Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




my bizarre firing situation. comments?

Hi, here is what happened to me:

9 months ago I got hired as a contractor by a buddy of mine who is a VP at a local research branch of a huge megacorporation.

The project I was working on, I had to work with a manager person, who hates my guts. I don't really like him, either. It is a typical nerd ego thing.  This manager person is about 1 rung down on the org chart from my VP friend.

Anyway, my VP friend went on vacation for two weeks. During those two weeks, the manager guy decides to fire me. His exact words were "I'm very happy with your work, but our working styles are incompatible."  The manager guy had everything pre-arranged with accounting and IT so that I was completely vaporized within 2 days.  I didn't really have much to say about this, as I sort of anticipated what was going to happen next...

I'm just farting about this past week, doing nothing, enjoying life, etc. My other friend at the company informs me that when my VP friend returned, shit hit the fan and there was a huge battle between VP friend and the manager who fired me.

The manager who sacked me replaced me with some permatemp employee who apparently is known for playing yahoo games all day. In any case, there was zero wind-down time for me to show this guy how to do anything. He not only will have to learn what I did, he will have to learn how to use the toolkit I used, program in C#, learn SQL, figure out how to do a huge data migration, and so forth.

Even if the guy knew what he was doing, I would anticipate it would still take a few months before he would feel comfortable and productive.

Anyway, I just received some e-mail from my VP friend wanting me to come in, re-negotiate my contract, and start working again.

My inclination is to politely tell my VP friend that I'd rather not deal with this situation, and I'm sorry that I can't help him out. I have about 2 year's worth of living expenses saved up, and a family business I could go work at if I can't find another contract in 2 years. 

However I feel bad for my friend, and would like to help him out. I also feel somewhat uncomfortable abruptly stopping a project mid-stream. I just don't want to work with this manager person again, and to be honest would rather just go visit my sister who is living abroad than deal

What would you do? Any humorous comments? I'm just sitting around in an internet cafe, looking at plane fares...

nepotism rules!
Friday, February 20, 2004


I'd get something in writing about never having to deal with the manager dude, and a raise.

At that point, the manager dude will have soooo much egg on his face he will either leave you alone completely, start quitely looking for another job, or try to make your life hell.

If he tries to make your life hell, well, you've got a written contract and some documentation at this point.  All he can do is to try to influence the -other- people that work with you to get -them- to be hard on you.  Once they see through it, they won't play, and, besides that, he's building an HR case to get him fired.

I may be alone on this one, but I would consider stepping into the lion's den, but my sense of justice is overblown, and I find it hard to live with things (like firings) that I did not deserve.  YMMV ...

Matt H.
Friday, February 20, 2004

I'd go back provided I wasn't working for the same sh*thead.  Otherwise, why bother?

Bathmophobic skier
Friday, February 20, 2004

Why not tell your friend you'll be visiting your sister for a few weeks and then you'll come back and help him out? Or vice versa.

He helped you by giving you the job, and I'm sure he would rather not deal with the unpleasantness either, so one good turn deserves another.

Not that you have to, of course. I'm just thinking it would be very nice of you if you did.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, February 20, 2004

If your VP friend want to re-negotiate, what's the harm in listening to what he has to say?  I certainly understand you not wanting to work for the manager guy anymore, and perhaps that will become part of what your friend addresses.  You've nothing to loose by finding out - except, perhaps, a couple of hours of your time.

In my opinion, if you like the work and, for the most part, the people (exception noted) then it's worth finding out.

bpd
Friday, February 20, 2004

Oh I'll meet up with them for sure. Just wondering what other people think of this situation, and how you would handle it.  The work is work. Not thrilling, but I've had far worse jobs. I don't *need* the money, but money is money, and it can't hurt to have more of it. 

nepotism rules!
Friday, February 20, 2004

If I were really confident about my ability and the managers incompetence, I would politely decline the offer while assuring my friend that I'd be there whenever he needs me.

Then wait and watch as the manager tries to keep up with the loss and starts screwing things up. *That* would be the best time to go back. By that time, either the manager would've quit, or he would be (hopefully) sensible enough not to mess around again.

