November 3, 2006
Let’s face it folks, sometimes we all slack on the job. If we do nothing but work for 8+ hours with nothing to break up the day other than bathroom breaks and a bland Rice Cripsie bar from the cafeteria , our brains become clouded and we are less productive. Thus, to make the time pass, we look at our checking account balance, stock prices, research resorts for an upcoming vacation, or watch a Will Ferrel skit about erectile dysfunction on YouTube (http://youtube.com/watch?v=KM6d8y4Oc9w)
That said, most of us either do a lot of work–or at least make an effot to look busy. The biggest exception to that rule was a slacking coworker who I will refer to as “The Wily Russian.” He is Wily because he’s gifted with an incredible talent for earning a salary and bonus that total over $100K/year for several years while adding no value whatsoever. The “Russian” part is not only because he’s from Russia–but because he’s stereotypically Russian.
Now I know that not all Russians are vodka-drinking, fur-wearing, Siberian-vacationing, nuclear-warhead-loving Commie Pinkos, but this guy is, so don’t be flaming me. Think of Chekov’s accent from Star Trek–that’s exactly how the Wily Russian sounds, only whenever you’re close enough to hear him speak you are overwhelmed by the stale cigarette smoke emanating from his clothes and the very pores of his skin.
If the Wily Russian were on a football team he would be the jockstrap launderer who wastes players’ time by insisting that everyone fold their jockstrap in a very specific and pointless way before throwing it in the laundry bin. If an improperly-folded jock strap was already in the laundry, the he would insist that that player leave the game and fish the sweat-soaked protector of the junk out of the hamper and fold it properly.
Case in point, by failing miserably to write any decent code as a developer, the Wily Russian was shifted to a DBA role supporting 3-4 other teams rather than being fired. Since he wasn’t directly on a team that produced anything client-facing he knew he needed to increase his job security, so he came up with database table and field naming conventions.
These conventions had to be strictly adhered to, even if the tables, field names and stored procedures were already being called successfully throughout the system. He would insist that development be halted while the errant developers went back and changed the working system to comply with his standards. In his mind, those bastards who didn’t append the word “LOOKUP” in all caps to the end of a lookup table were standing between him and his goal of achieving a nirvana of laziness. He would not offer to help in this cleanup effort. If he was harrangued in front of his boss he would agree to help, but would spend days delivering a script that competant developers could have done in a matter of hours.
Speaking of hours, the Wily Russian kept wonderful hours. He would never roll into work before 9:30AM, and was observed to frequently come in after 10. That wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself, but he always took off for lunch at 11AM having been at work long enough to check his email and look for chicks on Russian dating sites. He never came back from lunch before 1PM. He was out the door by 4:30PM. Not a bad way to spend the day, I’m sure, especially while the rest of us huddled in our sterile cubes for 8 hours a day.
But the original tactic which earned the Wily Russian his spot in the Annals of Slacker Lore was a maneuver that I have christened “The Russian Decoy Gambit”. It went like this: not surprisingly the Wily Russian couldn’t be troubled to do any work at all before 1:30PM. Nor could he consider burning any of his HUGE bank of vacation or personal time because he’d spent years taking time off of work without officially counting it, so why start now? His solution was nothing short of brilliant–and has left me not knowing whether to loathe or admire him, so I’ve done both.
He would arrive in the office at say 9:30 with an extra set of car keys. Within minutes of arriving he’d place the car keys next to his keyboard as was his custom and drape his jacket over the back of his chair. Then, he would leave the office altogether and vanish for hours, returning at about 1:30PM when he typically got back from his long lunches. If anybody came by his office, they’d see his stuff at his desk, and assume he was in a meeting or using the restroom. But the Wily Russian was most likely sighing with contentment while sipping his umbrella drink at home in his hammock and savoring the fact that he was getting paid more money than I was for “working” a three hour day.
To the best of my knowledge he is still employed in that same group by the same company.
November 2, 2006
Welcome to my rant against incompetence in business, but software development teams in particular. I will be posting articles describing all sort of software-related ineptitude and Dilbert-like behavior that I have witnessed during my career. I will sometimes make serious points after showing the wrong way to get useful work done. Sometimes these posts will be very code-heavy and technical and other teams it’ll just be legendary displays of ignorant human behavior that cause projects to fail.
And for those of you wondering about my “Disaffected” moniker, I admittedly took that label from the various Demotivator descriptions at Despair.com many of which are said to appeal to “Disaffected College Students.”
If you’re so inspired, add some comments and share you own stories.