Almost every company comes to a point where they need to change their IT. This might be an inhouse person who’s worked many years for you, it might be a contractor or IT business that you’ve dealt with for a long time. Chances are it has been a long time as most companies don’t like to terminate their IT.
It doesn’t happen that often, but firing your IT administrator can result in some bad outcomes, such as when a San Francisco Network administrator ended up in jail after causing mischief after being let go.
As we are an IT service company that will often replace inhouse staff, we are asked about this. Unfortunately there are only two ways to do this, the nice way and the not-nice way.
If you’re curious as to the reasons why you might want to fire your IT company, you should read the blog I wrote about 6 Reasons Businesses Change Their IT.
Firing Your IT People The Nice Way
Terminating your IT team the nice way is quite simple. It’s a “nice” conclusion to your business relationship. Obviously, this is the best way to end your IT services. It would be great if all contracts end this way.
When you end the IT relationship the nice way you tell them you’re going to be hiring someone new to do the job, that you hope they’ll cooperate with the transfer, and that it’s “us not you.” You are expecting them to be good about it and work together.
Some of the signs that you could use the “nice” way of terminating your IT contract are:
- The IT company (if it is an outsourced company) is professional and has a lot of customers. These companies have a lot to lose if they are unpleasant, so they are always good about working with you.
- The IT staff member won’t actually be fired. You’ll just move them into a new role and someone else will take over.
- You owe them a lot of money and won’t pay until the “break up” is finished. That is, you have a big stick.
- They have always been open and honest providing you with passwords, information, login data for administration etc. You know they are open and easy to get “stuff” out of when you need it.
Unfortunately unless you can be 100% sure that you have one of these cases, you are taking a big risk terminating your IT team the nice way.
Firing IT People the “Not-Nice Way”
If you don’t trust your IT team you will probably terminate them the “Not Nice” way. Here are some signs you probably have to do that.
- They don’t like the cloud and try and say it’s unsafe or doesn’t work. They are constantly trying to sell you hardware and you feel like it’s way overpriced.
- When you ask them for information such as passwords, they make excuses and won’t share with you “you don’t need to know the administrator password because you can mess things up.”
- They are just a single individual or very small team. They don’t have a lot of customers, and they don’t have a professional/structured way of dealing with them.
- You are suspicious of them. You think they’re reading your email, or they might be monitoring things like your bank account without telling you.
- You have heard from others not to cross them, that they have a temper.
- They are VERY hard to get ahold of and things are often left unfinished or half finished.
- They resist having anyone else “check their work” or “look at what they’re doing” and will push back, say things like “don’t you trust me.”
This is a bad scene, and we encounter customers with this kind of relationship with their IT team quite often. Our recommendation is that you have to “blind side” them and fire them quickly. The trouble is that we need to get certain critical information from them before we can take over you IT and prevent them from locking us out.
The 5 Steps to Terminating Your IT Team Safely
Step 1 – Prepare As Much As Possible
Before you fire them you need to gain access to the systems. If they have been reluctant to share passwords or provide access, you need to make up excuses and get the passwords without raising too many suspicions.
Step 2 – Have your New IT people in on a weekend
You need to “sneak” your new IT people in on the weekend to take a look at the systems, equipment etc. They can test those passwords that you were given to make sure they work.
Step 3 – Replace Equipment
More often than not the old IT team have setup equipment that we can’t review and “clean up” before you fire them. They would know someone is “messing with it.” Most important are firewalls and routers. These are usually swapped – simultaneously at multiple locations if need be.
Step 4 – Do it Quickly and Secretly
When terminating your IT Team you are going to have to them into your boardroom where you can be watching them while simultaneously the new people or team are locking them out of the system. This is when you can discuss how much you owe them and when they’ll get paid.
Step 5 – Make Sure Everything is Done, Then Pay
Do NOT pay the old IT team until the new IT team says everything is ok. It sucks, but you need to keep some leverage at least until the end of the first month.
Terminating Your IT Team
You can tell from the list above that sometimes we need to be VERY careful when we terminate an IT staff. We added a few stories below that explain some of our experiences.
Sometimes your IT support may not want to end a contract and become aggressive and vindictive. Unfortunately it happens more often than you think that the IT team will intentionally or passively cause harm. You don’t know if this will be the case or not, so just to be safe you have to walk them out.
Prepare as Much as Possible for Terminating Your IT Contract
This is actually the hardest part. Sometimes you need to be dishonest yourself, because you are worried that they will get suspicious and you need a reason to ask for passwords and account information.
Here are some ways this can work:
The Angry Boss – If the boss is a strong personality and might be expected to do this, have them confront the IT person as if suddenly finding out they don’t have any admin passwords, or a password they expected to work doesn’t work. They can then “read them the riot act” about passwords, and you can act like you’re embarrassed and sorry.
The External Audit – Today we are finding companies that are forced into a Cyber Security audit by insurance firms, customers, accounting firms etc. Identify something that would sound reasonable (“customers ALPHA and DELTA are forcing us to do a Cyber Security audit”) and use that to get the passwords “for the auditors.”