PS: Friendship should come above everything else.

T-90
Friday, February 20, 2004

"By that time, either the manager would've quit..."

or be promotoed to VP  :)

apw
Friday, February 20, 2004

You possess one of the greatest powers an employee can know:  Not giving a f*ck because you don't need the job.

I would definitely push for a raise out of this, and if you have to work with the manager again try to get your VP friend to give you some leverage points.

Dan Brown
Friday, February 20, 2004

"I don't *need* the money, but money is money, and it can't hurt to have more of it.  "

It sounds like you have financial independence and great freedom right now. You have the opportunity to find not just "a job" but your calling in life. How about pursuing a your passion, and not just a mediocre job for a few more bucks.

David Fischer
Friday, February 20, 2004

I have about 2 years of financial independence, living a reasonably simple life. I'm not living paycheck to paycheck but I'm certainly not rich, either. 

There are many things I'd like to do - travel the world, move to lake tahoe, learn chinese, "2 girls at one time," etc. However I am relatively pragmatic after going through periods of total financial irresponsibility, and know that saving more money can't hurt. I do sort of view this abrupt firing as a window of opportunity to jump start a change in my life, but what exactly that change will be, I'm not sure!

I missed my window of opportunity to become a professional skateboarder. Finding that secondary life's passion is more easily said than done! ;-)

nepotism rules!
Friday, February 20, 2004

Assuming your description of the situation is accurate here is what I would do.  I would reneogiate the contract.  I would ask for a 40% increase but settle for 25%.

Above all, as a precondition, I would insist that the manager who fired me be terminated.  Once again, assuming your description is accurate, this guy needs to learn a lesson and as many times as I have fantasized about teaching such, I have never had the opportunity to so do.

Please....

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

Don't insist the guy be fired.  That lacks class.  And your VP friend surely already _knows_ the guy needs to be fired, so I think you'll come out ahead in his and others' estimation if you don't pull your weight for something like that; there's nothing admirable about getting people fired, not matter how much they deserve it.

I agree with those who said to go for the raise and the guarantee you won't have to deal with him anymore.

Kyralessa
Friday, February 20, 2004

What would you need to *want* to work there?

IMHO, your friendship to the VP just means you owe it to him to listen to his offer.

As long as there are ill feelings between you and your old boss, I don't know if you can MAKE him behave in a way that will be comfortable for you (at least it wouldn't be comfortable for me).

So, *I* might want to report to someone else.  Could they transfer oversight on the project to another person?

The real Entrepreneur
Friday, February 20, 2004

I second Kyralessa's emotion. It's really not your place to request that your friend fire one of his employees.

If I were you, I would avoid discussing your conflict with this guy at all except in the most value-neutral and factual terms, and then only when you have to.

This other guy has already demonstrated his jerkdom by behaving like a jerk. If you maintain a saintly refusal to bad-mouth him, imagine how fabulous you are going to look in comparison.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, February 20, 2004

Everyone loves options.

One option no one else has mentioned is to offer to help the next guy continue your project.  Explain your design decisions, get some time to document your code a little more, whatever else I can't think of.

You can then get higher pay, you can still help your friend out by keeping the project alive, and you don't have to work there for longer than ... however long that would be.  Less than a month, for sure, right?

Anyway.  Everyone loves options, so the more viable options, the better.

pds
Friday, February 20, 2004

Oh, and a little bonus: by coming back in to help the next developer, your VP friend can put a minimum dollar amount on exactly how much it cost to switch developers midstream:

Additional cost = (calculated)[amount you billed extra] + (incalculable)[loss of productivity from new guy]

pds
Friday, February 20, 2004

> "2 girls at one time,"

kind of goes without saying, doesn't it?

bob
Friday, February 20, 2004

"I missed my window of opportunity to become a professional skateboarder"

Why is that? I mean why can't you do it now?

id
Friday, February 20, 2004

Insisting someone be fired as a condition of your return lacks "class"?  I disagree and parenthetically (I am amused that anyone in America would be insulted these days being told they lack class.  It strikes me as a lower class insult from the early half of the 20th century).

