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BOFH: I care a lot ... about onion bhajis

Users and colleagues? You couldn't pay me enough

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 5 "There's been a complaint about Stephen," the Boss says, barging into Mission Control a quarter hour before the PFY is due to show.

"My... award-winning assistant?" I ask, comforted somewhat by the world returning to normality.

"That was once, and it's over now," the Boss counters. "Anyway, this has come direct from HR. He needs to go on Sensitivity Training course."

"He needs to go on what now?" I ask.

"Sensitivity Training. He's upset a number of key staff."

"Which staff?"

"That's not for me to say."

"Well, if we're just dealing with rumor..."

"It was Peter."


"Peter from PR & Marketing."

"Needy Pete?" I ask.

"Don't you bloody start!" the Boss snaps.

"He is high maintenance," I chip back. "It's physically impossible for him to be in a conversation with anyone for more than 10 minutes without mentioning his radio career."

"Well, PR and Marketing did want someone with media savvy."

"Media savvy? He was a radio announcer on a small rural AM station! The local news would have been dominated by stories of calves born with two heads – and their subsequent marriage to one of the locals!"

"I think regardless of what you say, he was fairly famous."

"If by 'famous' you mean reality TV 'celebrity' status then you're right - though most of them are an unkind comment away from looking up 'words of affirmation' on Google..."

"I hardly thin.."

"He is not key staff. You could replace him with a garden gnome and PR & Marketing would be completely unaffected."

"I'm not going to debate you on this - HR want him to attend Sensitivity Training."

"Will this training undermine his Insensitivity Training?"

"His what now?" the Boss asks, echoing my earlier confusion.

"His Insensitivity Training. It's an operational thing. In times of crisis you want real key staff to be able to keep their heads and ignore the ramblings of the masses. They need to be able to focus on critical tasks and disregard the inane drivel of the uninformed."

"And who are the uninformed?" the Boss asks.

"Everyone but the PFY and me. But that's only in times of a crisis."

"And outside of a crisis?"

"Everyone but the PFY, myself, and the bloke in the cafe that makes the onion bhajis – he's a pretty clued up guy."

One of the basic tenets of IT is never testing for an error condition you don't know how to handle. The Boss only has himself to blame.

I break the news to the PFY when he gets in, but he takes it all in his stride.  

"Oh, I've been on one of those before," he replies. "It's a half hour lesson on reflective listening, then an hour of listening to people who you've supposedly maligned telling you how they felt. I've been looking for a reason to test my noise-cancelling EarPods..."

At the duly appointed time, the PFY wanders off to his session and I settle in for some hard work on perfecting my Enemy Territory Rifle-nade skills. Barely an hour later, the PFY's back.

"They've called it off."

"Why's that?"

"Well, Needy Pete was there to share his feelings, and before I could get my EarPods in he said that he struggled with self love."

"Uh-oh. What did you say?"

"I asked him if he meant 'with' or 'during'."

"Ah. So I take they've now booked you in on the half-day Sensitivity Workshop then?"

"Not too sure," the PFY replies. "They asked me to wait outside."

"And you thought here was technically outside?"

"Oh no, I nipped across the road for a pint. Then I came here."

Sometimes I cannot believe how well I've trained him.

"And you changed your voicemail message to the one where we're dealing with a critical network error?"

"I did."

"Well we better generate that now then!" I say, triggering the firmware update of the core router that I've been saving for a special occasion.

"Is there anything you want me to do?" the PFY asks.

"Yes. It'll look better if you're offsite getting some replacement hardware so you may as well duck out pick up something for me that I just ordered from down the street."

The PFY disappears moments before the Boss arrives in the company of one of the HR contractors.

"Catherine has just been informing me of a disturbing situation," the Boss says.

"Mmm," I say, tapping away in a ssh window.

"She says Stephen was... are you even listening?"

"Mmm," I say, typing away, Insensitivity mode on.

"There's been a serious incident."

"Mmm," I say again, still typing.

"LISTEN!" the Boss shouts, as I look up. "There's been a serious problem at the Sensitivity Training."


"Stephen has upset Peter," Catherine says. "He didn't validate his feelings, ignored his complaint and made jokes at his expense."

"But were they good jokes?" I ask.

"This is a serious matter!" Catherine snaps. "Peter has resigned!"

"I shouldn't worry," I chip back to her. "I'm sure everything will sort itself out – possibly even quicker than you think. Oh look, all sorted!"

As if by magic the PFY appears in the doorway carrying my recently purchased garden gnome.

...two minutes later...

"Well that escalated fairly quickly," the PFY observes.

"It did indeed. I expect this time tomorrow we'll find we've been booked into the Full-day Sensitivity and Personal Healing Experience."

"Unless that core router firmware was corrupt," the PFY suggests.

"True – but just in case that doesn't work – where did you get those EarPods from again?"

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