things, sabotaged the operations, stole money/data/reputation etc. then your security people should be able to detect the weaknesses ('cos if they were good, yet evil, they'd still be working; undetected). If not, then it

  • by segedunum (883035) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:53AM (#41930177)
    For starters, referring to people as turkeys just makes me not want to take it seriously. Being sponsored by HP puts nails in its coffin.

    When sys admins put back doors in for themselves it is usually to get around ridiculous amounts of bureaucracy that stop them from getting anything done. A competent sys admin also does not 'add patches as they become available' willy nilly because those patches need tested, you need to understand what is in them and you need to make a decision as to whether you are affected by it and the disruption is warranted. It also seems to be about security companies selling their wares and installing 'data loss prevention systems', whatever the hells those are. Would I trust and outside set of consultants to come in and do that? No I wouldn't.

    Basically, if you're at a point where you are doing what this article says then your own company is incompetent and shooting blanks in the dark.

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