At a family business, nepotism trumps common sense

Insecure IT pro derails straightforward phone upgrade when he pulls strings with founding family to get his way

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As it happened, the corporate IT guy who handled the phones in the main office heard about our decision and went ballistic. He had been responsible for obtaining our branch's previous switch, which was so old that we kept 5 1/4-inch floppies to program it and demanded that we buy another switch from the same company -- though it was now financially unstable.

My coworker went to his boss, who went to his boss, who went to our branch's manager. All agreed that we were on solid ground with the lower-priced equipment that provided higher functionality than a POTS switch. A tactful letter was drafted to the corporate phone guy stating thanks for the input, but the decision was ours, and we were going with the VoIP setup.

The benefits of knowing the big boss

The phone guy in the main office did not like this, so he went and complained about the situation to his boss, who happened to ride bikes on the weekends with one of the owning family members -- and who happened to be our branch manager's boss.

The next thing you know, this family member contacted our manager and told him that (a) we would be buying the POTS switch, and (b) anyone fighting the decision would be looking at a greatly shortened career.

We got a POTS switch that was outdated before it was even manufactured. Within six months of delivery, that company had gone bankrupt. And the corporate phone guy? He retired about the same time.

I -- and many others -- grew tired of waiting on people who were in charge for no other reason than they were descendants of the company founders, and we moved on. For all I know, my ex-employer's building still "enjoys" phone technology that was obsolete long before it was installed. I've heard from other people that many family-owned companies suffer when generation III takes over. I wouldn't doubt it.

Send your own IT tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "At a family business, nepotism trumps common sense," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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