That's why you don't send in IT to do HR's job

A techie's slip of the tongue exposes shaky HR and IT practices at a travel company with a high turnover rate

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The solution? Besides database compacting, we were told to open the email accounts of the biggest offenders, sort by size, and delete the largest attachments. It was tedious work, as we had to make sure we weren't deleting any file of consequence in the process.

In the midst of this mind-numbing exercise, Matilda waltzed into the server room -- incredible, yes, but our server room door didn't even have a lock on it, so anyone could walk right in. I greeted her, asked her what she needed, and continued to delete more attachments. She mentioned that she had tried her Windows password three times and was locked out of her account.

While no physical lock protected the server room, management had, at my urging, agreed to put standard Windows domain policies in place. I punched the KVM button for the domain controller, unlocked her account, and went back to flushing out the Notes server.

Egg on a techie's face

This wasn't the first time in her short tenure that Matilda locked herself out, so I was slightly grateful this might be the last time I had to deal with it. She thanked me, and as she was ready to go out the door, I turned to make eye contact. "Hey, today is your last day, huh? Congratulations! What will you be up to next?"

Her mouth opened, but no words came out. Instead, a look of shock in her eyes told me something wasn't right. I turned back to the monitor and knew I needed to change the subject, but all I could come up with in that brief moment was, "Uhhh ... great weather we're having, huh?"

Finally, she came to her senses and a single word escaped her lips. "What?!" she screeched as she bolted from the room. My heart sank when I realized I had just tipped her off to the fact that, even though neither of us knew it until then, she was getting fired later that day.

I made a quick phone call to Matilda's manager, alerting her of my faux pas. Matilda had already made it to her desk and was told to go back to her own cubicle and wait. The poor girl sat there on pins and needles for more than half an hour before she got called over and was told to pack up her things.

Picking up the pieces

To say that I felt awful was an understatement. But was it really my fault? To avoid a repeat, we made sure to add a Comments section to the New/Departed Employee database so that HR could let us know if it was a friendly parting or an unfriendly firing. No further damage was done the rest of my tenure there.

Years later, I found myself still worrying about how Matilda fared. Thanks to the magic of social media, I see she eventually became a marketing manager for an online media company. Guess it could have been worse!

As always, there was a lesson learned. Never assume that because you see a pattern, future events will line up the same way -- always expect things to be out of the norm. It's a concept I embrace to this day but still forget sometimes. But that's another story in the making.

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, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "That's why you don't send in IT to do HR's job," 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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