The time I got fired.

Pretty long story.

After working doign support for financial software for close to four years I decided I wanted to be a bit more hands-on hardware wise. Went for a job with a mum+dad/small business PC/Mac consulting place in the SE subs of Melbourne.

After the second interview I was offered the job – paying less than half what my level 1 support job was paying at the time. The whole interview process itself was pretty weird to be honest, I was asked to complete a blatantly plaguerised IQ test (the photocopying wasn’t straight, you could tell the copyright lines had been whited out, etc.) This should’ve been my first warning.

Anyway, after turning down the job I had numerous phone calls over about a week long period where the boss ended up offering me a different role and upping the pay by just over $20k.

This should have been my second warning.

Anyway, I end up accepting the job but make it very clear during the negotiation process that I won’t be adhering to any sales/income targets. I’m being employed for my skills, not my sales ability. I have no interest in sales and won’t take the job if it’s a sales role – they agree.

The day after I have formally accepted the role I get a call from I guess the second in charge – he wants to know what (EN)TER I achieved in year 12.

Not that I have an issue with my ENTER, but I query the relevance and tell them it’s none of their business – I’m not going for any sort of graduate role and I’ve been working around six years at this point.
This was my third warning.

About the Wednesday of the week before I start (I gave my then current employer the required four weeks notice) the boss calls me up – he wants me to work on some process/advertising documentation. Nevermind the company motto “Computers Fixed. Fast” contains gramatical errors – I’m not the documentation guy. I found it a little unprofessional that I’d be asked to complete some work before I’ve even officially started – but I did anyway. (Fourth warning.)

My first day finally arrives – I rock up to the door, knock, introduce myself to the staff present and tell them I’m the new guy and ask to see the boss. I’m told he’s not in.

Not having been invited inside as yet and not wanting to make myself too comfortable – I did what I believed was the polite and professional thing to do – I wait just outside the door until I’m invited in, which occured about 70 minutes later when the boss got in. This is the first time I consider walking.

My first job came about three hours later when I was sent out to diagnose a networking issue on a G5 iMac. (I had /no/ Mac experience at the time and the bosses knew this). I diagnosed the problem to be a faulty router and brought it back to the office for replacement. I was chastised for this as I should’ve called the office because there’s a known problem with this router where the powersupply tends to die. I figure I did okay in diagnosing the router in the first place and question if I should confirm every decisison I make in the field with someone in the office.

A couple of weeks pass. The boss is still too busy to ever have a sit down with me and give me a client list or even any tasks to do so I end up entertaining myself with odd jobs around the placing and fixing up their documentation (a lot of which was a legal necessity that had been neglected in the past).

A bit of further info at this point about the mentality of the business: The office was tiny – a little smaller than your average lounge room I guess but housed around 8 staff. It was uncommon for atleast a couple of staff to not be in the field but when all were present things got pretty cramped. I ended up not having to share a desk any more after about the second week when I got my own PC (aren’t I important!).
The office was in a small industrial park in Malvern with a bunch of other businesses. The company was reselling a home Netspace DSL plan to every other business in the building and charging each individual business more than the cost the boss for the plan! I found this pretty unethical but bit my tongue. Every so often the building would go over the home-dsl-plan cap (SURPRISE!) and the whole building would be shaped. Publicly, this would be blamed on an upstream fault we’d try to resolve for 3-4 days until our plan rolled over or we bought more capacity from Netspace.

The office was also on top of the entrance to the carpark for this little officeblock. The body corporate decided to charge rent for parking spaces so the boss elected to drill a hole in the floor and wire in his own garage door remote receiver to save on costs. Employees were asked to solder the remotes together themselves from RadioParts kits. Quality. Employeers were also expected to have their own tool and software kits. I refused and ended up being given bits and pieces as required, but it made the job a bit harder.

Anyway, back to the story:

Around week three I was asked to go and install some runs of CAT5 at hospital near the city. I explain to the boss while I’m quite capable of doing this, I’m not AUSTEL licenced and thus it’s illegal for me to do so. On reflection I should have outright refused as it’s my arse (from what I understand) but he was fine with this work being performed illegally and I did it (fixing a lot of problem he’d made running previous cables in the past). This was warning about 117.

