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Is It Vandalism If You Are Getting Paid?

April 8, 2014

They were drunk. Everyone admits that the only reason they did it was they had consumed too much of the free beer. Still, they weren’t THAT drunk. The leather couch was worth at least $1000, probably more. They did check for people walking below before they dumped it off the third floor balcony. It crumbled into a pile of leather, wood and stuff on the floor of the atrium.

A drunken frat party?

Nope.

A bunch of high school kids who got into their parents liquor cabinet?

Nope.

They were a collection of millionaires. And later no one would care about the couch. . .or the holes in the walls. They did get a little upset about the impromptu pool.

Where do you draw the line between blowing off steam and going over the line? I’ve seen justification for raucous celebrations by the phrase “work hard, play hard.”

The University of Connecticut mens basketball team won the national championship this week. According to a CBS News report,

Jubilant fans celebrating UConn’s Monday night national basketball championship win smashed a window in an engineering building, broke street lights and overturned furniture inside the school’s student union.

“A lot of it was alcohol-related,” Breen said. “There was breech of peace, destruction of property, and we had a fireworks charge.”

Ironically, this sounds very similar to what happened at Microsoft. Are they really that much different? Police arrested dozens in the UConn case, while at Microsoft folks got ship it awards and congratulations.

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I see three major differences:

1. The Microsoft guys (and women) had permission to be crazy. The company did eventually crack down a little. It involved the Art Department requesting that they be informed before any future Shipping Parties so they could remove the original art work from the building.

Brian Valentine, the director over the Exchange team held a meeting when the Exchange group moved into a brand new building. He announced that the parking garage seemed to have too many handicap parking spots. He then reached in to a bag and held up a tow chain.

I’ve got a chain and a truck that anyone is free to borrow to fix it.

2. The Exchange team only trashed their own stuff. Unlike the rowdy (rioting?) college kids, the guys on the Exchange team mostly just broke stuff in their own building. There was no one who was going to come and complain. . .well there might have been, but all those people were already getting drunk at the party.

3. Most importantly, the Exchange programmers, and testers, and admins, and trainers, and marketing folks, and everyone else actually contributed to the success of the product. The kids in Connecticut didn’t do anything other than get accepted to a University that has a really good basketball team. In the Microsoft case, those guys throwing the couch off the balcony just made the company millions of dollars. Buying new furniture and fixing some holes in the wall were considered a small price to pay.

I think they did draw the line at the green jello wrestling. . .especially when the “ring” broke and spilled all over the carpet. But, that’s a story for another day.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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