Phone foolery: Caught between a malcontent and a merger

After a company takeover, cold shoulders and closed ranks greet a techie trying to figure out the phone and Internet bills

When was the last time you thought about your office's phone lines and Internet access? Probably not in a million years, if IT is doing its job correctly. But it can take a lot of hard work to make sure the connections stay open, especially if your tech team faced the same two massive roadblocks -- one human, one technical -- as we did at my company just to get the system on track.

This tale began when our company acquired a business division in another city as part of our expansion plans. We quickly discovered that one person was in charge at this location and wasn't about to let go without a fight.

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This division was already established, and we planned on offering the same services to the current customers while trying to increase our sales base. Our company's managers determined that it made sense to retain the same phone numbers.

Roadblock No. 1: Power-hungry employee

I contacted the division's office manager, "Jane," to obtain a copy of the current phone bill and Internet provider's bill. I planned to roll these numbers over into our account and to evaluate call volume and costs. It looked to be a simple operation.

But when she found out who I was, Jane launched into the story of her shock at finding out that her division was being sold to our company. She wasn't going to lose her job, but she would be transferred to another location within her company in a different capacity. She told me that she had worked for the current division for 37 years and helped build it from the ground up and now felt like she was being ignored.

This went on for almost an hour. It would be difficult for her, and I certainly sympathized. But I only wanted copies of the bills and the name of the current vendors to complete my work and proceed to the next project. I asked yet again. Jane finally concluded her story and commenced with her next defense tactic: blowing off my request. She told me she'd have to check with the owner to see if she could release that information to me.

For the next week, I tried calling Jane but would be dumped to voicemail. So I switched strategies and called the location manager to perhaps obtain a copy. I knew I was in trouble right away -- as I explained the situation, he whispered his replies to keep Jane from hearing him. He checked his desk for copies of the bills, but discovered his desk had been cleaned out.

Not deterred, I decided to call this company's owner and explain what I needed. Shocked, I was met with the same stonewalling. It was easy to see that Jane ran this division. I thought to myself how grateful I was that our management had decided not to hire her.

I finally obtained some of the information I'd requested because our management threatened to cancel the purchase of this division if we didn't get it. In the meantime I had made a trip to the location to evaluate it for rewiring needs and to get a feel for the building. I was met by Jane, who acted like I was storming Fort Knox.

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