Changing Vendor – Most often your Email administration account and other cloud passwords are the critical password you need to get. If you use Office 365 and pay Microsoft, just change from Microsoft to another vendor (maybe your new IT company). Once your licenses are supplied by one company, they would reasonably ask for that administrator account access and it won’t seem too weird.
There are some other ways you can use to get passwords and information out of them, but these three are the ways we’ve seen work the best.
Firing them The Day Of the Change
If you are firing them the “Not Nice” way then you have no choice but to call them into the office on some afternoon and fire them there and then. Don’t mention anything over the phone that might make them suspicious. Bring them in for an “emergency” and then pull them into a boardroom to tell them that you are terminating your IT team.
While you’re doing that, the new IT provider is switching the firewalls, checking and changing all the passwords, and locking them out of the system.
We have to change out the firewalls because it’s impossible to tell if they have created a back door into the office without a full rebuild – which will bring your network down for days. we also search extra Wi-Fi access points – we have found those in ceilings and corners before – which the IT provider put in as undocumented access points for convenience.
All of this stuff needs to be found and removed, and replacing hardware tends to be the safest way to handle this.
Also, to be honest, bad IT people buy bad equipment as well as being untrustworthy when being terminated.
Examples of the “Nice Way” and “Not-Nice Way”
As an IT provider that has replaced a lot of IT people this way, we have seen it all. Here are some examples of horror stories.
Case Study #1:
At Sabre Limited, we were once hired as the new Managed IT Services provider for a medium-sized manufacturing company that I’ll call ACME. The day ACME fired their IT guy, ACME’s accounting firm called and said, “Do you know where John Doe is?”
It turns out both ACME and the accounting firm had the same IT provider.
The owner said, “no, why?”
“We don’t have any email. It stopped working on Wednesday and I’m trying to get in touch with him.”
ACME fired John Doe on Wednesday, when Sabre switched out all the firewalls.
One of the Sabre specialists had found a “weird” email server ACME and it turned out that John was hosting the accounting firm’s email in ACME’s server room. Also a few other companies that nobody at ACME even knew.
John had been mixing customer’s equipment together and had never told anyone. He had no permission to do this, and eventually Sabre had to help the accounting firm too (who is still a customer, 10 years later).
Case Study #2:
David was the IT guy who had worked as a contractor for Zebra for many years. He had become hard to get a hold of (he’d moved out of town) and was very slow to get things fixed and addressed when there were problems.
David didn’t really like the cloud, and kept trying to sell them a $20,000 server when they really wanted to look at SharePoint and move away from having servers.
They decided to hire Sabre to take over, and fire David “the nice way.”
They brought him into the office, gave him a check for what he was owed, and asked him to assist in the transition from his services to Sabre.
That was the last time David ever spoke to them.
- Over 2 years later we still don’t have the password for a critical Server software (it’s working and if we have to we can work around it).
- For 4 months David refused to provide the DNS records login to Zebra, so their website was offline during that time. We needed to request the DNS records be reassigned as they were in David’s name, not Zebra’s and that takes 90 days.
- We eventually had to replace the firewall as David never provided the password.
- We hacked into everything else (yes – IT companies can do some hacking) but it was very painful.
Case Study #3:
Early in Rob’s career when Novell was still a common network software, he was called in by a company that needed him to hack their network.
“I was called because this company had fired their IT Guy, let him go back to his office and pack his things alone, and then found out later that day that he’d changed all the passwords.
I came in and people could do some work, but a lot of things they needed were locked down. Regular staff couldn’t access files and services they needed. The accountant could get the files for them, but he had no rights to change who could access files.
I ended up having to connect a Modem (this was in the old dial up days) to the server, open a $500 incident with Novell, and walk them through accessing the server to provide access.
We had to fax (on company letter head) a letter with a copy of the owner’s drivers license and a copy of the business license. Then they eventually setup a back door administrator account and I was able to fix everything. I think they were down about 4 days total.
I don’t know what happened to the IT guy, but I gave a statement to a detective over the phone explaining what I had done.
Be careful when you fire your IT people!”
Why Do You Have to Terminate Your IT Team This Way?
Like any company, there comes a time when changes need to be made to your IT structure. Whether it’s an in-house team member or a longstanding contractor or IT business, transitions are inevitable, even though they are not always taken lightly. Parting ways with your IT team can have significant consequences, as seen in cases where an IT administrator ended up in legal trouble after being terminated.
Given our role as a Managed IT service provider — frequently replacing in-house staff — we are often asked questions about the best way to handle these situations. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are only two paths – the nice way and the not-so-nice one.
Terminating your IT team the nice way is the ideal scenario. It involves transparent communication, expressing your intention to hire someone new, and emphasizing that it’s a business decision rather than a reflection on their performance. Signs that this approach is suitable include dealing with a professional, well-established outsourced IT company or transitioning the staff member to a different role within the organization.
These ideal conditions aren’t always the case, and that’s when it becomes necessary to terminate your IT contract the not-so-nice way. Signs that this might be the case include a lack of trust, resistance to necessary checks, or a suspicion of unprofessional behavior. In such instances, a strategic and careful termination process becomes imperative.
Have Questions for Us?
If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to check out our blogs. For any questions, reach out to us at 226-336-6259 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be glad to help!