Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dumb Co-worker Story #001

For the majority of the time that I had worked at my last job, I was the sole designated technician of the company.  The rest of the staff, all four of them including the owners, sometimes did technical work but had other primary duties.  At a few points they had hired an extra technician to assist me, and I can tell you now that it would have been better off that I'd worked alone the entire time.  Most of my efforts were dealing with the co-worker rather than the actual work.

One example was this one guy Joesph.  He was at thirty-something with a degree in computer repair and an A+ certification.  Apparently he had more experience than me, but mostly with computer hardware, where as I dealt mostly with networking.  So I figured that I'd mostly had to train him with servers and networking, but he could handle his own with anything workstation related.

I could not have been more wrong.  On better days, he was tedious.  He would repeatedly asking me different questions about advanced server stuff, like setting up domain controllers or VPNs and the like.  This would have been completely fine by itself; I don't mind answering questions, and even if I did, it's only fair to help him out.  Except that it was obviously apparent he was nowhere near that level of expertise, and was not going to be anytime soon.  He had absolutely no experience with servers or routers. It was like trying to explain open-heart surgery to someone who barely knew CPR.

And that wasn't it.  He would constantly interrupt me, trying to complete my sentences, but he was always wrong.  So wrong that it would throw me off and I'd had to start over.  Even if I had explained something completely, he'd asked me the same thing a few days later.  He retained nothing because he just didn't bother.  He never wrote anything down, nor would he'd tried figuring out the simplest things himself.  If there was any hitch to something he was assigned to do, he'd immediately run straight to me, demanding my help.

On the worst days, he was fucking maddening.  Many times I had to watch over his shoulder, giving him step-by-step directions to solve even the simplest of problems.  Whenever I'd made any notion that this was something he was already supposed to know, he'd take no responsibility, and say something like, "Well how am I supposed to know if you don't teach me?".  This would be a legitimate question if this was an entry level job and I was his manager.  But it was nothing like that.  He was my co-worker hired as a computer professional.  My boss merely asked me to help him should he come across something he wasn't familiar with.

This was what dawned on me the day my boss had him inspect some machine that we were going to set up as a server, I think as a secondary domain controller.  Whatever, it doesn't matter.  All he had to do was turn on the machine and made sure it booted to the OS without any fatal errors.  Again, right after what he was told to do, he walked up to my desk, waving his hand gesturing to have me follow him, and asked "What am I supposed to do?".  I asked him what the boss said, which turned out to be pretty clear instructions.

"So what am I supposed to do?", he asked again.

I was stumped at first exactly was he was asking, but I soon realized he pretty much wanted someone to explicitly tell him what to do.  He was too afraid to ask the boss, so he came to me.  I asked him what had he already done.

"Does the machine boot up?"

"Uh, I don't know.", he responded.

"Does it turn on at all?"

"I don't know."

I looked at the back of the box, and not surprisingly, he hadn't plugged anything in.  Not the keyboard/mouse cables, Ethernet, power.  Nothing.  He hadn't done a single thing.

"Is it plugged in?", I asked anyway.

"Um...", before glancing at the back.  "No."

There was a long pause while I was waiting for him to finally realize what he was supposed to do.  But he just stood there, sheepishly looking at me like a dog anxiously waiting for his next command from his trainer in hope of getting a treat.  This was a grown man, older than me and with more certifications, hired to fix things and solve problems, not get paid to learn about them and occasionally press a button.

"Can you plug it in?", I asked right after losing all faith in him.  Worst of all, I was still responsible for my work, which I still had to finish even after spending most of the afternoon doing his by proxy.

In hindsight, I should have demanded his paycheck along with mine.


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