Conflict of ethical behavior. Respecting authority vs. resisting an injustice.
|Chance Happenings Word Count: 1882
“Josh,” said Steve hanging up his desk phone. “I’ve got to run up to Paid Changes. Dennis just went into the computer room. Can you take care of it?”
Josh swiveled in his chair enough to see Steve heading out of the help desk area for the elevators. “Sure.”
It tempted him to peer over his office cubical panel into the computer room. The majority of its interior was visible through the large window in its wall. But Dennis might catch him spying. It was better to wait. He turned his attention back to his computer monitor. In less than a minute he heard the computer room door click shut. Carefully, he stood up and watched Dennis disappeared into his office. Josh didn’t have to jump into immediate action. It might arouse suspicion if he did. So he watched Dennis’ office open doorway for another few seconds.
Meantime, he thought about their current situation. There was no reason for their boss to enter the computer room. It was usually empty, and they performed all tasks in there with a three-person team of techs as needed. Their boss felt it beneath him to perform any operational tasks. So it caught Steve’s attention when he noticed Dennis going in there. Steve tried to speculate about it, but Josh wasn’t interested. Dennis was the boss. If he wanted to stand alone in the computer room, it was no concern of theirs. Then the New Business department started calling.
Enough time had passed. Josh decided Dennis was staying put. It was time to move. His stomach clenched. If Dennis questioned him too closely, Josh wouldn’t have a valid reason for being in the computer room at this time of day either. Get a grip, he told himself.
Quickly Josh entered the computer room. Sure enough, the New Business application server was powered off. Why was Dennis doing this?
First, it was a terrible idea to flip off a server’s power switch while it was processing business applications. Second, it created an artificial backlog of work which often resulted in a carry over to the next business day. That wasn’t good either.
Josh started the server up again. Opening the door a sliver, he decided the coast was clear. He exited.
“There you are,” said Dennis.
Josh jumped. Fear jolted through him. Dennis was standing by Josh’s desk.
Dennis said, “I want you to run over to CompUSA and get me some red ink for my printer.”
Hoping Dennis didn’t see the sweat he felt developing on his face, Josh said, “Sure. Can I go when Steve gets back?”
“I need it right now. Get Barb to cover for you.” Dennis returned to his office.
Josh’s gut untwisted. That was close. He went over to his team leader’s cubicle. “Barb, Dennis is sending me on an errand. Can you cover the phones until Steve gets back?”
“Sure,” said Barb getting up.
“Oh, and can you check on the server if I’m not back in half an hour? It was down again.”
Josh and Barb walked into the help desk area. Barb said, “We have got to get this server issue figured out. I was in Dennis’ office this morning when he got a phone call from the home office. He was suggesting they send out an operational review team to study the New Business production issue.”
“But we know the issue is the server. Why call for an operational review?” asked Josh.
“Because,” said Barb, “Dennis is throwing Bill under the bus. He told the home office guy that Bill is too incompetent to run his department.”
“That’s crazy,” said Josh. This was terrible news. He really liked Bill. But what could he do? He couldn’t tell his team leader what Dennis was doing either. If Barb knew the truth, she’d run off on some quest to stop Dennis and end up getting the whole team punished. It was better to let everyone believe it was an equipment malfunction. Besides, he was the boss. The team had an obligation to obey his direction.
As the days passed, Josh and Steve successfully restarted the server minutes after Dennis turned it off. Eventually, Dennis gave up. Yet there was still a backlog and carryover each night. They realized that after they left for the day at 3:30 p.m., Dennis powered the server down and gained the backlog he needed to destroy Bill.
Finally, one day, Barb walked into the help desk area. “Guys I need you to stop what you’re doing for a second. I’ve convinced Dennis to order a new server to be over-nighted to us. When it gets here I want it built and installed to replace the failing server. Tom, since I see you’re playing a game right now, I think you have time, right?”
“Hey, I don’t start for another 3minutes,” said Tom.
“Fine, but I still want you to build it as soon as possible.” With that, Barb left.
“Why is she always picking on me?” asked Tom to no one in particular.
Steve turned his back on Tom. “Maybe because you deserve it.”
Before Tom and Steve began a banter battle, Josh said, “You know guys, a new server might not fix the problem.”
Steve shot Josh a warning frown along with a slight shake of his head. Steve did not trust Tom at all. He thought Tom was a total suck up to Dennis, and his unbridled mouth revealed everything he knew to anyone with a blood pressure.
“Tom, Steve and I check on the server throughout the day. Maybe you could check on it during the evening?”
“What’s wrong with it?” Tom asked.
