Knock knock. Who’s there? Not you any more.


One of my many favorite Dilbert cartoons is also one of the earlier ones. It's the first strip reprinted in this article.

It may not actually have happened, but I was told that that one project many years ago replaced its lead manager. While noteworthy, this sort of thing happens often enough that people take it in stride. What put it into a higher category, however, was that the email that announced this change at the top was sent while the outgoing manager was out of the country on vacation.

One can imagine the now-former manager's surprise upon returning to the office.

"Dum di dum, catching up on email, hey what the..."

Now, the outgoing manager may very well have known about this change before heading out on vacation, but the story is funnier (and I therefore like to believe) that it was a surprise.

Comments (16)
  1. Gabe says:

    One could even imagine that the termination email could have even been lost or accidentally deleted in the avalanche of emails to go through upon his return. Or even better, he could see it and assume it was some sort of office prank.

  2. Microsoft GM says:

    This has happened plenty of times…but I’m not aware of any case where the person who is going through a job change did not receieve a phone call first…

    …still pretty bad though, no?

  3. Andrew says:

    I know somebody who was effectively made redundant  (from an unnamed company – not Microsoft) while she was on a conference call with the rest of the department (who were distributed around several countries). The manager emailed through a Powerpoint presentation that included the new organizational chart – the first inkling she got was that the chart that did not include her name!

  4. Harvey Pengwyn says:

    I was reorganised during a meeting once. Our team was supposed to be writing a spec for a next generation product doing some things that had never been done before and I had loudly and obnoxious pointed out that really a bit of research / experimentation was needed.

    We had a team meeting and my boss said ‘we’re going to refocus efforts now so A is doing X, B is doing Y, C is doing Z… and Harvey isn’t working for me any more’.

    Pause.

    ‘We’ll now move onto the second part of the meeting, for people who are still working for me, so Harvey you can leave’.

  5. Lauren Smith says:

    When someone gets reorg’d at Microsoft, in the ways that Harvey and Raymond mention, are they really redeployed to other projects (or otherwise left in a pseudo-hired-but-no-job limbo)? Or is the reorg an invitation to a permanent vacation?

    I suppose the case is both. How can you tell the difference (besides the obvious)? When you get reorg’d out of your job but not out of the company, is this done over email and phone? Does someone come to your office with a palette of cardboard boxes when "things just aren’t working out"?

  6. Anon says:

    I used to think Dilbert was funny when I started working after University. But the thing is, the more experience you get the more you realise there are ways to avoid those sorts of situations or turn them to your advantage. And now it sort of seems like the way a somewhat autistic person sees the world – full of idiots doing incomprehensibe things. Which isn’t so funny.

    E.g. pre meetings are to stop geeks from saying stuff to some non technical third party that most normal people would know are not a good idea to say. Or to stop the sales guys from agreeing to do impossible things in return for a pat on the head. If either side made any attempt to understand the other side’s point of view, you could skip the pre meeting.

    Dilbert’s a parody of course, but most of the nonsensical behaviour it parodies is only nonsensical and therefore funny if you don’t understand it. In which case, the joke’s on you.

  7. Matthias says:

    @anon: with even more experience you will realize that the strip at the bottom of the article was not (just) about pre-meetings. Here’s another interpretation: "Don’t ever make, in an attempt to be funny, an obviously absurd suggestion in the presence of a superior. Before long, it will be decreed to be the official way to go." I might add: "…and most likely you will have to implement it".

  8. Mike Woodhouse says:

    A few years ago I was nearing the office to start my swanky new IT Manager job when my phone rang. It was my new boss, calling to ask me to delay my arrival by half an hour or so while they fired my predecessor…

  9. KenW says:

    A place I worked for in the late ’90s (a publishing company distribution center) used to disable network accounts of people who were about to be let go at close of business the day before. The next day, the person would come in and try and log into the network and be unable. They’d then go report the problem to their supervisor and be informed that they were fired/laid off.

    It got so bad that the warehouse/distribution manager (who was really invaluable to the operation) changed his password during the normal periodic expiration. He then forgot the next day when he came in to work, and tried three times unsuccessfully to log in using the old password. When the network locked his account due to the three failed logins, he simply packed up his personal belongings and went home. He didn’t know for several hours (until someone got around to calling him to find out why he wasn’t at work and hadn’t called in) that he actually still had a job.

