Lawrence’s interview started with Mark, the new MIS manager. A recruiter had hooked them up. The company was a medium sized organization, with four large locations and a few thousand employees. There was an AS/400 serving as their main back-end, and a small collection of other servers pitched in to provide extra ecommerce applications.

Despite the large userbase and the fact the company claimed to be “growing and dynamic”, their IT offices were strangely empty. Lawrence made a comment about that as a joke. “Is everyone out for a retreat or training? Must be nice.”

Mark didn’t get it. He quickly blurted something about “restructuring” and moved into some basic technical questions. Very basic, like, “How do you reboot a server?” and “How do you check if a server is still connected to the network?”

“Here, let me show you down to Sandy,” Mark said, “she’ll be asking you the more complex technical questions.”

Sandy was the lone IT drone still in the office, and it showed. Her phone rang every five minutes during the interview, and her inbox was a perpetual source of dinging as support tickets crashed in. Over the noise, she quickly assaulted Mark with a more difficult set of questions, but she didn’t have much time. Lawrence handled this section well, and it ended quickly. “So,” she concluded, “do you have any questions for me?”

“Um… so, how long have you worked for Mark?”

“A week. He’s new. Just promoted up from the sales floor, actually. Here, let me show you down to the Frank’s office. He wanted to talk to you, last.”

Frank was the CFO . His office sat in the corner of the building, and his desk was roughly the size and color of a battleship. It hand roughly the same amount of junk slapped on top of it. When Sandy dropped Lawrence off, Frank was busy ignoring his computer and tapping away at his BlackBerry. Lawrence sat quietly for a good five minutes. “So you’re Larry,” Frank finally said.

“Lawrence.”

Frank clasped his hands over his desk and leaned on to his elbows. He looked as serious as he possibly could, and then fired the big cannons. “Larry, my entire IT staff quit last week. Everybody but good, old, loyal Sandy. All the rest of our developers, operators, service-desk and management. Eight people walked off the job at the same time. Why did they do that, Larry?”

“I… I couldn’t tell you. Did you ask them?”

“Why do you think someone would quit? You work in IT. You must have some idea.”

“Um…” Lawrence considered the question, considered what he had seen, and considered how bad it might be to be honest. He decided that being honest was worth it, this time. “Well, Mark was saying that you support thousands of users, and a bunch of ecommerce apps, but only had eight people on their IT staff?”

“Yes.”

“And, at a guess, were they working 24/7?”

“Of course.”

“On salary, right?”

“This isn’t McDonald’s. We don’t pay by the hour.” Frank clucked his tongue, as the very idea was distasteful and disrespectful.

“And if they got out-of-hours calls, did you comp them time?” Lawrence asked.

“No. That’s just part of the job.”

“And on average, how many hours would you say your employees actually put in any given week?”

“We’re team players. We don’t count hours.”

“So, probably about 60, then?” Lawrence ignored way Frank’s expression said ‘ramming speed’, and concluded “That’s probably why they quit. Anyway, thank you for your time, today.”

The quickest route out of the building passed Sandy’s cube. When she saw him hustling out, she flagged him down and handed him some printed sheets. “Hey,” she whispered, “would you mind passing my resume along to your recruiter?”