ee... ee... ee... ee... ee... .........  "Good morning, Janet!" ee... ee... ee... ee... ee...

It had been just a couple of weeks, but the sound was the same every day. Chris L.'s boss, Phil, was wheeling his 286/12MHz personal computer in a handcart with a squeaky wheel down the aisle.

ee... ee... ee... ee... ........."Ah, if it isn't Chris, the notorious OS/2 hater!"

Chris tried not to roll his eyes, but failed. "I don't hate OS/2, I just think it's... irrelevant." Chris had said essentially the same thing months earlier during his interview with Phil. Although the company didn't do anything with OS/2, Phil would always enthusiastically ask what candidates thought about his favorite operating system.

Having clearly failed the Phil Test, Chris was no longer on the Phil List... but that didn't really matter, since the final hiring decision was made by the VP. Begrudgingly, Phil offered Chris the job and, against his better judgment, Chris accepted it.

"But I was thinking," Chris said jokingly, "maybe we could use OS/2 on our next project? The company will benefit from your willingness to spend so much personal time on it!"

Chris was referring to Phil's die-hard, console-war-like allegiance to the operating system. He'd spend hours every night on OS/2 BBSs. Then in the morning he'd unplug everything, toss it on the handcart, lug it in to work, and use it instead of the computer provided by the company. Phil scowled at Chris's comment and wheeled his cart away. ee... ee... ee... ee...

That was just how Chris's relationship with his boss was – like a deteriorating friendship where raillery obscured their actual opinions of one another. And it's not even like Phil was a bad guy – he was quite intelligent, well spoken, and he wrote good code – it's just that he and Chris got off on the wrong foot and never "clicked." To make matters worse, he noticed that Chris and Janet were starting to socialize — unforced and naturally — more and more.

Wooing Janet

Janet was a popular woman among the team. Particularly because she was a woman. All day she'd try to get her work done among inane, fumbling, awkward, borderline depressing flirting from other team members. And of course, this included Phil.

"How close are we to being done with the Abrams report," she asked over the cubicle wall to Chris one day. Immediately, Phil's head poked out of his office, a nearby programmer shot out of his chair and started walking toward her cube, and another few heads poked over the wall like gophers. The men answered simultaneously.

A few hours later, when Chris asked "hey Janet, do you know if there are any issues with the network," tumbleweed.

This scene repeated itself often, and since Chris sat near Janet, he had a second-row seat to the wooing. Her desk was a strangely popular destination, despite being at the end of a dead-end hallway. Thankfully, Chris took pity on the poor woman who just wanted to get her work done, often calling her desk and quietly asking "do you need an excuse to get rid of Phil," after which he'd hear her say "oh, sorry Phil, I really have to take this."

"Don't worry, Phil," Chris said as he walked past. "I'll help her with what she needs." Chris winced slightly, having not intended for that to have sounded dirty, but Phil just scowled and walked off.

Keeping Time

That aside, Chris was getting into the swing of things well. Orientation was a breeze, and he'd already gotten used to the timesheet system. Two timesheets; one for payroll, one for actual time. This was a good idea, Chris thought, so that comp time could be tracked "unoficially" if he had a hellish 60 hour week on production support. "8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 40," he wrote on his first timesheet. "8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 40," he wrote on the other. It became a ritual he'd do every week.

One day, Phil came by Chris's desk and thrust a sheet of paper toward him. "The VP left comments on everyone's timesheets, and I want to know what you have to say about this." Chris examined the sheet – 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 40 – except the 40 was circled in red pencil with a question mark written next to it.

"Uh," he stammered, furrowing his brow. Did I skip a day? No... Did I incorrectly add 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8? No... "Yes, I worked forty hours two weeks ago..."

"Only forty? We expect more from the team," Phil began. "You see, the VP and I – in fact, the whole team-"

"Are all of my projects on schedule?" Chris interrupted.

"Well, yes..."

"And I suppose you mentioned that to the VP?"

Phil scowled and marched off. Since it was a Friday, Chris grabbed his pen and filled out his timesheets for the week – 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 40.


In spite of Phil, Chris enjoyed the work that he did and figured that, eventually, he or Phil would be transferred to a different team. What he didn't realize was that a whole year had passed and that it was time for his one-year review. Given all the little digs that he and Phil took at one another made the wait for the review that much more agonizing.

Fortunately, the review process accounted for some degree of hostility between supervisor and supervisee, so all reviews were done jointly by Phil and the VP. For the most part, the VP knew that Chris had been doing a good job, and would likely give him a good review. Still, Phil couldn't hide his smile as Chris entered his office.

In general Chris had done pretty well, except for "communication," where he got a "needs improvement." That made his overall score a few points too low for a performance raise. Phil explained, "the expectation is different for us programmers. I use this as a measure of whether or not you've created an API as part of your coding efforts. But maybe next year you'll do better!"

"Wait a sec," Chris objected, "you think the best time to communicate that I need to develop an API — for an in-house application no less — in order to pass the review is during the review? There isn't even an API in the spec! I guess we could consider that to be... communication. That... needs improvement?" Phil scowled again.

A few days later, and exactly one year from his hire date, Chris submitted his two weeks' notice.

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