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Return of the users from hell!

By David Poole,

Return of the users from hell!

I was inspired to write the users from hell after a particularly trying time on a project.   Well life continues and I've found a few more stereo types.

The Pedant

If you could present the pedant with the greatest works of literature that the world has ever seen then the pedant would criticise the punctuation.  Against this background what chance does your functional requirement specification (FRS) stand?

The pedant will put you through 17 revisions of the FRS before they will sign off the spec of a simple combo box, leaving you in a state of wistful nostalgia for the days of the green screen and the lower ASCII characters.

Most of us, when offered a free drink would say "thanks very much".  Offer the pedant a free drink and ask if the glass is half empty or half full and they will observe that the glass (which is dirty) is not of the correct specification for the liquid it contains and is 50.00000456% empty. Incidentally the drink (which they didn't order) is the wrong temperature and the waiter/waitress has done something unmentionable to it.  (Mental note to give the waiter/waitress a generous tip)!

With such attention to detail you would be forgiven for imagining that a system vetted by a pedant would be of exemplary quality.  Sadly the pedant is so obsessed by the minutiae that they lose site of the overall aim of the project.  After  running out of time and budget what you have instead of a working system is the software equivalent of an autojumble.

The Tape Worm

The tape worm is a parasitic organism that lives off its host(organisation) providing no benefit what-so-ever.  Any nutrients (information) passed down through the host are purloined by the tape worm for its own nefarious uses.  Anything passed on by the tape worm will be thoroughly depleted and may even be harmful to the host(organisation).

Like their biological counterpart this person lives up the backside of a higher organism, usually the CEO where they can kiss the VP's feet. 

The accountant

Mr Longpockets is someone who always keeps one eye on the cost...and the other on the cost as well.

If you could gain access to this persons "My documents" folder you would find a multi-megabyte spreadsheet with umpteen columns containing every possible cost you could think of, multiple scenarios and goal seeking macros.

Unfortunately, what this person has omitted is any measure of worth. They can see that a decent debugger costs 'x' but they cannot see that the use of said debugger will increase productivity to a level that offsets that cost.

Truly someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing!

Now I know that there are risk taking, imaginative accountants, unfortunately they tend to work for the WorldCom's, Enron's and Equitable Life's of this world.

The Procrastinator

There are some people who are destined to make their mark in history because they can bring order to chaos and stability to the unstable.

The procrastinator goes well beyond stability and is in the infra-dead spectrum of stagnant!

With their colours firmly nailed to the fence no-one is sure whether it is that the procrastinator can't or won't make a decision. Binary offers this guy one too many choices!

The procrastinator's hero is General Charles de Gaulle who had two trays on his desk. Instead of "In" and "Out" these were labelled

  • Problems that will be solved by time
  • Problems that have been solved by time


Mr Importance

A close friend of the procrastinator this person is so insecure that they constantly seek reassurance, not of the decisions that they may inadvertently make, but of their importance within the organisation.

Let us imagine that you need your boss to make a minor decision. A good boss will ask you what the issue is whilst taking their first sip of their morning coffee, and probably give you their decision shortly after their second sip.

Not Mr Importance. He will schedule a meeting to discuss the issue and send a meeting request the invite list for which looks like your company's equivalent of Who's who.

They tend to get away with such a crass waste of time for two main reasons.

  1. As with the emperors new clothes, no-one wants to look a fool and admit that they have been suckered into a totally pointless meeting.
  2. Mr Importance is bright enough to have booked his star guests into a hotel with a really good golf course!

As a mere underling you cannot bunk off this meeting, trivial though it may be, because of the high profile attendees.

Of course, should anyone high up ask "why are we here today" Mr Importance will suddenly hand the meeting to you saying "I'll hand over to 'x' now as he really understands the issue and brought it to my attention" as if the whole mess was your idea in the first place!

The Luddite

Luddites believe in management by impediment and have several strategies to prevent any technological innovation entering their domain. 

Throughout history they have fought on every technological front from soft toilet paper to tablet PCs.

If the starship Enterprise is ever built then the Luddite is the reason that the main computer will be programmed using COBOL-74 and the "transporter" is a (hemp) rope with some handy knots.

The back-stabber

I don't want to draw attention to THIS ENORMOUS PROBLEM HERE or imply that THIS PERSON HERE was responsible but...

If the sentence above sounds similar to one used in your workplace then watch out. 

The "enormous" problem may be mispositioning of a radio button on a form by 1 femtopixel and, even if there was a need to apportion responsibility, the person being dropped in the poo may not have been to blame.

Of course the back-stabber doesn't care as their aim is to make themselves look good by making others look bad.

Short of assassination the back-stabber will succeed because, like Pavlov's dogs the boss is learning to associate the sound of your name with bad news.

And finally....the Post Turtle Manager

I cannot take credit for this definition; imagine that you see a turtle on top of a post.

  • You have no idea how he got there.
  • You know he didn't get there by himself.
  • You know he can't do anything whilst he is there.
  • All you can do is help him down

To hide the fact that they have been promoted beyond their level of competence the post turtle manager will be sent on many training courses and conferences.

  • He will set off for the conference not knowing where he is going.
  • He arrive not knowing where he is.
  • He will return not knowing where he has been.
  • He will have done so using other people's money.
Fortunately the post turtle is rarely an aggressive breed and is quite content to let you get on with what ever it is that you do, provided the most complicated question you ever ask him is "Will you sign my expenses claim"?

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