Maybe I am wrong and "lacking class" has nothing to do with lacking the characteristics of the "upper classes".  My impression that "having class" and being "classy" have to do with the characteristsics the lower classes perceive the upper classes as posessing.

I very much doubt that taking the high road in business rather than playing hard ball is one of them.

Heck I am usually for taking the high road but this manager fired you.  He didn't just annoy you.  He fired you.  There is nothinbg classless, petty or wrong about requesting that he be fired.  Frankly I think this sort of attitude is why management types are able to keep you cubicle slaves writing code for so little money year after year.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

"name withheld", the etymology of a word is not the same thing as its current meaning; to say something "lacks class" includes, in this day and age, no inherent judgment about the behavior of people of various states of wealth.

The point is that though I agree that he's perfectly justified in demanding the guy be fired, he'll come out looking better if he _doesn't_ demand it.  Obviously his decision depends on which he values more: revenge or reputation.

Kyralessa
Friday, February 20, 2004

You see that's where I disagree.  He doesn't look any better by not insisting the guy be fired.  If he doesn't make the request he comes off looking like a guy who can be crapped on at will.  If he insists on the firing, his VP friend will see some self-respect and some spine.  If it gets around the company his fellow cube-monkies will applaud his victory and other managers will respect him.

And as for your interpretation of "class" I find it surprising that a programmer would argue for inexactness of language.  Just because a good word loses it's specific meaning over time due to ignorant misuse, is no reason for us to tolerate it.  Why use the word "class" if nothing in your intent is specific to "class".  Why not just say it would be bad or something similarly vague.

Reminds me of the near-insane overuse of the term "cool".  When I was in college people used this term to mean just about anything positive.  It was used all the time without respect to it's actual meaning and so lost almost all meaning.  Eventually it became just a sound people like to make.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

Pedantry about the word "class" aside, I would suggest that you do this: Go talk to the VP, and say to him that you'd love to be rehired, since otherwise you'd just sit around for the next year (or two) living on your savings, but that "obviously I couldn't do that if I would be working with manager X. Can you see to that?".

You aren't insisting that the manager be fired, only that the VP is *personally* on the hook for making sure you don't have to deal with the guy he doesn't like. (You of course wouldn't mind if the manager was just transferred to the Siberian branch office, rather than fired).

Exception guy
Friday, February 20, 2004

Pardon my pedantry but the poster implied that I lacked class and felt compelled to defend myself.  As for your suggestion that the manager be transferred to Siberia, I fail to see how asking that the manager be trnasfered is signifigantly better than requesting he be fired.

I don't see what the problem is.  Why is everyone so broken up for the plight of this poor manager who clearly didn't give a rat's ass about what would happen to the original poster once he was jobless.  Save your good treatment and understanding for your friends.  People will respect you for it.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004


namewitheld,

Are you saying that the manager should be fired because he didn't care what would happen to someone else getting fired? So now you don't care what happens to the manager?

If you are at the zoo and monkeys start throwing shit at you do you drop your pants and return fire?

Asking that the manager be moved to a different project is reasonable. Demaning his firing lacks class (and isn't cool either). Scorched-earth office politics will backfire if the manager has friends among the other VPs.

NathanJ
Friday, February 20, 2004

Personally I wouldn't try to get the manager fired.

In fact, I'd want to work with the manager again, because he'd be completely powerless over you simply due to the past situation (what's he going to do, fire you again? not likely) and having to work with you in a manner in which he is powerless against you would remind him every day of his colossal failure.

But that's just me.

Mr. Fancypants
Friday, February 20, 2004

Asking to have the other guy fired is a totally unreasonable request.  It's got nothing to do with turning the other cheek or anything like that, it's just not going to be on the table.  The VP cannot go around firing salaried employees because an ex-contractor doesn't like them.  I can't help feeling that some posters here are trying to have some malicious fun at Our Hero's expense.

Asking to not work with the other guy anymore is reasonable.  That's what I'd ask for, along with a decent sized raise.  Although Fancypants is right, Our Hero can pretty much check this guy as he pleases if he goes back, if he cares to.