As the boss wasn’t willing to provide a company car until 6 months were up (although it was a 3month probation period) I was driving [URL=””%5Dmy own car[/URL] at the time and being reimbursed for my petrol receipts. I finally get a BP fuel card from the boss at around the week three mark which I don’t use for a few days.

When I come to using it, the card is declined of course because it’s only for standard ULP – premium aint covered.

So between jobs I mention this to the boss:

“We need to discuss my fuel card at some point as I tried to use it this morning and it wouldn’t let me charge premium to it”
“Yeah – we don’t use premium we only use ULP”
“But it’s not a company car – it’s my car”
“Why do you want to use premium anyway?”
“Because I always run my car on premium”
“Does your manufacturer recommend it?”
“Yes, but that’s besides the point. It’s my car, you’re getting virtually free use of my car and not paying me any sort of maintenance/running allowance – I’ll put whatever petrol I want in it. Give me a company car and I’ll run it on vegetable oil if that’s what you want.”
“I’d really prefer you run it on unleaded. We don’t use premium in the Lexus”
“yeah – But it’s a Lexus”

I think it was at this point that permanant damage was done to our relationship. He wasn’t willing to budge and I’d insulted what he considered a sign of his success. Being a Euro car fan I didn’t have a whole lot of respect for Lexus, nor my boss by this point and the two combined to make me a little less tolerant than usual.

I shoot of an email to him outlining why I feel it’s necessary to push the issue and that I’ll be continuing to provide receipts for reimbursement as running ULP in my car isn’t an option (was more the principal than anything). He gets back to me late in the day that he’s conferred with his accountant and he’ll now be offering me 52c/km if I keep a log book.

I agree even though he’s still getting off amazingly lightly for the cost of running my car, I’m now getting reimbursed more than I was for just fuel. (I was fired before I ever was reimbused for petrol and when I finally did demand payment they short changed me on it – but we’ll get to that).

I’m asked to cover the office phone a few days later as the officemanager/receptionist/wife of the boss is busy that day. I end up answering a call from a potential customer who’s interested in a new mid range printer. I don’t remember the exact model now but I remember looking up the RRP was around the $200 mark and that included a very healthy profit margin for us – around $60 from memory. This wasn’t really important at the time but would become important the next day.

So the next day I’m out onsite at a house in Toorak where dad + daughter are also considering a new printer. I call the office for a price and the boss answers as the wife/recpetionist/officemanager is still off-work (she was pregnant at the time). I ask for the RRP on an entry level printer from the same manufacturer. Before answering the boss confirmed the client site I’m at.
He then confirms the client is in Toorak.
He then confirms the car in the driveway.
He then tells me to charge $499 for the entry model printer. I agree verbally but go on to tell the client that we have none in stock and I’ll give him a call once I’m back in the office. I just couldn’t rip people off because they drove a certain brand of car.

Pretty regretful with my choice of employer by now, I started speaking to the girlfriend about if I can ethically continue to work there. We agree I should probably start looking for work.

One day soon after a young girl comes in with a USB key and tells us it has all her uni assignments on it and she needs the data off it but it just won’t read.

I plug the stick in, can’t get it to register and refer her to a data recovery place. I don’t charge her for sticking a usb key in my PC and referring her to somewhere else. I also don’t charge her for the 10 minute chat we have about what she’s doing at uni or the business her dad runs either.

I call her the next day to follow up and she tells me the data recovery mob were able to recover her data for $100 and she was pleased with the help I gave her. She tells me her dad’s business is about to roll out a bunch of IT infrastructure and she’ll pass on my name and number to him.

The boss asks later in the day how she went and I tell him. He tells me to get back on the phone to her and tell her to come in so we can sell her a USB stick. Reluctantly I call her (again) and offer a replacement USB stick should she need one.

An hour later the boss asks me if I called – I tell him I have and mention the earlier conversation where she mentioned her father’s business plans. He tells me to give her another call and get her fathers’s number so we can call him and arrange a consultation. I explain I got the impression he’s not ready for such a thing yet but the boss insists. I agree but deliberately never get around to doing it. I’m not going to hound some young girl with three phone calls in a day trying to squeeze money out of her family.

The next week one of the other guys calls in sick so I’m sent out to a client of his to assess his need for a UPS. The deal is apparently pretty much done already but I’m there to close the deal.

