The new IT job and the company malcontent

In this IT tale, a new hire faces the challenge of dealing with a disgruntled co-worker

I work with videoconferencing (VC) technology at a large company, and since my arrival, I've helped increased our VC network and added an infrastructure. When I started, in contrast, there were only 30 endpoints, no existing infrastructure, and a very, very disgruntled employee who happened to be my trainer -- I'll call him Tony.

When I interviewed for the position -- one at the same level as Tony's -- the interviewer asked me if I would feel comfortable working with someone who was very much unhappy with his position. I replied that I was confident that I could work with anyone.

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I wasn't given any details about Tony other than the warning that he was disgruntled, which helped prepare me mentally, but it was certainly a challenging situation at first. I eventually became acclimated to his behaviors -- and learned some lessons on how to cope.

I came to find out that Tony was close to retirement and had a solid skill set for the job, but was very upset at the fact that he had not been able to be promoted to a supervisor position, although he was on the top of the list for the next level based on seniority. His plan was to retire at the higher level so that he could collect retirement payments at a higher rate than if he retired in his current one.

Part of the reason for Tony's displeasure was due to the fact that he had been promised a spot on the promotion list if he passed a series of exams. The first time he failed. The second time, he passed. When he failed the first time, a handful of people passed and were placed on the list. The second time around he was placed on the list but not as high up as he would have been had he passed it on the first try. He went to his supervisor's boss and complained but was then told that unfortunately there were others in front of him. He did not take this lightly and wallowed in his self-pity.

When I met Tony for the first time, he was facilitating a VC meeting, but the presenter was having issues getting the laptop displayed on the LCD projector connected to the VC equipment.

When I was introduced to Tony, he laughed and said, "You must be my replacement." I assured him I was his co-worker and not there to replace him. He pointed at the presenter and asked, "What do you think the problem is?" I went over, confirmed that the VGA cable was plugged into the laptop and on the correct input. VC equipment, depending on the model and manufacturer, could take various inputs to display on multiple monitors and if on the wrong input would display a blue screen, as was evident in this case. I rebooted the laptop and after using the function key and the labeled icon to display on both the laptop and the display, it appeared.

Tony snarled loudly, "Not bad for your first day. Let us see how long it lasts."

I was shown around the campus by Tony as he relayed all sorts of information I deemed unprofessional, but did not express my feelings to him. I just reminded myself that he was a very disgruntled employee.

The following week, I was conducting training on new Tandberg equipment the company had acquired. The company had mostly Polycom equipment and wanted to transition to Tandberg. As the meeting progressed, Tony interrupted and asked me, "What is the major difference between H323 and H320?" He had a smug look on his face and he thought I wouldn't know the answer.

I replied, "H323 is an IP-based way of communications between endpoints, and H320 is the ISDN-based method. H323 has the advantage of utilizing an existing network, while H320 utilizes leased lines in either the PRI or BRI protocols."

His face dropped. He stormed out of the room saying he needed to go to the bathroom.

The following week, Tony was out of the office. His absence left me in charge of the VC meetings.

After the incident at the Tandberg training, Tony had contacted the top company exec directly to complain about me and his lack of a promotion. He then for months threatened to leave the team and eventually even stated so directly to the exec. That was his biggest mistake. Not only did he undermine the supervisor as well as his superior, he involved the exec in something she had no control over -- but she did have control over where in the company he worked. So he was transferred out of our team, I was placed in his old position, and we have grown our VC infrastructure to three times what it was prior.

And now, more than a year later, he wants back onto the team.

I learned from the experience that you have to be patient, calm, and collected even if you feel that someone is against you. And even though he tried to intimidate me, I never stooped to his level.

This story, "The new IT job and the company malcontent," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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