Matt Conrad
Friday, February 20, 2004

Forget about the whole "class" sideshow going on in this thread.  Taking abuse happily is slave mentality.

Without a doubt, listen to your friend's offer.

If you liked the work, other than the presence of the jerk-off manager, then go back.  Don't focus on demanding more money than last time unless you were being underpayed.  The main point you should be pressing hard is the elimination of the old problem.  You don't need to demand a firing, but you should consent to return only if the jerk-off is not involved in your project.  Let them decide how to do that, it's not your concern.  Suggest that you will manage the project yourself, if you think you can focus and deliver what the business needs.

One last point.  If you go back, and their way of removing the manager from your project was to move him elsewhere, be wary of him.  In the long run you really need to work well with him or crush him completely.  The middle ground always leads to being crushed yourself.

veal
Friday, February 20, 2004

I wouldn't ask that he would be fired.  But I would stipulate that if you were to return, you would not have to deal with ex-manager in any way, shape, or form.

Leave it to the VP to decide that the easiest way to accomplish that is to fire ex-manager.

Alyosha`
Friday, February 20, 2004

Actually I think I am the only one really arguing for firing the guy.  I don't buy the monkeys hurling feces analogy.  The monkeys are not hurling the feces to accomplish a specific business goal.  The manager fired the original poster for one though.  The VP most assuredly can fire the manager for this, assuming he has the ability to fire him otherwise.

He doesn't say he is firing him because "my contractor buddy doesn't like him".  He is firing him because he made such a disastrous decision for such a stupid reason.  He fired someone good and brought in someone bad because he didn't like the first guy.  That is he said "fuck what is good for the company.  I will pursue my personal agenda".  If we are to believe the OP then this is the case and that manager needs to be fired.

I have been in positions in which a superior wwas prevented from firing me despite an intese hatred (or whatever it was).  That manager found ways to make me more unhappy than I otherwise would have been.

And yes, that manager didn't care about OP being unemployed therefore OP shouldn't care about the manager being unemployed.  If he wants to be Christ or Ghandi or King or whoever, I suggest a career in some kind of charity or public service.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

And yes, noe that I think about it if I were capable of crapping on command like that, and I thought I could get away with it and a monkey actually bean me with some feces, I think I would return fire.  YEs I would.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

Oh, I almost forgot.

If you choose to go back, make sure you do good work, and everyone know's you're doing good work.  This is of course normal behavior under most situations.  But in this case the urgency may be greater because there's the chance that your friend has stuck his neck out on this issue.  In that case, you'll want to help him keep his head by demonstrating that he made the right choice in siding with you.  Working on your reputation there can also help you amass power and goodwill should another showdown occur with the jerk-off.

veal
Friday, February 20, 2004

And Mister Fancypants- your thing might work just fine until the OP's VP friend decided to pursue other career opportunities.  Personally I wouldn't feel very comfortable knowing that I would be fired if one of my friends decided to leave.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, February 20, 2004

It's a terrific opportunity for you in every way. go back, but ask that you report directly to your friend, not to someone else.

Become a special consultant to the board or something.


Friday, February 20, 2004

'...[the manager] said "f*** what is good for the company.  I will pursue my personal agenda".  If we are to believe the OP then this is the case and that manager needs to be fired.'

You're right, name withheld.  But it's for this very reason that Mr. rules! shouldn't demand that the manager be fired; that would smack of arrogantly telling his friend the VP how to run his company.  Surely you can follow this logic.

Kyralessa
Friday, February 20, 2004

You are SO in the catbird seat my friend. I can't think of a more ideal negotiating position:

1. They desperately need you.
2. You don't need them at all.
3. They screwed up and owe you BIG TIME.

Listen to their offer and laugh at it. Demand that the other guy be transferred away from where you'll work. Settle for nothing less than twice your last salary plus a huge bonus for agreeing to come back at all. And feel free to turn them down even if you do get all of it.

Dennis Atkins
Friday, February 20, 2004

It's better to make "not having to deal with the manager" a condition of your return instead of just asking for your friend to fire the manager.

The first implies a problem that you expect to be solved.  The second one implies the problem and a suggested solution.

