--

Interview no-shows, and some whining about my life...

Seeing as drama queening is the nom du jour I thought I'd take a turn.

We've been a man down in the office for the past six or seven months -- the previous employee was on long-term sick leave and then sadly passed away, and my employer considers not filling a vacancy quickly to be a "saving", but we finally persuaded them to advertise the job. It's a bit dull and doesn't pay a great deal, but it's one of those things that makes a good first "proper" job. However, we only got five applicants (mainly because, yet again, my employer wants to save money -- they advertise jobs externally purely on their website and in Job Centres) and only three of them were worth bringing in for an interview (and one of those three are only being interviewed as a courtesy because they currently work here but are shortly to be made redundant). Magic 8-Ball says: Outlook poor.

And now one of them hasn't turned up. No phone call, no nothing. People accuse me of being rude and having no social skills, but even I'd have the courtesy to phone and say I'm not coming...

It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the other guy in my team is leaving in two weeks. Even if the other "actual" interviewee is perfect for the job they're not going to be starting for a month or so, so at best we're going to be two people short (which in a department of three is quite significant) for a couple of weeks and then be slightly worse off for a few weeks while I train the new person. If they turn out to be hopeless (or just don't turn up) and we need to readvertise (which the company will begrudgingly do in local papers, giving us a slim chance of getting a reasonable number of applicants) then at a minimum I'm going to be fucked for the next two months.

To compound my woes further, in three weeks we have a *massive* must-happen-now publishing project that's going to wind up and need pushing out to 1,200 people.

In short, I hate my job right now.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Great. Applicant number three is also a no-show.

I need a new job...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
1) Automate the boring one that is being advertised
2) Add a ghost employee to the company payroll
3) Profit!


Uh. Wasn't there supposed to be a "?" in there somewhere?
Permalink  
August 24th, 2005
I've automated as much of the dull job as I can and have probably cut it down to 50% of its original size (25% of it has been replaced by a three-stage wizard)

Unfortunately there are a lot of physical tasks -- filing, envelope stuffing, loading of printers (we get through about a million sheets of paper a year, so this in itself is almost a full-time job), putting stuff in binders, etc. -- that would need some sort of robot. (A robot would be cool, but I don't think my budget stretches that far.) There are also a lot of judgement calls required, so unless Chris gets a move on and gets his AI up and running we at least need a part-time employee...

Also, our big-ass printer has just packed up AGAIN! (Another cost-saving exercise -- they bought the cheapest machine that would do the job, but it's now failing about twice a week.) I'm going to pull a sicky tomorrow, I think. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Hmmm being sick on the first day of the Test, dubious.

If it is a regular business process, stuffing envelopes, then spending 20 grand on a collater and paper handling machine is probably cheaper than spending 12 grand a year on an employee just doing that.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 24th, 2005
I just checked the calendar and I've noticed that in a real spirit of team play my line manager is on leave for the two weeks immediately after the other remaining member of staff leaves and during the must-happen-now project. Un-fucking-believeable.

I feel a nervous breakdown coming on...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Do you mean that you people use sick days when you're NOT SICK?!

Scandal!!
Permalink muppet 
August 24th, 2005
Those tasks sound suspiciously secretarial... so how about a temp?

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 24th, 2005
That's nothing. Remember the disaster recovery I did last weekend? You know, the one everyone got rewarded for but me?

Both our manager and our director were out playing golf that weekend, or whatever. They weren't here for any of it.

Most of the affected business areas? Also out. "We'll check the systems on Monday morning", was the response. Bear in mind that this is a HOSPITAL and therefore NOT a M-F operation.
Permalink muppet 
August 24th, 2005
The "stuffing envelopes" bit was a slight oversimplification. :)

We issue a variety of bits and bobs, ranging from a couple of sheets of A4 to 400 A3 and A4 pages in a ring binder with accompanying CD. Each issued item is either stuck into an individual plastic envelope for distribution to our other office sites, and items for operational sites tend to be bundled in a big batch and sent to the team leader. Without spending a vast fortune on a super-duper machine it's not going to help much, and it would still leave all the other odds and sods that need doing...

