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You’re Fired. Fireworks in 3…2…1

July 24, 2013

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Daryl can I talk to you in my office?

You’re contract is up next month and we aren’t going to renew it.

You mean I’m fired?

Well, as a contractor it’s not . . .


Well. . .you’re gonna update your resume. You’re gonna. . .


My office got very small, very fast. Daryl wasn’t a big guy, shorter than I was in fact. But, he jumped up and started pacing. Then he started raging. In the phases of grief he skipped Denial and went straight to Anger. The walls were thin and I knew that the developers in the bullpen were hearing every word. Well, every word that Daryl was saying. I was doing my best to keep my voice calm and defuse the situation.

As I tried to decide if Daryl might become physical and require I call the police, I reflected on the 3 months he’d been working for us. I was President of RESMARK and while our staff was full of highly technical individuals, it didn’t make sense to have them maintain our servers. They were programmers, and I needed them focused on writing code. We were constantly fighting to make our schedule and getting pressure from our investors.

In talking to Dave, my Dev Lead, we decided we needed someone to maintain our network, and especially backup our server and our programming files. Dave already had someone in mind.

I know a guy. Actually, I’ve only met him online, but he’s a smart guy. He lives back East, but he’s single, so I don’t think it would take much to get him to move to Utah.

Okay, you interview him and if you think we should bring him on, I’ll talk to him. I want to do a four month contract. If it works out, we can always extend it.

So, Daryl moved to Utah and joined our little company. In addition to normal maintenance like upgrades and patches, I had one very critical task for Daryl.

Daryl, we’ve been writing this code for almost two years. It’s all on that one server in the backroom. If this building burns down tonight, we are toast. I need you to back up the server and especially our development files.

Okay. I haven’t done LINUX based backups before, but I’ll work on figuring it out.

That became a constant refrain from Daryl. “I’m still working on figuring it out.”

Weeks went by. My anxiety level continued to rise the longer we went. It turned out that Daryl was very very good at the things he knew. But, he really struggled to learn new things. Finally, it was obvious that Daryl was never going to get the backup done. We decided to bring in TJ as a possible replacement for Daryl. Dave and I were the only ones who actually knew why we were interviewing TJ. We had the team do the interview. That included Daryl, of course. At one point, as TJ was explaining his experience Daryl commented:

It sounds like you could my job better than I do my job.

Daryl didn’t notice the awkward silence in the room.

After TJ accepted our offer I had my conversation with Daryl. I don’t know how long it lasted, but it felt like it went on for 30 minutes or more. I liked Daryl. We all did. I knew it would be hard for him to find a new position. But, he was a young guy and certainly had some marketable skills.


OKAY. You wanna know what you’re going to do? You’re going to be a grownup about this. Talk to Dave. He can help you polish your resume and coach you for interviews. You’re going to get through this. I need to know if you want to finish out your contract, or if you’d like to make today your last day?

Well, OF COURSE, I want to finish the contract. I don’t have any money otherwise! I’ve got nothing! I don’t know what to do. I’m not good at finding jobs. I don’t have any idea. . .

I’m guessing mostly at what he was saying at the end. He had literally collapsed onto the floor in my office. He rolled over on his side into the corner, pulled up his knees and was sobbing.

Somedays I HATED my job.

Eventually, Daryl pulled himself together and left my office to face his coworkers.

TJ came to me at the end of the day and handed me a thumb drive.

What’s this?

It’s a straight file copy of the development files on the server. If the building burns down tonight we can copy them back from that thumbdrive. I’ll download and install a backup system tomorrow and setup a backup schedule and arrange offsite storage by this weekend.

My anxiety was gone, but I still felt terrible for Daryl.

This week, I’m going to talk about “action” and “knowledge.”

Monday – GSD (Getting Stuff Done) vs certifications
Tuesday – Do you hire for potential or for knowledge? (How I failed the interview but got the job)
Wednesday – Worst experience firing someone
Thursday – How paralysis by analysis cost the Project Manager his job
Friday – Mountains of perspective

Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger and IT Consultant. He prefers the fireworks that go off in the sky. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and 13 children.

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