Serial Sacker of IT Freelancers
The worst boss I ever worked for as an IT Freelancer was a guy who was known amongst the freelancers as Morlock the Serial Sacker.
It was at one of the utility Water Companies.
It was one of those contracts which happened during a downturn when everyone was on rock bottom rates but took the contract to tide themselves over till the recovery came.
He was a small, balding guy who thought he was ‘hard‘. He used to go to the gym or play squash every lunchtime.
It was the first time he had run a major project.
Sacking freelancers gave him great personal satisfaction.
You could say he had a lust for it.
If he hadn‘t sacked a freelancer for a while he had withdrawal symptoms until he could sack another.
He would not allow any talking at all amongst the freelancers.
He would regularly gather the freelancers together and threaten them with what he would do if they didn‘t hit their schedules.
Morlock the Serial Sacker
It was like HG Wells The Time Machine. The one where the human race had split into two species, one of which fed on the other.
Indeed the Freelancers there used to call him Morlock after the underground creatures who fed on the above ground Eloi.
I remember one time when he came back from lunch five minutes late at 2:05pm.
As he walked up the aisle he saw one freelancer still reading his newspaper.
He immediately called him into his office in front of all the permanent staff and freelancers and five minutes later the Freelancer was clearing his desk and at 2:15pm he was out of the building, accompanied, of course, by the security guards off the premises – and out of work during a downturn in the economy when there were few contracts about.
Oh – and it was the week before Christmas.
IT Contractors Sacrificed
At virtually every team meeting which he called to monitor progress someone was told that their contract was terminated in front of the whole group and told to go immediately, with of course, the accompaniment of the security guys to do the job properly and humiliate the Freelancer as effectively as they could.
Indeed, if a freelancer hadn‘t been sacked at one of those meetings the other freelancers would be in fear knowing that his bloodlust had not been sated and he would be looking for any excuse to take one of them out.
After a sacking freelancers felt they could relax for a few days anyway.
All the Talk
He was all the Freelancers could talk about of an evening (they couldn‘t talk at all during the day) as the contract was in the back of beyond and many of the Freelancers were working away from home – with all the expense entailed.
Some Freelancers wanted to have a go at him, tell him to stuff his job in front of everybody and just walk off site but others said it was best just to keep your head down, do everything by the book, and keep out of his road as much as you could.
There wasn‘t one bit of pleasantness about him as far as Freelancers were concerned.
So, it was a surprise, one day, when his wife came along to the workplace with their young child and we saw him pick up the child and smile.
‘Maybe there is a softer side to him’ we all thought.
No Laughing Matter
He spoiled that by sacking another Freelancer that afternoon for ‘laughing when he should be working’.
He came straight out of his office as soon as he heard it and demanded to know who it was.
The Freelancer was out the door within 10 minutes.
Project Going Wrong
The terrible thing was that the project was going terribly wrong.
A Freelancer pointed out a basic error in the system at one of the regular progress meetings and he didn’t last to the end of the week, presumably for making a fool of the Great Chief of the Morlocks in public.
Therefore, no one ever pointed out a problem again – even if it was obvious and glaring.
They just did what he told them to do.
They knew that by the time the glaring error had been found out they would be elsewhere. This would hopefully be onto another more lucrative contract.
Schadenfreude from IT Contractors
It wasn‘t just that they were in danger of getting the sack that caused the Freelancers to keep it to themselves when they saw something obviously wrong.
There was, with some anyway, a sense of schadenfreude that, although the Serial Sacker had the upper hand now, when the chickens came home to roost the project would turn out to be a turkey to mix my metaphors.
His problems would come in the future when either the system would be put into production riddled with errors and not doing what was wanted or it would go on very late and well over budget as the problems were fixed belatedly perhaps after the contractors’ departure.
The Freelancers used to discuss, every night, the structural problems that they had found in work that they had been given to do.
It kept us going all the way throughout the contract, i.e. knowing that the Serial Sacker had date with Destiny which would surely come.
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