Tag Archives: contractor

Goodbye means we are done

Rude? What is this "rude" of which you speak?

It’s been a couple of months since I left my old job. Yeah!

Today I wish to present a blast from the past and recount a conversation I had with my office manager that took place shortly before my last day of work.

The background information is this: I worked at the company for over five years. During that time, among my other duties*, I programmed their ecommerce website entirely from scratch. Because the boss was so picky, only a homegrown and highly-customized solution would suffice.

* I was also forced, against my will and under threat of termination, to do things like: Retail sales floor, customer service phones, production, secretarial and janitorial. I naively thought I had been hired as “webmaster” but found out that even job listings can be viciously “bait and switch.” In fact, my actual job title was often just a tiny slice of my day.

So there I was, called into my manger’s office, and this is pretty much how it all went down:

“After you’re gone, when we find bugs in the software, you’ll fix them for free, right?”

Holy crap! What a thing to say. This really floored me. I mean, how rude! The sheer audacity of it is truly staggering.

I’m still so proud of the way I responded.

“Absolutely not.” I was unequivocal.

The manager had the balls to put on a bewildered look. “How can you say that? You wrote it, right? Any bugs in there are your mistakes. Don’t you stand behind what you do?”

Sad. This was truly sad.

“Sure I do. But let me ask you a question. When is the last time you heard something like this? An employee leaves a company and two weeks later a mistake of theirs is found. Have you ever heard of that employee going back to the job and fixing the problem for free?”

Even amongst all the greatest assholes of the world this caught my manager flatfooted. Yeah, delicious!

“Look,” I continued. “When I was working as an employee for this company, I gave it my absolute best. My goal was to provide the highest quality product I possibly could. Even so, there were two problems. First, I’m human, and I will make mistakes. They will happen. Second, I had absolutely no control over my work environment. Computer programming ain’t exactly like painting the Sistine Chapel, but it ain’t ditch digging, either. It’s hard and requires intense concentration and logic. It’s not exactly the kind of work that can be done in a blender. Yet that’s the environment that has been forced down my throat for the last five years. That sort of environment increases the error rate. I’m sorry about that, but that’s just the way it is.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing just a wee bit here. Call it artistic license. 🙂

“So what happens when we find bugs? We’re screwed?”

“As I see it, you have three choices. Live with it, fix it yourselves, or hire someone to fix it for you. As your employee, when mistakes were found, I could fix them as part of my day. You didn’t require me to clock out and work for free. As your ex-employee, you still have the same option, as long as I remain willing and available, of course.”

And so it came to pass that I would not be fixing every bug from the last five years and doing it for free.

After I left the company we briefly negotiated a renewable weekly contract where I would work from my home office for 20 hours a week. But their final offer was insultingly low and I refused. I now do ongoing work for them, as needed, but at my final offer of an hourly rate, not theirs. After five years the tables have finally turned.

And yes, if I’m working as a contractor, I stand behind my work. That means I fix bugs for free. But I also control my work environment.

Sometimes it is good not to be the employee.

All Access Death Star: Behind the scenes endings and negotiations

You were right about one thing, Master. The negotiations were short.

Photo credit: Special thanks to David Delarosa for permission to use this image from his Flickr photostream!

A long time ago, in a sick fuck’s shit hole… Work Wars…

My heroes have always been cowboys. Well, not really them, but inspirational people like Living Dilbert and Jen Curran who wanted out of their jobs and actually found a way. I was so jealous of their stories of leaving their jobs behind and moving on to something else, until…

I’ve been rather cagey about my place of employment. A place I’ve repeatedly referred to as The Shit Hole. Now, at the end, I can finally reveal the whole truth. I work on the Death Star. Detention block, to be specific.

I say I work there, but that is about to change. As I write this it is Thursday. Or as my fellow employees and I now call it, “Christmas Eve.” That means tomorrow is The Day of Many Names. Some call it “Christmas.” Others call it Ending Day. I just call it The Last Day.

Yes, a couple of weeks ago, I quit my job.

I’m not being overly dramatic yet, am I? Tip: To learn even more about me, check out my twitter feed, or as I like to call it: Journey to the Center of my Ego. Anyway, please let me know if I heap on too much drama. I want to be informed if I go a skosh too far. (A “Skosh Too Far” is also the title of my upcoming biography.)

Here comes the tedious part of this post. This is where I decide that y’all need some of the all-important background.

The last decade was not a good one for me. I don’t even know what you call that friggin’ decade. The Zeros? The Aughts? The 2000s? No matter how you slice it the decade sucked. I find it no small coincidence that it was the decade of George W. Bush. The 2000s were, by far, the worst decade of my miserable life.

The decade started off for me by staying up all night in November 2000 and still not knowing who had been elected president. That was weird.

Then, in early 2001, I decided to move from the big city to a small town. I was tired of the rat race and enamored with a concept known as “voluntary simplicity.” I wanted to embrace a slower and different kind of living. Never in my life had I ever had trouble getting a job. I assumed I’d show up and quickly find work. I assumed wrong.

The local newspaper had very few job listings and none in my chosen field of professional jerk off. I was going to have to compromise.

After months of looking, I had a hot lead. It was a part-time job paying close to minimum wage that offered absolutely no benefits. Yah!