    Unbelievably to me, that still wasn’t enough to force management to change the policy.

  10. Ulric says:

    Yep. I came in once at work around 10am.  Couldn’t log onto the network.  No one knew anything.  Had to wait half an hour for my leader to be back from a meeting before getting "the meeting".   Well planned, well planned..  Hits you like a sledgehammer when you’re young and inexperienced.  The worse is co-workers avoiding eye contact…

  11. Marius says:

    Here in Norway there actually is a court case going on. A woman was fired form here job trough a press release! Nobody had told here she had to leave here job until she read the press release! Here in Norway the employees have very strong protection from being fired, so it is not common to fire people at all.  There are laws that says what the employer has to to before he is allowed to fire you. Issuing a press release is not one of those things…

  12. Anon says:

    At the end of an internship, the HR review person informed me that the "performance was not up to par" and that "there are always other opportunities", etc, etc.

    Got back to my senior "buddy" and informed him what the HR fellow had said.

    Much confusion later was informed that the HR person had got the review sent of another intern mixed with mine.

    Oh … and the "other" intern had already got the offer letter, which (of all the nerve), the HR dept asked back saying that it was a mistake !!! (ACK!)

    It was bad enough for me … negative-to-positive, but even worse for the other guy!!!

  13. Anonymous Coward says:

    For obvious reasons, I won’t post my name.

    I was working in a company and my boss got sacked while he was in vacation, but not exactly…

    You see, in that country you cannot be fired when you are on vacation. You have to be fired on the first day after you come from holidays (which is the first day of the week, a Sunday).

    So, the telegram announcing he was fired was among this other bills, spam mail, etc., so when he arrived at 1 AM he just went to bed… You can imagine his boss when he arrived to the office the following day without a hint.

  14. Anonymous Coward says:

    For obvious reasons, I won’t post my name.

    I was working in a company and my boss got sacked while he was in vacation, but not exactly…

    You see, in that country you cannot be fired when you are on vacation. You have to be fired on the first day after you come from holidays (which is the first day of the week, a Sunday).

    So, the telegram announcing he was fired was among this other bills, spam mail, etc., so when he arrived at 1 AM he just went to bed… You can imagine his boss when he arrived to the office the following day without a hint.

  15. Luis says:

    A question to the "intern whose performance was not up to par"

    Didn’t the other guy sue the bastards for unfair dismissal. After all, after some months of internship they have given him a contract, so he must be reasonably good. Or as Robert Heinlein wrote: Stupidity is a capital offense, and the company should pay for that

  16. Some Guy says:

    I won’t divulge my name, but this is a story about a guy I will call Jeff, mostly because the guys name was Jeff. ;) Really. Not making that up! And it’s a bit of a twist in the story compared to the others:

    Jeff was working in the US (headquarter) branch of large company X, and I was working for a german company that had been aqquired by company X. Jeff was managing us.

    At very first, Jeff was doing so remotely, then Jeff was over periodically. Then Jeff was to actually move to Germany. Jeff had bought a house in Germany, he had basically containered all his furniture and it was on the boat over. Jeff was basically holding the pen over the dotted line of the contract selling his original house in the US. His family was already relocated to Germany.

    That’s when companny X decided "nah, we don’t need this German office any more, lets close it". And promptly we all (myself included) were jobless.

    That was bad enough for us all, but hey, stuff happens.

    But Jeff *didn’t* lose his job. He was reappointed to another managerial position *back in the US*.

    So now he had his family relocated, and a house bought on the *wrong continent* from his Job. Lucky for Jeff was that he hadn’t yet had time to sell his old house!

    I am always surprised by this story… we, the underlings, had no clue. That’s understandable, underlings rarely do. But Jeff wasn’t really an underling, he was "pretty upper echelon" kind of Guy. Everybody in management knew (make that "at least SHOULD have known") that Jeff was mid-move, and should have … hinted something to him at LEAST… or at best – on an ideal planet toally unlike earth – HE would have been "in" on this decision LONG ago.

    Me, I’m 10,000 times better off than back then, the layoff was the keystone in my new way more fun and way more successfull career. But I keep thinking back at Jeff once in a while and the gut kick he was dealt…..

    ….

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