Hardware

A nightmarish CIO pushes one IT manager to the brink

What do you do when the new CIO attempts to take control by launching a campaign of lies, abuse, and sabotage? If there is a way to resolve this problem without quitting, this IT manager wants to know what it is.


I am the IT manager for a company that is one member of a fairly sizable conglomerate of loosely associated companies. Historically, each company in the conglomerate had its own independent network and IT department.

Approximately one year ago, the IT managers from all the companies collaborated on a project to consolidate IT resources in order to provide more efficient, consistent, and cost-effective service to their respective companies. The first stage of this project was to establish a common network and shared Active Directory forest. The migration of the individual networks to Windows 2000 and the consolidation into a single network were successfully completed on target, and with no major problems, within the six-month timeframe allotted.

There was just one fly in the ointment. Shortly after the inception of the project, one of the sister companies, a dot com, hired a completely new management team, including a new CIO. The new CIO immediately made it clear that he intended to take over the IT operations of all the companies in the conglomerate, whether they wanted to relinquish control to him or not.

The situation worsens…
Although all the IT managers were completely on board with the concept of consolidation, they had always perceived the process as being based on equal cooperation of all the companies involved, rather than on a single company being in command.

To make the situation worse, it soon became apparent that the CIO was technically illiterate and not adverse to lying and engaging in other forms of unethical behavior in order to achieve his objectives. Our honest attempt to improve the level of IT services within the conglomerate was unwittingly turned against us, as our successful consolidation of the networks merely served to further the CIO’s coup d'etat.

For several months we struggled to thwart his attempts, but despite our efforts he was able to gain control of several key network systems, including Active Directory, the network infrastructure, backup, virus protection, and corporate e-mail. Almost immediately all the companies began to experience major network problems: e-mail access became intermittent, network connectivity issues arose between the LANs, and we were all assaulted by three separate waves of viruses. We had suddenly become vulnerable in almost every system for which the dot com’s engineering team had the sole responsibility for maintaining.

…And then falls apart
Not surprisingly, upper management demanded that the CIO provide an explanation—and solution—for the recent slew of computer problems.

Unfortunately, no one in upper management had a sufficient grasp of technical concepts to even begin to understand, let alone question, the outlandish explanations the CIO offered. He attributed all the problems to three unrelated and completely irrelevant factors: (1) a recently hired technician who had inadvertently added herself to certain user groups, (2) the fact that one of the companies was using all clone PCs, and (3) the fact that one of the Windows 2000 domains was in Native Mode.

By way of a solution, he proposed that all the IT managers be dismissed and the individual IT departments be reorganized under his direct control. Upper management agreed to the reorganization but instructed him not to dismiss or replace any member of the IT staff.

On completion of the reorganization, all the network issues vanished. Now the CIO is on a campaign to sabotage the IT employees and has so far managed to terminate one and force another to resign.

The situation grows worse on a daily basis, long-term vendor relations have been destroyed by his intolerance and insensitivity, morale is at an all time low, and, most recently, he almost succeeded in involving the company in a discrimination lawsuit by making off-color comments to one technician about her weight, age, color, and marital status.

We are at our wit’s end. We are all loyal to one another, our companies, and our users and do not wish to be bullied into resigning, but we are having a hard time thinking of any other options. If anyone else has been in a similar situation, we would be very appreciative of any advice you have to offer.

We want to hear what you have to say!
You can submit your ideas either by e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of this column. A week after the publication of a scenario, we'll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will present them with the situation's actual outcome in a follow-up article. You may continue to add discussion items after the week has elapsed, but to be eligible for inclusion in the follow-up article, your suggestions must be received within a week of the scenario's publication. See page two for the resolution to our last What Would You Do column.

A manager has to decide between honesty and his job.
Your responses to our earlier column detailing an IT manager’s conflict between honesty to his employees and his job were overwhelming in their quantity, quality, and passion. Many of you had been in very similar situations and could strongly identify with our IT manager’s plight. Here’s a brief summary of the main points of views you expressed. Of the solutions offered, most fell into one of four broad categories:
  • The manager should conform to his company’s request, say nothing to his employees, and accept his new position: “If they get laid off, they're still eligible for government unemployment compensation,” wrote Recordd.
  • The manager should conform to his company’s request, but he should be prepared to at least indicate to his employees that he does know the status of the layoffs but that he’s not at liberty to divulge the information. This would enable the manager to accept the new position and perhaps salve his conscience by allowing his employees to come to their own conclusions regarding his refusal to divulge privileged information.
  • The manager should be prepared to at least risk his own employment by attempting to conform to the letter of his company’s request, but not its spirit: He can find means of hinting and suggesting that his employees start seeking alternative employment, in the knowledge that he could lose his own job for doing so.
  • The manager’s only loyalty is to his employees; he should put their needs ahead of his own and preserve his personal integrity: “I'd go home, sit down with the wife, and tell her my situation. I'd then go to the office and announce the layoffs,” wrote Oakie.

The resolution
So what did the manager decide to do? Here’s his account of his decision:
“The action I took was the two-week vacation. I returned on the day layoffs were announced. Security was escorting those losing their jobs out of the building. My boss had been found a new position, as had the VP of Operations. My new boss was waiting to meet me in a now vacant office.

“During the two weeks off, I had time to consider the value of my personal integrity versus the value of a job. I felt the company had violated trust with me, and with all of its employees. A company that was so afraid of unethical behavior from employees probably felt so based on their treatment of the employees.

“I turned in my badge and corporate credit card, and accepted the severance package. My employees had all heard me state at one time or another that the day I could no longer trust senior management was the day I would quit. Word of my new position had already been announced by my former boss, so when team members saw me getting escorted out they knew it was my choice, and they knew why.”

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