The day of my interview was Sept. 11, 2001. I kid you not. My wife stirred me out of bed and we spent the morning glued to our television and watching the towers fall. After that, things were a little unclear. Was I still supposed to show up for my job interview? I did, I was hired on the spot, and my fate was sealed.

This was my first job in my new small town. It consisted of retail sales, customer service on the phone, handling tedious price quotes and lots of other shit duty that the boss called “hats” and I hated every fucking minute of it.

I did that for about five years when I happened to meet the guy who would later become my new boss. He was paying a lot of money for me, through another company that sold my services, to work on his web site as a contractor. As the project wrapped up, we both realized that making me an employee could be a win-win. He’d get me a lot cheaper and I’d finally have a job doing something I enjoyed. We made the deal. He made me an offer, I accepted, and I quit my existing job.

I’ve told this part of the story before, but I love it so much I’ll share it again. Once I was in between jobs and fully committed and past the point of no return, my new boss had me stop by, on my own time, for a “tour” of his operation. That so-called “tour” turned out to be a full day training session. What was I trained on? Retail sales, working the floor and the cash register, the multi-line phone system, and, of course, the minutia of his shitty little line of widgets. There was absolutely nothing said about working on his web sites.

I’ll never forget that day. I left his building, walked out into the parking lot, sat in my car with the door open and dry heaved my guts out.

What an auspicious beginning to our new relationship!

The first day on any new job is a nervous time, but mine was made extra special. My “desk” was a hutch. The doors were left open and a computer had been shoved inside. Ergonomic was not a word that came to mind. They didn’t have office space for me, either, so … get this … my workstation was located in a corner of the fucking showroom floor. I had customers milling behind me all day long. Fucking hell.

So here I was in the small town I now called home working my 2nd job. It was part-time, no benefits, low pay, consisted of doing all the things I hated and I had the most insulting work space ever in my entire life. But the boss had what he wanted, namely a Girl Friday who could also be pressed into service doing the expensive things to his web sites that he wanted.

The rest you pretty much know. On top of it all, he’s not a good person. I’ve documented it in some painstaking detail in previous posts.

The operation consists of the boss and his wife, an office manager, and four of us employees. I affectionately refer to the employees as the “Island of Misfit Toys.” We are:

  • Yours truly, a misfit simply for being in this situation. I also have my plethora of flaws that make me a full-fledged member of this humble little team.
  • The Waffler – another long time employee (we were hired the same month 5-1/2  years ago) who hates his job and the way we are treated but hasn’t quit yet. He just went in to quit his job yesterday and was featured in this tweet of mine: “Co-worker requests meeting to put in his notice. Somehow the meeting morphs into he’s staying and boss telling him ways that he sucks.”
  • The Felon – A guy who has been in and out of jail on mostly a bogus charge and has been seriously kicked around by the company just because they can. He recently was called in to get a raise and ended up having a huge blow out with the office manager and was almost fired.
  • The Thief – Our newest employee and considered by management to be one of the best workers because he can “multitask” and stuff, but who also just happened to purloin some cash from the till. Amazingly he wasn’t fired (long story) but kept on the team and someone who can now be extra pushed around, too. They kept him around and he was grateful for that, but now is full of bitterness and hate over how he gets treated.

We also call ourselves The Fight Back club. So there you have it, me the hater, a guy who wants to quit, another guy who wants to quit and was almost fired, and our bitter thief. Such a great team our boss has built. I think everything flows top down and that a company reflects its ownership, so that’s really saying a lot.

Long story short (ha!) I recently found a job listing that seemed to be up my alley. It was only part-time but sounded promising. Since I was considering quitting outright with no prospects a job like that could be a real boon. I went for it, liked the guy, and had a good interview. I landed a job offer and accepted!

Almost two years ago I finally made full-time. Now here I was putting in my notice and leaving my full-time job for a part-time one. If that doesn’t make a statement to your boss I don’t know what will.

One last thing about negotiations, the topic that was supposed to be the lead for this post. 🙂 Back when I was a contractor and being resold through another company, my boss used to pay $X amount for my services. Then he got me (as an employee) for about 15% of that rate. (What I currently make.)

Now he wants to continue our relationship with me as a contractor. Since I wrote his software he needs me to continue on running his stuff and working on new projects. I would also be very expensive to bring in a new programmer to take over on my stuff. Or to convert all of his sites to something else. I’m cool with a contractor arrangement (again) as my new job is only part-time and I’d be working from home being my own boss.

Nice guy that I am I offered him a mere 35% of $X as my contractor rate as part of a renewable contract. He countered with 22.5% which is almost an insult. I came back good faith movement in his direction with 30%. His response? 22.5% and take it or leave it. In other words, his negotiating position is “I’ll pay this. Nothing else. Take it or leave it.” In Star Wars lingo that’s known as “the negotiations never took place.”

I’m proud to say I stood up to the blockade of the Trade Federation. I rejected his offer. There will be no deal. He will continue to use my services, perhaps, but only at the rate I specified, and only on a per project basis. The plan for a win-win renewable contract is out the window along with his stubborn dickishness.

I could go on, but this post is already way too long. Now I can safely say that at least one percent of the story with this fellow has now been told. There is still much that remains unsaid. Perhaps some day all can be revealed. Perhaps.

Tomorrow is The Last Day. Christmas comes early for me this year.