The biggest problem is that my employer is tight-fisted. They've changed hands several times in the past couple of years, and each successive owner has tightened the screws a little bit further. Having been here for a while I'm not too badly off -- my contract was quite explicit about terms and conditions -- but newer employees are underpaid, over-worked, and get no real benefits. As a result staff turnover is increasing, and more people are leaving than they can employ due to the pitiful salaries they're offering.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Sounds like a few trestle tables in a unit with casual labour doing the stuffing. I used to talk to the printers and get them to manage the stuffing process, it tended to add marginal cost to the whole printing budget.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 24th, 2005
Unfortunately (again) the printing is all done in-house (assuming the printer is working), and it's a permanent and non-stop process -- due to the printer failure today there's already a backlog amounting to around 600 pages. Plus (again due to money-saving) we're not allowed to employ casual labour except in (poorly defined) exceptional circumstances.

All in all I'm under equipped and under staffed, but if they want the entire department to implode then they should be prepared for a raft of lawsuits when employees fail to get documentation that is a regulatory requirement of their job, or when people who've tendered for a contract fail to get the supporting documentation and miss the submission deadline, or if someone dies in a work-related accident and didn't recieve the relevant updates to the H&S documentation, etc...

The trouble is we're now owned by a bank, and the directors they installed know next to nothing about running a utility company. All they see is that we have an annual turnover in excess of £250million, and by cutting a few corners that can turn in to profit...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Well, as they say, you pay peanuts, you get...
Permalink Kyralessa 
August 24th, 2005
Geez, Mat, your job totally sucks. I suggest you march into your manager's office and tell him that if he doesn't get those jobs filled and get you some help with the clerical work that he's going to be missing THREE programmers because you're quitting because your job is becoming intolerable.
Permalink Dana 
August 24th, 2005
That wouldn't help.

One, it's not really his fault. Sure, it's a pain he's going on leave at a critical moment, but he's a generally nice guy so my guess is he booked it ages ago and it's not a deliberate move. Plus all the other departments he covers are in a similar boat -- he should have about 25 people working under him, but at last count he's eight short -- so I imagine he's tried pretty much everything already.

Two, the hiring policies are set by the board and my manager can no more circumvent them that he could turn into a butterfly; when they introduced the "HR Integrated Framework" (also known as "fucking everyone up the ass") the union took it to arbitration, we threatened strike action, etc., and the MD and HR directors kicked up a stink, and were then summoned to London and dismissed with immediate effect. Jobs are now divided into "families", there is no appeals process, and whatever HR evaluated the job as being worth is all they'll pay with no exceptions, even going as far as freezing pay rises for people deemed "overpaid" (apart from oddities like me who negotiated a fairly explicit contract and have a guaranteed minimum salary and annual increase). This vacancy pays £13,360p/a, and that's that. No-one with the requisite skillset will apply for it at that salary, so they won't employ anyone. (There is a so-called "scarcity allowance", but that requires them to have advertised the job for 8 months before they'll consider it.)

Three, due to a tax fiddle that allowed me to buy some cheap PCs, I can't actually afford to leave for anoth 18 months, otherwise my final payslip would be me owing the company money. (My own stupid fault, but the promise of shiny things was too much to resist.)

Corporate policy is fucking retarded in general, but it's worse here than anywhere else I've worked. However, it's close to where I live, the hours are flexible, the surroundings are pleasant, and I work with some nice people. I could get paid more somewhere else, and were it not for reason three I'd probably be vaguely looking to move, but as it is I'm kind of stuck and despite my moaning there's nothing I can do about it so if it all fucks up they can't say I didn't warn them. I'm going to try and let it not bother me, I'm certainly not going to do any free overtime to cover their asses, and I'm just going to sit back and watch the show. Film at 11. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
"there's already a backlog amounting to around 600 pages"

Wow, that must be like, a whole 10 minutes? Better go home to fetch the sleeping bag. You'll be there all night!

:°)
Permalink Just me (Sir to you) 
August 24th, 2005
About 20 minutes printing -- there's colour involved -- but it's not one batch of 600, it's lots of small items, and means stuffing about 150 plastic bags, a good two or three hours work. I just spoke the the engineer about the printer, he's not going to be here for another hour or so, so assuming I want to get thiese things out of the door by tomorrow I'm going to be here until 7pm at the earliest, which isn't going to happen.

