A room full of mostly old male stressed out engineers sat in chairs, and the presenter said:

"So who watched Judging Amy last night?"

The presenter went on to express her surprise that nobody in the room had seen last night's episode of Judging Amy.... and wasn't going to drop the topic.

The meeting, if it ever had any, now had no chance of going anywhere good.

By the end of the meeting someone would walk out and "retire" shortly there after, and it certainly wasn't going to be the presenter....


The company built on the IBM model of sell pricey custom hardware (granted it worked really well) and sell expensive support contracts wasn't doing as well as it had hoped. Granted it was still doing better than most of its neighboring companies, but it was clear that with the .com bust the days of catered lunches every day were over.

The company had grown fat and everyone knew that while the company had a good enough product(s) to survive, there weren't enough lifeboats for everyone to survive.

In the midst of this an HR department that took up nearly 20% of the office space at HQ felt it needed to justify its existence / expenses.

They decided to do this in the same way they always had, by taking funding from other departments, this time not by simply demanding more direct budgets for themselves.... they decided to impose mandatory 'training' on other departments ... that they would then bill for this training.

When HR got wind that there were some stressed out engineers the solution was, as it always is for HR.... to do more HR stuff:

They decided to take these time starved engineers away from their jobs, and put them in a room with HR for 4 days. Meanwhile the engineer's tasks, deadlines and etc remained the same.

Support got roped into it too, and that's how I ended up there.

It would be difficult to describe the chasm between HR and everyone else at that company. This was an HR department that when they didn't have enough cubes (because of constant remodeling in the HR area under the guise of privacy) sat their extra HR employees next to engineering and were 'upset' that the engineers 'weren't very friendly and all they did was work'.

At one point a meeting to discuss this point of contention was called off for some made up reason or another by someone with a clue.

So there we all sat, our deadlines kept ticking away and this HR team (3 people) stood at the front of the room and were perplexed that none of these mostly older males in this room had seen last night's episode of Judging Amy.

From there the presentation was chaos, because almost the entire thing was based on your knowledge of what happened to poor stressed out Amy ... or something like that.

We were peppered with HR tales of being stressed out and taking a long lunch and feeling better, and this magical thing where the poor HR person went and had a good cry with her boss and her boss magically took more off her plate (a brutal story where the poor HR person was almost moved to tears again).

The lack of apparent sympathy (really nobody said much at all) and lack of seeming understanding from the crowd of engineers that all they should do is take a long lunch, or tell their boss to solve their problems ... seemed to bother the HR folks. They were on edge.

So then they finally asked "What are your stressers?" And they picked the worst possible person they could to ask, Ted.

Ted was old, he prickly, he was the only one who understood the worst ass hell of assembly that had been left behind.

Ted made a mistake, he was honest with folks who couldn't possibly understand what he was saying. "This mandatory class is stressing me out. I have work to do and less time because of this class."

The exchange that followed was kinda horrible and I recall sitting behind Ted trying to be as small as possible as to not be called on. Exactly what everyone said almost doesn't matter.

A pedantic debate between Ted and the HR staff about "mandatory" and "required" followed. I will just sum it up that they were both in the wrong for how they behaved for a good 20 minutes...

Ted walked out, and would later 'retire' that week.

Ted had a history and was no saint. I suspect an email campaign by various folks who recounted the events that day spared ted the 'fired' status and he walked with what eventually would become the severance package status quo.

HR never again held another 'training', most of them would all finally face the axe a few months later after the CEO finally decided that 'customer facing, and product producing' headcount had been reduced enough ... and it was other internal staff's time for that.

The result of the meeting was one less engineer, and everyone else had 4 days less of work done...

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