A fair few people seem to be suffering unhappiness in their jobs right now - or
maybe made their exit already, whether voluntarily or otherwise. All this
reminded me of a job I was in nine or ten years ago now, and that's probably
sufficiently "history" now for me to talk in some detail about it. I won't
mention the company by name - for reasons that shall become somewhat obvious -
but suffice to say it was a French-owned High Wycombe based value-added
reseller of prestige desktop computer systems such as IBM, Compaq and so on.
Things started well enough there - and I'd even say I enjoyed most of my time
with them - but it was once the French ownership started to bite that things
really started turning sour. Not that I blame the French in the slightest,
just the people who were brought in to manage things under the new
organisational structure. They swept in en-masse from another company - the
amount of nepotism going on was unreal - and rapidly imposed their draconian
and shoddy work ethics.
It turned into a culture where the incumbent employees were worthless
resources, where allegations of sexual deviancy were par for the course on a
daily basis - and if you didn't get the joke, it would be on you next time.
One guy was quite excited to get sent on a Unix training course, then dismayed
when he returned and was still doing the same old stuff as ever before. When
quizzed, management said they'd only sent him to see if he would turn up.
There was one particular girl who was very conscientious and hard-working, full
of good ideas, but who probably knew her rights a little too much for the
management's comfort. She was one of a whole swathe made redundant, needless
to say, days before a substantial "blood money" pay rise for everyone else - a
pay rise I actually declined in a rather dramatic manner, though I can't
remember whether they took any notice.
And I won't even mention the hard disk sorting episode. Or maybe I shall,
because it showed the sheer lunacy of the place. We'd had a huge batch of
"budget" PCs, all of which were fitted with 40Mb hard disks. By 1991, 40Mb was
getting a little stingy for business use - not that the company would have been
averse to ripping off its customers, as the CEO once accidentally publicly
admitted - so almost every such machine that was configured had its hard disk
replaced with something bigger. My task then was to spend a couple of days
sorting through the removed hard disks, which were of a variety of brands and
models. Some time later, I questioned what had happened to them, thinking a
local charity or school might appreciate them. They'd gone into the skip.
It was almost the end by then anyway, and I think in retrospect they probably
wanted rid of me but had little they could really hold against me. By about
that time I'd already been shoved well out of the way in "Quality Control",
where all the non-functioning junk came back from customers - did I mention
that nothing was ever tested properly before delivery? If it beeped, that was
generally enough. British Standard 5750? Well they eventually got their
kite-mark, but when the BSI inspectors came around, they were lied to, with
whole areas of the facility off-limits, including that QC area where I worked
latterly. Quite how they apparently got away with claiming they had no QC
department, I'm not sure, though I've since gathered that BS5750 really isn't
worth toffee in any case.
Working in QC was my eventual downfall anyway. I was well aware that the
company was routinely selling previously used - and often abused - stock as
new, particularly remembering one curry-stained batch of workstations that went
out, and no doubt came back again just as fast, to be sold on to someone else
less critical. But in QC, I was obviously at the front line of customers'
rejects, and my ethics were stretched to the limit and ultimately beyond. Even
the crooked warehouse manager - who happily oversaw one of my colleagues back
his car into the warehouse and load up with thousands of pounds worth of stolen
goods - can be quoted as saying "I'm not putting that [expletive deleted] on my
The final straw in this regard - and for my time with the company - was a batch
of PC keyboards that came back from a customer. They were dirty and battered,
with bits missing, and only just worked. There was a formal system for marking
up returned products as "ex-stock" for cheap resale, but when I queried what
the warehouse code would be for these keyboards, I was bluntly told "we don't
make keyboards ex-stock". It was a minor thing, but the straw that broke this
particular camel's back. I threw the dodgy keyboard I was holding to the
ground, no doubt saying something like "it's definitely ex-stock now", and took
a brisk walk to the nearby head office to speak with my personnel officer.
There was some delay in seeing the personnel officer - not unreasonable,
however; I suspect a company as bad as that would give plenty for them to do.
But when they finally emerged, it turned out they had already spoken to my
manager, wondering what I might want! So much for confidentiality... I'm not
even sure that's legal - but then nor was anything much else going on there, so
perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised. I can't really remember what
transpired from that conversation, though it certainly didn't resolve anything,
and when I was back at the warehouse, I was very publicly hauled up to the
I think I had previously received a verbal warning for a minor outburst a while
back, but this time I got a further simultaneous verbal and written warning,
for "damaging" the already-broken keyboard and leaving my post without
permission. Yes, the former was an act of petulance - and not the first time,
though it takes a lot to drive me to such behaviour - but the latter was
entirely within my rights, though I'm not sure I knew it at the time, and it
was hardly my fault if they didn't have a personnel officer on site.
Anyway, I never did return after that. I lost a month's worth of benefits
because they refused to return my P45 promptly, and subsequently did not get my
rightful level of benefits because they threatened me with legal action for
telling the Benefits Agency the truth about the sequence of events leading up
to my effectively forced resignation. Perhaps I should have stood my ground,
and shown the company up for the fraud it undoubtedly was, but by then I really
was beyond caring, so I dropped it. But at least the nightmare was over...