The Voicemail Incident of 2012

Names have been changed to protect the identity of our protagonist.

Mary is a tech with our Internal Support department. IS has a great deal of power and responsibility to support the organization’s desktop users.

Lois is a member of our HR department. And, of course, HR also has a great deal of power and responsibility to support the company’s people assets.

I had worked with both Mary and Lois for several years. I had trained Mary back in 2005 or 2006 when she began at our customer-facing help desk.

Lois joined the company around the same time as I recall.

Mary would occasionally have need to contact HR to obtain some needed detail about a new-hire with the company. Rather expected in the course of business.

Mary rang Lois (with HR) to see if she could help.

Lois was busy at that particular moment, so the call went to voicemail.

Mary left a message. At the end of the message, while she was hanging up the phone, she made a, satto voce remark to the effect of: “…never mind, you’re an idiot. No idea why I’m…[click]”.

The mic is always hot.


The best thing to do would have been to simply not utter such an absurd remark to begin with. But, there it was. It was said.

The next best thing to do would be to promptly ring Lois back — leave another voicemail if needed — and apologize profusely for the gross lapse in judgement.

Didn’t happen, of course.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Instead, Mary decided to leverage her Internal Support powers…

Wrongly. She proceeded to…

  • connect to the voicemail server — to which she had access to create accounts for new/existing employees.
  • accessed Lois’ voicemail box — which was occasionally needed as our Shoretel system was still being rolled out to the organization.
  • deleted the recording — which IS occasionally needed to do, again, while we were in the early roll-out of the phone system.

By this time, Lois had, of course, listened to her voicemail. A bit put-off by the somewhat meaningless comment at the end, she was going to just have a chat with Mary. Perhaps she was having a bad day.

Then she wanted to get the particulars of the original purpose for the call and listened to it again and… but it was gone.

That escalated quickly.

A series of poor decisions over the past many years had led to the afternoon that Mary hastily boxed up her desk and was escorted out of the building by another HR team member.

Note: All of the voicemail system access had been locked down rather tightly since then. Because of this.

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