The short path from cost cutting to smut peddling

After a takeover, company becomes a hotbed for inept managers, unqualified IT admins, and inappropriate employee conduct

Years ago, I worked at the headquarters of a large manufacturer with a number of plants in various locations. This manufacturer was eventually taken over by a bigger one. The management team of the first company had its faults, but overall it was a decent place to work. But the new managers took over, and we saw how bad things could really get.

Cutting costs was the priority the minute the new managers had keys to their offices. They put pressure on the various plant managers to do whatever it took to make and save money. Soon the economy took a dive, and the new execs closed plants for a week or two at a time to further save costs, giving employees a "furlough" of unpaid leave.

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During these closures, several of us from the main office were sent to the locations to help the IT admins with tech maintenance, taking advantage of the break in production. At one plant, we saw firsthand what a blend of bad management, poorly qualified IT admins, and unprofessional employee behavior can do to a work environment.

We knew this particular plant would be a challenge because its previous two-person IT team had not been very qualified for the job, and we later found out that the plant managers worked them 60-plus hours a week at very low wages. One of them was caught stealing and reselling computer equipment, and the other was rumored to have had a breakdown and quit. These two admins had just been replaced with only one person -- better qualified, but already overworked.

We arrived at the site and got started. Our job was to re-IP each computer and printer, run updates on all systems, and install the corporate antivirus software. We very quickly discovered that the former IT pair had installed Symantec Antivirus on all 300 PCs -- the home edition. To top it off, they'd botched the updates, so not one of these systems was running a current virus definition.

We ended up having to remove the old software, reboot the machines, then install the corporate antivirus software onto each system. In addition, one out of three PCs had some sort of virus on it that we had to scrub off with a boot disk before we could install the corporate upgrade. I hoped this was the biggest challenge we'd run into. But then I started working on a PC in the shipping department.

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