How in the world could Tom be so clueless? Hadn’t he ever noticed the server being off? Josh said, “Why do you think Barb is having you build a new server? The current one powers itself off several times a day.”
“That’s funny. I thought you guys were forgetting to turn it off before you left for the day.”
Steve threw himself back into his chair. “Why would you think that?”
“Because when I’m doing the end of day processing in there, Dennis often comes in and shuts the server off.”
Josh rolled his chair a few inches toward Tom. “You’ve seen him do it?”
“Yeah. Lots of times. I don’t pay attention. Could be every day for all I know.” Tom looked at each of them. “What’s going on?”
Steve saw Dennis approaching. “We’ll tell you later.” Both he and Josh turned back to their monitors.
As Dennis walked by the area Tom called out, “Hey, Dennis, how come you’re turning off the new business app server?”
Dennis halted and glared at them. Josh and Steve froze in their pretense positions of being busy. “What are you talking about?”
“I just found out there’s a power problem with the server, and I remember seeing you turning it off.”
“You never saw me do that,” said Dennis, “because I never did.”
Tom opened his mouth, but Dennis cut him off. “Shut up!” Dennis looked at all three of them in turn. He spoke in a menacing voice. “You guys like your jobs? Keep your lies to yourselves.”
Once Dennis was out of sight, Steve said, “Tom, you moron! He’s going to start making up crap about us. He’ll do it to protect himself.”
Tom held up his hands and shrugged. “I thought you guys were being your usual cowardly selves. I figure you want to know why Dennis is turning off the server, just ask him?”
“Yeah,” said Steve, “that turned out well.”
“You guys worry too much. Dennis is an okay guy.”
“Tom, will you please restart the server if Dennis turns it off?” Josh asked.
“No,” Tom said. “He’s the boss. He turns the server off, it stays off. No skin off my nose.”
The next afternoon, Barb walked up to Tom’s desk. “The server just arrived. When the mail room gets it up here, I’d like you to make its rebuild a priority. The other guys can handle the incident tickets.”
Tom said, “You know Dennis is turning the server off, right?”
Josh looked at Tom in disbelief. Tom gave a quick laugh at Josh’s expression.
Barb looked at both men. “Josh?” Josh said nothing. “What’s Tom talking about? Is it true?”
Josh had no idea what to say. Barb was going to fly off the handle in righteous indignation. She’d run off to the vice present or Bill or God knew who else. But she was his team leader. He made a quick nod.
Josh saw a look of surprise cross Barb’s face.
“I know what he is up to.” She started for the elevators. “I’m going to HR.”
Josh looked at Tom. “You idiot.”
“...and I also know Dennis is asking for an operational review of Bill’s department.”
Kate, the HR director said, “Well that explains why the home office is sending a review team at the end of this month.”
“Dennis has set Bill up,” Barb said.
“Help me understand why Dennis would do such a thing? I know Bill likes Dennis. They’re friends,” said Kate.
“I think Dennis wants Bill’s job. He told me several times that he could run Bill’s department better than Bill with one arm tied behind his back,” said Barb.
“I think you are misunderstanding his comments. Dennis is too professional to ever say or do anything like what you are accusing him of.”
Kate held up her hand to stop Barb from protesting, but Barb spoke anyway. “You have got to tell Bill and the vice president.”
Kate said, “If you wanted that to happen, you should not have come to HR. We are bound to maintain confidentiality. I can’t tell anyone. And now neither can you.”
“What? That’s crazy” Barb said.
“No, it’s the law. You can’t tell anyone.”
“But the guys know,” said Barb.
“Then you must tell them to say nothing too.” After a moment of silence, Kate said, “Look, let me give this some thought.”
“So, you can’t say anything. Do you hear me?” said Barb. “All we can do is keep restarting the server.”
“This sucks,” said Steve.
Tom smirked. “You realize Kate and Dennis are friends.”
Barb looked stunned. Tom laughed.
“You think this is funny?” Steve asked.
“You don’t?” Tom replied. “The gods play their games and we mere mortals just have to avoid being trampled. It’s no skin off our noses.”
“It’s not right,” said Steve.
“It’s not our company,” said Tom.
Dennis appeared suddenly in the area. “Who’s setting up that new server?” he demanded.
“I am,” said Tom.
“Set it up somewhere in this cubical area.
“But we don’t have any spare cables out here,” said Tom.
“Just do it,” Dennis said. He saw the team looking at each other in bewilderment. “You need an explanation? Fine. The managers had their weekly meeting this afternoon. The server issue came up. One of them got the bright idea of putting it out here. Now you all can monitor and restart it faster when it powers down.”
“It will be funny,” said Tom, “if it never powers off again.”
It never did, and Bill received a positive operational review report.