Outflanked

This IT shop has a programmer who's very good at C and C++, but he's got some nasty personality quirks, says an IT contractor pilot fish working there.

"If he didn't like somebody -- which was pretty much all of us -- Fred would walk past that person's cubicle and say something nasty out loud to himself, just within earshot," fish says.

"He'd insult people based on the music they happened to be playing, or he'd make an unkind remark about their appearance."

But the department has a larger problem: a big project with an artificial and aggressive deadline. The IT director wants everyone to work as many hours as they're willing to, so fish and his fellow contractor Barney come in at 6:30 a.m., spend a few minutes chatting and discussing what they'll work on that day, then get to work for another 12-hour shift.

One morning Fred breezes past their desks and says aloud to nobody in particular, "Beirut was the Marine Corps' finest hour."

Fish was a Marine, and he knows that Fred knows it. Fish also knows that hundreds of Marines serving as peacekeepers were killed in a bombing in Beirut in 1983.

"I looked at Barney and asked, 'Was that supposed to be a slam?'" says fish. "Barney -- an Army veteran -- said, 'Yeah, but don't worry about it. It's just Fred being Fred. You can kill him later, ha ha.'

"A few minutes after that, Fred approached me and said, 'Contractors are not supposed to be using their paid work time for training purposes. I know you've been teaching Barney PL/SQL, and that's something you ought to do during non-work hours.'"

Fish holds his temper and points out to Fred that it's really none of his business, and in any case it only makes Barney a better web developer to understand more about the database programming language for the Oracle database he's using.

As soon as the IT director arrives and gets settled, fish goes to his office. "Boss, I have to let you know that Fred has been harassing Barney and myself," he tells the director. "We're focused on getting this project done for you. The last thing we need is Fred coming by and making rude remarks to us and interfering in our work."

Don't worry about it, the boss says, I'll take care of it.

"Fifteen minutes later, Fred went in to see the director to complain about Barney and me chatting first thing in the morning, asserting we were goofing off on paid time," fish says.

"But since I had preemptively discussed the matter with him, the director knew what was going on. He told Fred to go away and stop bothering 'the highly paid contractors.'"

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