It was Steve's first week on the job, and he had plenty of questions about the code base and the new features he was supposed to implement. He muddled through for most of the week, but Friday morning he hit a brick wall and needed to talk to Bill, the architect.
"Can I meet with you for like an hour to go over things?" Steve asked.
"Can I get half an hour then? I h-"
"No. Company meeting, every Friday, 12-5pm. It should be on your calendar. I'll forward the invite."
Bill also couldn't free up time in the morning, so that meant Steve was stuck until Monday afternoon. Still, it probably wasn't all bad. He assumed that since this was a small company, in startup mode, it was going to be one of those meetings that was less meeting and more party. He had heard about one company in town that had a kegger every Friday afternoon.
Steve really should have known better. During his interview, the actual technical questions were thin on the ground. It focused more on "soft skills", like time management. He fielded a lot of questions about how best to manage his time. The other question that really stuck out in his mind was the standard, "Have you ever had to deal with a difficult personality in the workplace? How did you deal with it?" It was memorable, less because the question itself was unusual, but because at least six variations of the same question showed up in the interview.
On his very first day, he learned who the difficult personality was: Frank, the boss and grand-high pooba of the dev team. Around 2PM Frank lumberghed himself into Steve's cube. "Yeah, we've got a little problem," Frank said. "I've noticed you spending a great deal of time in the break room."
"Oh, yeah, I was just going back for more coffee," Steve said with an awkward laugh. "You know how it is with programmers- we're fueled by caffeine."
"Yeah, well, if you could just go ahead and make sure you're at your desk doing work, that would be great."
As it turned out, Frank had gone easy on Steve because it was Steve's first day. The next day, Steve sat in on Bill's planning meeting- a 4-hour marathon to organize the development backlog and parcel out work. Halfway through, Bill called for a break. He and a few other co-workers darted outside to gradually commit suicide via cancer, while everybody else hung around the room committing suicide by donut. And then Frank walked in.
"It's um… just a little break," one of the devs replied. "Bill's outside."
"I see." Frank loitered in the room until Bill returned. The instant Bill's foot crossed the threshold of the meeting room, Frank's human facade was stripped away, and a spitting, slavering demon replaced him. He proceeded to dress Bill down, back up and right back down for disrespecting his team, disrespecting the company, disrespecting Frank and Frank's poor elderly mother with his attitude. He closed with, "They're developers and I want them sitting around and developing! Not waiting for you to finish your smoke breaks!"
On Thursday, Steve got to drive a meeting to show off the latest batch of features the dev team had completed. When he turned on the projector, Frank asked, "What's wrong with your computer?"
"The desktop is wrong! None of the icons are in the right place!"
Like most developers, Steve had changed the wallpaper and reorganized his desktop to suit his working style. Unfortunately, his transgression against the default desktop settings set Frank off on a long rant that consumed the entirety of the meeting. Steve was lucky, Frank claimed, that he wasn't fired on the spot. Standard work was vitally important, and personalization was frowned upon. "It's vitally important that any developer can use any other developer's computer- we can't afford to waste a minute of time just because you needed to be a special little snowflake!"
By the time the Friday afternoon meeting rolled around, Steve should have been expecting some kind of Frank-led time management course. Instead, Bill handed him a mop. "New blood gets mop duties. Start in the break room, and then hit the other common areas."
"Frank's orders. Every Friday, we spend the afternoon cleaning the office, from top to bottom."
"There isn't a cleaning crew?"
"Oh, there is," Bill said. "Frank doesn't trust them to do a good job." That weekend, Steve decided to take Frank's lessons on time management to heart, and immediately left to seek employment that didn't involve wasting his time.