So I'll spend three hours tomorrow doing it, and my actual job will have to wait. (I'm about three weeks behind already, so what's another few hours?)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Of course the end result is the same, since you will be spending tomorrows 3 hours of working on your other job backlog today, right?
Permalink Just me (Sir to you) 
August 24th, 2005
In the short term it makes no odds -- if the printer was working I could have wasted 3 hours today, but instead I'll have to waste them tomorrow, but then whatever was supposed to go out tomorrow will have to go out the day after, and the schedule slips another day behind, but then if I try and catch up then my actual job just slips further behind.

Taking in to account that soon I'll have three people's work to do instead of one and a half, by the time we're back to full strength we'll be months behind. Providing we then don't let up for a minute we'll have caught up in a couple of years. :)

(And in case anyone suddenly thinks "hang on, if you spent less time on ?off you'd be less far behind", I'm currently waiting for 2GB of data to slowly trickle its way along the feeble DSL line linking me to one of our other offices, and the brain-dead database that's doing the moving of data needs constant reassurance that it's doing the right thing... "This page is not reserved. Continue? [Yes] [No] [Go] [Cancel]"; we're not sure what the difference between Yes/Go or No/Cancel are -- they seem to be functionally equivalent...)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Mat,

It seems to me that all you can do is cya. Just write a memo to your boss describing the issues, likely outcomes and suggested remedies.

Managers are appointed to take decisions. If your boss also escalates the issue then at some point someone will be holding it when the ship hits the iceberg.

Seems like what you need to do is to avoid being sacked for incompetency and to be able to get redundancy if the worst happens.
Permalink andyuk 
August 24th, 2005
Sounds like a truly awfull job man. Thanks for making mine look better in contrast.

In all seriousness. Do you need to keep that job? I mean, life's pretty short and all that.
Permalink Just me (Sir to you) 
August 24th, 2005
you could just do 8 hours a day and let the project fall behind?
Permalink Kenny 
August 24th, 2005
I'm pretty much sticking to my 37.5 hour week; for a while we did try and keep on top of things, but after a month or so of that we gave up -- we were still falling behind, and working stupid hours. At the moment the tactic is to do the things that *must* be done, and then anything else gets slotted in as and when, hence my huge piles of unfiled paperwork, dozens of change requests for the database sitting in my queue, etc.

My department is pretty much a legal requirement so they can't just get rid of it and it would be very difficult to outsource as we're intimately involved in every aspect of the business, so I feel reasonably safe. Although we're constantly making noises about the situation I wouldn't be surprised if it took a massive disaster before they do anything about it, but as I'm a union shop steward they would be unwise to pick me as a scapegoat, and I've been keeping all the emails I've been exchanging about the topic just in case they try any sort of finger pointing in my direction. Plus, of course, I can always use this as grounds for long term sick leave as a result of stress. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
> I can always use this as grounds for long term sick leave as a result of stress.

Only problem is that it will actually be necessary due to actual stress.

You're a smart guy Mat, but too complacent. I think you should find something better.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 24th, 2005
If it weren't for the "leaving now means that my final paycheck will in fact be a bill for around £400" factor I'd have left months ago...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Your next employer should be able to take care of that.

The market is getting much better for techies right now. Thus your crappy applicants. Have you been looking? Have you been sending your resume to choice employers? Have you been accepting interviews?

See, you're too complacent.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 24th, 2005
CS smart != money smart.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 24th, 2005
I guess the tax fiddling thing could be transferred from one employer to another -- it had never occurred to me to ask. Perhaps I shall go job hunting! (I feel sorry for my manager, though -- three people have handed in their notice in the past three weeks. :D)

And yes, I'm not money smart. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Neither am I.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 24th, 2005
Me neither.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 24th, 2005
Well, maybe this interview will make up for it...
http://iopforum.harvard.edu:8080/ramgen/fr121302jonstewart.rm

Now, that's a RealPlayer thing, and it's entitled "An Evening with Jon Stewart." I'm surprised the interviewer is actually good.

Too bad it left out the Q&A.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 24th, 2005
If it's the VAT deal where the company absorbs the VAT hit on the purchase then unless there's some deal available between employers (which sounds doubtful) then you'd have to pay the VAT back.

