Peter watched the Newton's Cradle clack away on his desk while contemplating this most recent problem. HR had just handed him a resume for a C# developer named Bobbie. The resume was stellar, her references glowing, And thanks to the negotiations with the placement company, she could start on Monday. Bobbie wasn't just qualified, she was over-qualified. She could do Peter's job in a snap.

He tossed the resume in the trash and stepped out into the row of cubes dedicated to his small staff. "Hey guys, circle up," he said. His three staff shuffled to their cube entrances and stared blankly in his general direction. "This tardiness problem is getting out of hand. The day starts at 8AM, not 8:05. And don't think I haven't noticed the long lunches. If this keeps up, there may have to be some changes around here."

It didn't matter that their "long lunches" were just an hour. It didn't matter that he had no power to fire anyone. On Monday, they'd be wondering if Bobbie was one of those ominous "changes". The first landmine had been laid, and Peter had vented his spleen on his staff. He felt much better.


Bobbie arrived before 8AM on Monday, bubbly and excited to be working in her new job. Peter lurked as HR showed her around. The tour ended in his office. After the small talk, he planted the next mine. "I'm going to need you to take over the AS/400 system." Peter surveyed Bobbie for her reaction, any sign of weakness.

"That's not really my background," Bobbie said.

"Well, around here, we're not too concerned with job descriptions. I really need someone to step up and be a team player, and I want that person to be you." He pointed at the motivational poster on the back wall, labeled "TEAMWORK". Bobbie toddled off with a "Can do" smile, bound to tackle a project for which she was woefully underqualified. Peter added a note to her file, commenting on the negative attitude she displayed. Situation managed.

Peter was perfectly content for the next few days. He heard nothing from Bobbie, and assumed that she was drowning. Until Jacob, his boss, stopped by. "That's a good eye, putting Bobbie on the AS/400 project, Peter. Who would have thought a .NET programmer could just step up and hit a home-run like that?"

Peter simpered. Around his teeth, he said, "Well, I really want to encourage my staff to expand their horizons. I worked very hard to make sure that she had all of the resources she needed to get started."

The smile hung on his face even after Jacob left. He swatted at his desk, knocking the Newton's Cradle to the floor.


Peter ambushed Bobbie in the breakroom. "I need to take you off the AS/400 and put you on XTROS. Fix it." He had no idea what XTROS was, other than an obscure, half-dead application that handled scheduling and had a nasty habit of making programmers cry. Peter provided no further instructions. He dedicated 20 minutes a day to berate Bobbie for not learning the business fast enough. "I wouldn't have given you XTROS if I realized I had to hold your hand all day! Get those fixes done."

Two months later, Peter got an email from the XTROS custodian. The users were "ecstatic". "Bobbie worked extremely hard to help us evaluate our requirements and prioritize bugs, and the end result meets user needs perfectly." Even worse, they CCed Jacob as well. The Newton's Cradle landed with a clatter on the opposite side of the office.


"Peter," Jacob called from Peter's doorway. "That work-request for the new AS/400 project was approved." Peter nodded; it was a "Big Deal" project, high visibility. "Well," Jacob said, "business users are demanding that Bobbie heads up the effort. Put at least 60% of her time on this, because we have to finish this fiscal year. Budgets, you know."

Minutes later, Bobbie stood before Peter's desk, a perplexed gaze on the tangled pile of wire that once was a Newton's Cradle. "I'm going to manage this project very closely," Peter said. "I'll need regular status reports." He went on, at length, about all of the things she'd need to do to appease him. Jacob wanted the status reports, Peter just wanted to make sure they came through his hands.

When Bobbie's first status report arrived in his inbox, he deleted it, unread. A few days later, he sent her a nasty note complaining that she hadn't turned it in on time, and BCCed Jacob. She sent again. A month later, he "touched up" the document and then sent it back to her, demanding corrections. When Bobbie submitted the corrected version, Peter rejected it again.

Mid-December, Peter sent an apology to Jacob, explaining that Bobbie just couldn't get the project done by year-end. Jacob demanded a meeting with all of the stakeholders, so that Peter could explain what had gone wrong. His explanation ended, "Bobbie, unfortunately, couldn't complete it on schedule."

"Actually," Bobbie piped up, an evil gleam in her eye, "I could. And did. Twice, because I wasn't satisfied with my first attempt. UAT is nearly complete and we're on track for deployment before the holidays. And I did come prepared with a demo." Peter felt his pulse erupt while Bobbie set up her laptop. This was bad. This was very bad. When the meeting ended, the upper-managers smelled his blood in the water. He could see it in their eyes.

There was a surprise waiting for Peter in his office. Bobbie, who had weathered a year under his supervision, had collected her signing bonus and was officially done with his department. Her resignation letter was terse, and ended with, "I will not be requiring a reference, as I've already found new employment."

Peter sighed, content. Victory!