I do work here but not for you

I work in IT contracting and specialize in quality control and software testing and this happened about 10years ago. I was hired by a company (client) as a member of their governance team. Basically we were to assess the company they hired (BigTec) to create their software and their testing standards and plans.

Governance teams are hard to utilize correctly and only any good if the person you report to understands. Client was my customer and Alan was my boss from the company. So they decided to change our role to working directly with BigTec on their test teams to watch what they were doing and bring up any issues to Alan.

I am packing up to leave one day and BigTec Project Manager appears out of nowhere and asks to have a meeting. Never spoke to the guy before but I knew who he was. A bit surprised I asked if it could wait till tomorrow as the day was over and he said that is “one of the things I need to discuss”. A bit miffed I agree.

So we going into a meeting room with windows where you can still see the office floor. He asks me to look out on the office and tel me what I see. No idea what he wanted me to say I was a bit doubt founded so said “People working” , he nods his head repeating it and then asks why I am not with them and was going home and why I was not dressed appropriately for a client’s site and so unprofessional. Now I see the issue he obviously thinks I work for him and not the client directly. I explain that I have done my work for the day and does he expect me to stay doing nothing. He goes into a long winded explanation of how the longer we are in the office the more they have to pay. Intrigued I asked does that mean I would get paid more or is it I should do unpaid overtime so Bigtec make more money. He explained I was a salaried employee and should be grateful for the experience I was getting with their world class company. I ask again then if I have no more work should I stay to charge the client more and what should I do while I have nothing to do. He is getting a little frustrated with me and his tone is getting more aggressive and said I should just look busy while I stay late.

That is when I said ” You aren’t my boss I work for client and Alan is my boss not you (Alan was the person he reported progress and billing to) . I was hired to make sure BigTec were accurately creating the software and not overcharging Client. You have just outlined how you are overcharging and tried to reprimand me for not taking part. You accused me of being unprofessional and not dressing professionally. My belief is you are acting unprofessionally and it doesn’t matter what you look like and your insistence of the appearance of being busy to hide inaction illustrates this. You also appear to be taking advantage of your employees and importantly you do not know who does and doesn’t work for you”

He freaked out completely and started asking if we could keep this among ourselves and that if I bad mouthed the company I would affect my chances of getting work in the future as they are so big. Explained it would not be very professional of me and that I would be accurately reporting on what was said. Asked was there anything more he wanted to discuss as he called this meeting and I normally charge for overtime because I don’t like to be taken advantage of. Then I left the room laughing telling he may have some things to explain tomorrow.

When I arrived the next day he wasn’t in his office which was very unusual as he was there first thing in the morning and last in the evening. I open up the calendar and look up BigTec meetings and see PM has cancelled all his meetings for the day. I ring my boss and ask does he know why PM is not in today and we should have a meeting. He is up for the meeting but said PM has had some family emergency and a new person was going to the PM in the next few days.

We have our meeting and I explain what happened. He was furious. He wanted the names of the people who were staying late and just surfing the net. Now I worked side by side with these people and knew they didn’t have any choice. Explained they weren’t the issue but being forced to stay by BigTec made them stay and that they were actually good at the work and realistically replacing them would stall the project. So he decided to get the time sheets and billing together. Suddenly all the billing reports were password protected and they couldn’t get in touch with PM due to the “family emergency”. Lot of reports gone missing from sharpoint all with the PM’s name showing very late hour. He asked me to try and find the information while he contacted BigTec to explain what is going on.

As I am looking through Sharepoint I notice that PM is still logged in and actively deleting files. So I contact the security section to kick him out of the system and get backups of Sharepoint. Go to my boss’s office and he is on the phone to BigTec and he puts it on speaker phone and tells them I am on the call. He explains that BigTec can’t contact PM due to the “family issue”. So I point out he was just on our network deleting files 20 minutes ago. Silence is deafening from the other end. Tell them the files deleted and password protected now are all being restored and we would have them in a couple of hours. More silence, my boss then says are they concerned about the content of these files and why is PM logging on to their servers deleting files. More silence

I could go into the the whole thing but basically piles of documentation proving overcharging. The PM had been too stupid to understand the Client’s Sharepoint was not his Bigtec’s Sharepoint because you know they have the same name. He was not having a family emergency, shocker right, and they were hiding him and letting him resign with a package.

Now everyone knew what happened and you would think the staff of Bigtec would hate me but he opposite happened. They were told not to do any overtime with out 3 signatures for approval from the client. It effectively stopped all overtime and made them all very happy . I have met many of them since on other projects and they still thank me for getting PM out of the way. He did get other jobs but let go several times because for all his talk of being able to get projects over the deadline he had no ability and would just tell people to work longer hours. That is not sustainable and doesn’t address problems with specifications and design issues.

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  1. Now that has to be one of the more spectacular own goals I have seen. Was Bigtec removed from the job? Was there a fraud claim made at all?

    Because if I was client I would be ripping Bigtec a new one at this point.

  2. The aforementioned “deafening silence” was a mute button, and them screaming to get BigTec manager off the computer; likely in the mistaken belief that somebody might find evidence that it was standard practice/directly ordered that he overcharge the client through overtime.

    I’ve been ordered to do so as a PM more than once, and every time I’ve appealed to the liklihood of getting caught; no senior manager cares about ethics, but they *really* care about losing money and prestige. I point out how easy it is for the client to monitor things, and how easily they can prove it (usually by lying to the Senior Manager, who knows fuck all about computers), and they choose another option.

    If they don’t choose another way, I ask them to write it in an email to me listed as policy, so I can show it to the client when they catch me overcharging them; that usually slows the SM up just a bit.

  3. This ought to be the plot to “Office Space II”.

    Especially the ending where everyone doesn’t have to work overtime pretending to look busy so the PM can overcharge their hours.

    I’m amazed BigTec didn’t fire him, but that’s very telling isn’t it – Clearly if they tried to fire PM, PM would have ratted out the executives inside BigTec who were encouraging this behavior.

    NOTE: This one thing ought to reveal that the that the root of the problem is NOT PM, but the upper management who clearly aid and abet this behavior – and this shit can go all the way to the CEO level.

    If it gets to the CEO level (company morals devolve from the CEO – the buck stops there), now it’s a scandal. The board may need to get involved, as the company has now been caught billing fraudulently.

    Depending on how much and the manner of billing, it could be civil, it could be criminal. Only the Legal department can sort this one out.

    I’m really surprised BigTec didn’t get sued; maybe they made the client a deal to be quiet about the whole thing. If they could convince the client that the PM is their designated scapegoat, maybe the client will just hold their nose and continue working with them.

    That’s why they kept PM around a little while longer and gave him a good package. He knew even more salacious things about BigTec’s executives.

    So if the CEO of BigTec is complicit, well then, that’s a whole different kettle of fish – a STINKY one.

  4. As a software engineer who (until very recently) worked with a consulting company which billed me out to a client, I would like to raise a glass to you.

  5. It’s people like Mr Project Manager that make the rest of the world spend X hours per year watching training video refreshers on how NOT to do business.

  6. As a PM this story was both horrifying and amazing. A good PM does the exact opposite of everything he did. Hopefully no one has to suffer with him as a PM ever again.

  7. You played your hand too early by tipping off PM as to who you were and what you’d be reporting. But all’s well that ends well I suppose!

  8. >they were hiding him and letting him resign with a package.

    Smoking gun. They knew what he was doing.

    Sounds like BigTech (sounds like Accenture, amirite?) can either pay Client a shitload of money to make this go away, or PM and his whole chain of command can go to jail.

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