If its some other kind of means of buying hardware through the company then I imagine its a P11D benefit and so would get declared on the P60 anyway, in which case it would hit next years tax allowance.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 24th, 2005
It's that strange HCI deal; no VAT, and the payments I make are deducted before tax, giving a double saving (it worked out about 25%). I shall have to investigate...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
> leaving now means that my final paycheck will in fact be a bill for around £400

So the tax-break was worth £400 plus a month's salary ... so on the order of £4000? And VAT is 15%? So that implies that the total purchase price (on which engineered the tax break) was, like, £24000? So, what hardware did you purchase for £24000? :-)
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 24th, 2005
Er, no, what happens is the company buys the equipment tax free, then you lease it from for three years and finally pay £10 to "buy" it; the installments are deducted before income tax and national insurance, so they also work out slightly better. (A £60 installment doesn't actually cost you £60 as you pay less tax as a result.)

I "only" bought £2160's worth of gear (well, £2538 if you factor in the VAT), but so far I've only paid two installments so I have £2040 to go, and if I leave that all has to come out of my final paycheck so I'd be short by about £400...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
People accuse you of being rude and having no social skills?

I don't think that is possible.

You need to post proof of this.
Permalink Chris McKinstry 
August 24th, 2005
Sweet deal for the company. You get stuck with three year old equipment, and the company gets free use of it.

Dude, making you buy your own shit sucks. They should be supplying you that, and you leave with nothing when you leave.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 24th, 2005
No, it's my own personal stuff, it doesn't get used for work purposes, and although the company "owns" it, to all intents and purposes it's mine to do with as I please. (Plus I get a 3-year on-site repair/replace warranty for nothing...)

I have no problem with owning three year old equipment, either; heck, I've still got a fully-functioning 486DX2/66 running NT3. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
So it's like the company store, you buy it on credit?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 24th, 2005
Mat, instead of trying to fill the office admin job with a youngster, why not try to find someone at the other end of the age scale? Someone retired but looking for a little extra income. They will most likely be prompt, reliable, courteous and all the things that youngsters aren't (and they'll turn up for interviews).
Permalink Ian Boys 
August 24th, 2005
The position is open to people of all ages, but (apart from the "courtesy" interview which was embarassing for him and for me, and he was only there because HR are trying to find something for him to do) all the applicants were pretty much pimply youths. Also, as the average age of people in the building I work in is probably about 58 it would be nice to have a few younger people there to bring it down a bit. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
"So it's like the company store, you buy it on credit?"

Pretty much; it's slightly more complicated due to it not *actually* being credit, it having a hint of tax evasion, and it being part of a wider government scheme (which they also do for bikes), but effectively yes, the company lent me the money to buy it and I'm paying them back interest free.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
If the job is as bad as you say, maybe spending £400 to be rid of them is a good deal. Dip into your savings (you *do* have six-months of living expenses saved up, right?)

As others have said, the market for IT people is looking up. I'm helping interview for people at the client, and we're having some of the same issues -- people who have padded their resumes, have over-inflated opinions of what few skills they do have, and have been subjected to job-title inflation at their previous jobs.
Permalink example 
August 24th, 2005
"you *do* have six-months of living expenses saved up, right?"

Perhaps you missed my "I'm not good with money" comment. I have *no* savings at all, so I can't afford to get paid -£400 -- it would mean not being able to make my mortgage payment, no food, no paying of bills, etc., for a month, and then a slightly leaner month than normal afterwards.

All my fault, sure, but that's the way it goes...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 24th, 2005
Surely you have an unnecessary expense or two you could cut back on, like intoxicants?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 25th, 2005
intoxicants...*un*necessary?
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 25th, 2005
I spend surprisingly little on intoxicants. A few beers now and again, and I buy my weed in bulk direct from the grower (LOW LOW PRICES!!!), so it'd take a sustained period of abstinence before I'd have any sort of substantial savings. Plus, of course, without them I'd go mad... :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 25th, 2005
So, this "deal" with your company - you could supply others with hardware on a cash basis? (Wouldn't interest me, as I'm in another country, but might be a way of getting out of your debt to the company.)
Permalink  
August 26th, 2005
Unfortunately not -- there are limits on the scheme, and the window of opportunity for buying stuff this year has now closed... I suppose I could sell what I have now to cover as much of the money as possible, but I'm in love with my laptop, printer, and 19" TFT. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 26th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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