There are potentially other ways to deal with the issue of the manager that are also workable.

If the VP is your friend, you should at least give them a chance to negotiate with you.  You can turn them down if the offer isn't acceptable, or if you really need some time to unwind.  Or make a few months to unwind part of the agreement.

Flamebait Sr.
Friday, February 20, 2004

Relating this to another thread here (and to Office Space), why not ask for "two women" while you're at it?

Mr. Fancypants
Friday, February 20, 2004

Mr. Fancypants,

I like the way you think.

The Original Anonymous Coward
Friday, February 20, 2004

I'd like to

>  learn chinese, "two women at one time"

too!

Josh No-Spam Jones
Friday, February 20, 2004

name withheld out of cowardice:

"Class" in this sense relates to concepts of style and grace, not the different between upper and lower.

And yes, your suggestion that he demand the manager be fired showed a great lack of both style and grace.

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Saturday, February 21, 2004

This story seems completely upside down.

Usually, JoS thread stories start "I have this hopeless developer, doesn't try to work in a way that works, but is sponsored by a VP.  Nepotism!  I had to wait until the VP was away before I fired him, but now the VP is back and wants him back!  What do I do???"

i like i
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I'll come back and work for you.  But "first you have to eat the peanuts outta my shiiit.

Cowboy from FMJ
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Would it be possible for you to work a few days a week.  Do that 2-3 days and look for a better offer the other 2-3.

Koz
Saturday, February 21, 2004

He- nonsense.  It doesn't show style but it certainly shows grace.  I presented this situation to someone here off line and he agreed with me so I am happy.

As for the rest of you remember in your job and your life in the future when other people purposefully do bad things to you, just drop you pants, bend over a table and take it like a (classy) man!

name withheld out of cowardice
Monday, February 23, 2004

And the reason that "class" has to do with style and grace is, presumably, because the upper classes had more of both.  I no longer consider this to be true, in America anyway, which is why I consider the insult itself to be so stupid.

name withheld out of cowardice
Monday, February 23, 2004

OK... since I had a very similar experience and the movie Office Space was mentioned, here's my story...

I'm an independent contractor and had a good client that used to bring me in for various things over the course of a few years.  Near the end of one of the projects the accounting guy (who looked and acted very much like the character Milton from the movie) decided to start playing hide and seek with the invoices I submitted.  I physically placed them in his Inbox so he couldn't blame it on US Mail.

The agreed terms were net 30 but they started going out to 40, then 45, etc.  When my wife (who does the books) would call to follow-up the guy would say the invoice must be lost and could she please fax over another copy.  She'd then follow-up on that action and he'd say that the batch of checks were just cut and that the next batch will be in 2 weeks.  I think you see the game and can predict that this continued for the next few invoices getting later each time.

I told the guy that if money was tight that I'd much prefer he play it straight up and say they'd have to stretch the terms for the next few months rather than insult both of our intelligence.  He acted all bewildered and reiterated how much they valued their vendors, blah, blah.

At the same time a manager there contacted me to do some more work for them.  I relayed the story to him and used the ultimate tool as was noted above - I didn't need the work.  I had another project keeping me plenty busy.  Since it was a quick turnaround item and it would take to long to get someone else up to speed, he knew it was either make me happy or drop the ball on the project.

In the end I told them that I wanted a check for every outstanding invoice (including the one I submitted only 2 days earlier) sent to me before I start any new project for them and that if any of the new invoices I submit goes past 30 days I would simply pack my things and not return.

This manager and his boss had no idea I was being treated so badly from the Accounting guy.  It made them sit up and I think I even gained some respect in their eyes.  I'm not sure what was said to the Accounting guy, but they cut the check as requested and the other invoices all arrived right at 30 days.

So I'd say work with the VP and listen to what he has to say but remember you hold all the cards.  Be careful not to abuse the situation by asking for the manager's head on a platter.  Simply write a list of things that you won't tolerate and have the VP sign it.  Be prepared to have these boundaries tested though, since if he has no spine to deal with his direct report in the proper manner, then he'll probably cave on the list as well.

Lumbergh
Monday, February 23, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home