Writing

Software, technology, sysadmin war stories, and more. Feed
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Signs of a sinking ship: indicated by signing something

Here's another tale about how to know when a company has lost its way.

One day, after years of working there, you get a mail from some random HR system. It says they somehow did not get a signature for you for some huge legal document, and would you mind signing a new copy?

You look at the document they attached in the mail and it's huge. We're talking 20 pages here full of requirements and restrictions and all of this. That's when you realize it's the NDA you signed the first day of work. They ... didn't get your signature? This must be a joke.

So, you ignore it.

They mail you again, you ignore that too.

Time passes. Then you get this mail from your manager asking you to resolve this and to "let him know when you have". In other words, he'll be on your case until it happens. You have a pretty good relationship with your manager and don't want him to get in trouble, so you decide to look at it again instead of just ignoring it again.

You mail HR back and say, hey, can I see the old version so I can compare the two and see if anything changed?

They send you the old document. It's clearly a scan of the old version but that's fine. You can read it and the new one side by side, and you painstakingly compare them. You start noticing things.

The two documents are not the same. They've added clauses to it. They even added language which makes it retroactive to the day you were hired. You're not even sure what that means, but you don't have any beef with the company, so who cares? You read on.

You find a few more clauses, but they seem reasonable. The economy isn't looking too wonderful so you don't want to rock the boat. You can live with the changes.

That's when you get down to the bottom of the document and see it. It's not just a scan of a document. Oh no. It's a scan of the document. That is, it's the exact paper you signed years before on your first day of work, and your signature is right there!

That's the point when you realize they've had a signed copy all this time and were pulling something sneaky to change the terms on you. They claimed they didn't have your signature and then slipped in a changed copy for you to "re-sign".

Still, the economy is in the toilet and you don't want to rock the boat, so you sign it and go on with life. It's just some isolated event.

Then, years later, you read about it on someone's web log post and you realize, hey wait, that happened to me, too! You talk to a bunch of other people and they all say the same thing. Hey! They pulled this on all of us! They pulled an epic feat of lying for their own filthy gains!

This is that web log post. Are you one of the people?