After arriving I notice this guy has a pretty serious setup. 2x 21inch CRTs, a bunch of plotters and a heap of other gear running off a couple of powerboards. He keeps tripping his circuit breaker so the boss has convinced him he needs a UPS.

Upon further investigation it’s not just the single fuse that’s tripping but his main circuit breaker. With what little electrical knowledge I have it’s obvious to me if anything a UPS will exacerbate his problems, not fix them. I figure he’s got an earth leak and should really get a sparky on site to fix this problems. I explain this to him, he thanks me for my honesty (i.e. not forcing him to buy stuff from us) and I head back to the office.

The boss corners me as soon as I arrive and asks me how I went – I tell him after assessing his setup and needs the UPS isn’t going to do anything for him and I recommended he get a sparky. The boss isn’t happy with this and insinuates I’m not earning my keep. By the end of the day the boss has called the client back, convinced him he does need the UPS and I’m to deliver it tomorrow. I agree and tell the boss I’ll head out there the next day with the guy who called in sick (it was his client after all). The boss tells me he can’t afford both of us to go out together and I’ll do it alone.
I mention that I don’t believe that’s possible due to the weight of the UPS and I’ll certainly need some help. He demonstrates he can pick it up himself and I’ll be fine. I leave for the day.

It just so happens I had exactly the same model UPS at home that I’d been given by my last employer when they got rid of some old infrastructure. I manage to walk it onto a set of bathroom scales and weigh it. I don’t remember the exact weight but it was around 85 kilos. The next morning I call work cover to ask if I’m obliged to deliver it.

Obviously, I’m not.

They tell me that above 12 kilos I need another person and above 40 kilos I need another person and a mechanical aid. They tell me I’m well within my rights (and their recommendation is to) respectfully decline the job as I believe it will put my health at risk. I pass this info on to the boss (via email so I have a record of it). I don’t get a response. Infact he doesn’t speak to me for a few hours.

Around 10am I notice my email isn’t working. It keeps telling me I can’t authenticate to the exchange server. I mention this to the second in charge guy who doesn’t convince me that he’s surprised and tells me he’ll look into it.

A short time later my access to windows shares stops working.

I backup every document I’ve worked on and every email onto a USB key. 15 minutes later my suspicions are proven and I’m invited to a meeting with the boss and the 2IC. They call it my ‘monthly review meeting’. I’m about halfway though my 5th week at this point and this is the closest I’ve come to any form of formal meeting with either of the bosses about what my role is.

I’m not surprised when I’m fired and told I don’t have the right attitude for the job. I tell them I accept their decision and found it ethically challenging to obey their requests anyway. We discuss further things like ripping people off, stealing parking, reselling a home DSL plan, stealing wireless internet from the local neighbourhood, buying one (1) antivirus license and reselling it to every client for a 12 month period, jibbing me about the car, putting his employees health at risk, the fact even one of his SUPPLIERS (NB: not client. This is someone that MAKES money from this guy) recommended I get out of there as soon as possible as the company has a generally bad name.

He flatters himself somewhat by insinuating I’m performing some form of corporate espionage and I’m working for his biggest competitor (Invizage). I inform him while I know people at Invizage and have a great deal of respect for them I’ve never had any official business dealings with them, including employment. Closest I’ve come to working for them is interviewing with them about five years prior and running into them at an industry customer service awards night. He doesn’t believe me and I drive home.

Later I never got my final pay, was jibbed over my car allowance, refused phone calls with him (he asked that all correspondence go though his attourney) and generally ignored. He even refused a semi-FOI request I offically made to obtain the records he had on me. I never followed any of it up – I couldn’t be bothered.

I made a few calls myself to other parties but didn’t persue anything all that much. I learnt in the five weeks that I was there that the perception of him and his business to both his clients and his supplies was pretty poor.

I learnt an awful lot from the experience about the ‘little guy’ and who I really wanted to work for. I ran into a couple of guys from the office about a year later who told me the place was falling apart pretty heavily about 6 months after I left – I don’t think anyone I worked with is still there, but who knows..

Anyway, that’s my story.


2 Responses to “The time I got fired.”

  1. Baino Says:

    I once had my job advertised before I knew I was going to be made redundant! I thought redundant meant there was no job to fill . . .shows what I know.

  2. David Says:

    I’m glad you wrote this down. It’s a really good story (fix the merc link…or make it firefox friendly…or something)

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